How things have changed...
Back in the 80’s, when I was a demanding teenager, my dad went to work every day in a suit, and he went to his office. He worked there all day, doing paper work. He had a big adding up machine on his desk, a safe in the corner of the room and his desk was all covered in his rubbings out from his big red ledger books.
He was not only an accountant; he was a boss. Damn I was proud of him.
When he got a computer, my knees buckled. I’d never seen anything like it. Unfortunately, neither had he, and he seldom used it. But even then, I knew that was the future.
So back then, my dad’s day was spent signing things like cheques and returns, and his secretaries would bring in new trays of paper with things for him to look at. That’s how it worked back then. That’s why he never enjoyed holidays because everything was mounting up back at the office.
The digital office
So let’s wind on 35 years and my own son now goes into an office. But he wears shorts and sits at a desk wearing headphones. He takes calls from all over the world and provided he has his phone or his laptop he can work. He can barely write. He can type, of course. He’s an excellent communicator but for his generation, paper isn’t something they expect to see – ever. In fact, any requirement to put a pen to paper, usually comes with a lot of time-wasting and harrumphing – (I’m thinking thank-you letters here).
And that’s where we are today. We work in a world with multiple generations all adjusting to the digital economy. We still have accounts departments surrounded by paper, but we also have agile teams working from remote locations with just a laptop. The processes of the past aren’t genuinely fit-for-purpose today if they involve people being at desks and signing things off.
24x7 connected business
In our own setup, our Finance Director is in Spain. Our developers are in Poland and our network manager is in Texas. We look for people to join our team who have the best skills for us and not necessarily fixate on where they live. All approvals are of course electronic, and all paper received into the business is digitised on receipt and then forwarded to the relevant person. We do practice what we preach.
We actively encourage home working. Our office in Bath is brilliantly located for the station and Marks & Spencer for lunch, but it’s expensive. Homeworking has its advantages and it also has its drawer backs. You have to provide your team with a central platform to communicate – we use Microsoft Teams – and you have to have a good voice platform – whether that’s company mobiles or a VOIP phone system. With a distributed workforce, I want to be able to speak and now see them instantly with all of the tools available to us allow that.
real time financials - every where
The finance team needs to adjust to this world. There are so many opportunities for technology to improve the good work of the individuals already there and electronic approvals of invoices and purchase spend should be very high up on the priority list of any ambitious business that hasn’t already implemented it.
Because today, the boss isn’t chained to his desk and safe like my dad. No. They are much more likely to be working from their holiday home in Spain or the yacht in Poole harbour. (Other versions of this reality also accepted!) The boss of today wants the figures emailed over to review on their iPad and they want to know all of the Metrics in real-time. The great news is, it’s never been easier to provide the company with the tools it needs to operate more flexibly.