14. Accounting: Outsource or automate?

Which should you do?
Automate first always, if it works well then you may not need to outsource; however, if you find you still need to outsource even after automating it could save you money as you may find you are able to outsource a smaller portion of the work. 

When doing these kind of process improvement reviews, the thought process should be to get people out of the way of software i.e. if the software can do it, let it do it, providing the costing make sense.

It is also crucial to remember two things if you outsource your accounts in a bad state outsourcing won’t fix it and you will probably be hit with extra fees for them to resolve underpinning issues; also no matter which route you take staff moral will probably take a hit; it is important to be mindful of this especially if you do decide to outsource and you are relying on current staff to do the handover. 

At some point in the future there will be an interesting development over where some portions of data interpretation will sit, for example management accounting and income/expenditure analysis currently sits in accounting; but in future will it sit with IT once it is automated? (software contracts tend to sit with them), will management accounting become even more merged with the data analyst (accountants and analysts are not the same)

We still are awaiting the impact of bigdata, machine learning, AI and eventually robots, at some point in the future during these transaction phases accountants will find themselves particularly around non-statutory accounting competing with analyst who have a sound understanding chomping through and interpreting data, particularly with some analyst having additional skillsets like SQL and Dataware housing at their disposal.

Us accountants are brilliant too at what we do but it is important to remember aside from statutory side technology will bring us closer to other industries.

By the way, this is a really good video that breaks down machine learning.

@Brainthrough

Links
Image from: http://www.thewriter.com/what-we-think/blog/what-can-a-robot-teach-recruiters-about-writing-and-how-can-you-stop-them-s/#.WuCPmUxFx1w

13. Accounting and Working for start ups.

Protect yourself at all time!

I want to make one thing clear, there has been a romantic picture recently painted of working for startups or small companies, I am here to piss on that parade and tell you it is not romantic and the word ‘No’ is something you must be ready to shoot out

I want you to know this, the word No, is crucial to you as it is your accounting qualifications on the line. Some small company owners are nothing more than glorified dictators who try to intimidate/bully you into bending to their will, you will often notice immediately something is wrong and it is often met with “that’s the way we do things here’, which is not an acceptable reason at all

 · Some will ask you to recognise revenue early.
·  Some will ask you to pay people by cash and not record it.
·  Some will ask you to hide bad debts.
·  Some will ask you not to record a sale.
·  Some will ask you to help them setup grey ‘self employed’ schemes.
·  Some will ask you to hide home to work travel (which is a taxable benefit that must be disclosed).
· Some will ask you not to show owners drawing as they should be.
· Some will ask you to fiddle stock figures.
· Some will give you cash payments and not put it through the payroll (make sure it goes through the payroll).
· Some will ask you to be compliant in manipulation of tier 4 visa restrictions, i.e. invoice a day rate so you can hide that they are working more than 20 hours a week.
· A company I was at would not only use expired skin care products on customers, they would also give them to customers as gifts and want them included in their inventory count.

Our accounting bodies harper on about professional ethics but shady stuff happens in the industry and your accounting body can’t help out much; if a company lets you go because you refuse to do some of the stuff mentioned above (or worse), your accounting body won’t be helping much aside from providing general advice, main point, they won’t help you pay your bills which is why many just do what they feel they need to do and hope nothing comes to light or they have long gone before it has.

Accountancy bodies are bending over backwards to push out this image of the ‘new’ account the no more ‘Mr black and white’ the less rule regurgitating accounting whilst blattering on about ethics and governance to us accountants, which often will have us back to the old image but here’s the thing; not all images are wrong and sometimes just sometimes having that image to uphold, actually sets a tone before you walk in the door which lets people know I am going to do this by the book; there’s a reason the book is written and that is to protect you from me but also to protect me from you! When working for a startup/small company it is crucial you keep this in the forefront of your decisions.

@Brainthrough

Image from:
Links:

12. Accounting and movies.

Lights, camera, accounting?

Production accountant, a cool role that no one really talks about.

If you are like me and you once wanted to be an actor/director but somehow ended up being an accountant, there is a role that can get you close to camera that you may have not heard of; production accountant, as someone who loves costing things up this is a dream!

As all of us know, no accounting role done properly is easy and every job has parts which suck so please keep that in the back of your mind.

Here’s the picture, you’ve grinded your way up from a production assistant (you have to start here first and it is a crucial learning step) you’re now a production account, a script lands on your desk and it is now your job to go through it and cost it up!

The usual forecasting, cost reporting, budgeting and P&L’s apply but that’s about as usual as it gets, for example being not in industry I can only guess of standard costs I would budget for e.g. salaries and production crew costs but what about the other stuff? shooting locations; Do you shoot at location or use a filming studio? Or how about sound track costs? things unless you’re in industry, you’ll probably have no idea how they make such decision or how much it costs, could you imagine estimating the cost of the Batmobile?

This is what makes this quiet role brilliant; granted not all roles are going to be Hollywood blockbusters you may do the accounting for an awesome TV show, a role which I imagine will be more office based and feel closer to standard corporate management accounting but let’s say you’re one of the lucky ones imagine you some of the challenges you’ll have to solve and even better than that, imagine seeing the final product at a cinema of your choice knowing you helped bring that to the screen, job satisfaction anyone?

By the way this has nothing to do with accounting but I want to bring this role to light; location scout, I saw it on a Surface pro advert, I did not even know such a role exists but how cool is that?

 


@Brainthrough

Image from:
Links:

12. Technology: Are smartphones boring?

Are smartphones getting boring? Yes

The last smartphones I got proper excited for was probably the HTC hero and the Iphone 4 but since then I got to admit; these days honestly most phones do the same, look the same and feel the same so it don’t matter if I get an Asus, Samsung or Apple so when did it all get so boring?

Parts of the reasons are the Apple biased media who kissed ass for everything Apple did even if the technology was being used prior by competitors, competitors then slowly started to adopt I’ll let them blink first mind set, carriers and manufacturers also threw spanners in the works by wrecking software updates, meaning rather than get it seamlessly as you do with Apple (Steve deserves a lot of props for this), it was staged roll outs and in some cases you didn’t even get the update; a lot went the safer route with skins keeping the OS’s closer to stock Android OS, which limited differentiating factors, they also plain ran out of new design ideas making designs all seem very similar.

So what’s there really to look for too?

Better camera, better battery life, better screen, new emoji’s… because everyone loves emoji’s and oh yeah, how could I forget; it’s thinner wohoo yay *rolls eyes*, new authentication methods and some new colours.

Truth is when they harper on about the camera all I’m thinking is; can I get a clean picture regardless of lighting without have to fiddle about with a trillion settings? Yes, well that’s great; all that other stuff your rambling on about means nothing to me, now what’s this thing going to cost?

Links:
Brainthrough!

11. Technology: Want a chip?

My answer? No
I’ve been hearing about people wanting chips for a number of reasons but one from a fellow accountant I was not expecting.

If we don’t get the chip we won’t be able to compete with robots
 

When it comes to cost cutting which is always on the agenda, people will opt for the robots and here’s just a few reasons why:
The machine can work longer, there’s no need for sleep, sick leave, lateness, annual leave, recruitment time/costs, no flexible time and that’s before you look at Salaries, cost of living increases, NI contributions and pension contributions.

I’m not picking up chippie when I can capex the robots and pay maintenance and software upgrade costs, if our current method for payment for large items remains true, it will probably be a lease agreement with an upgrade every xyz amount of years.

Another reason why I was not expecting it is as accountants we’ve been seeing outsourcing and automation happen gradually for years, but it has not hit full aggression yet, Accounts payable, Accounts receivable and banking were the first to have the torch pointed at it and in some companies you have 1 person locally and several outsourced, as the software gets better (still some way off) the pure data entry parts of accounts will shrink, basically we’re heading towards this collision anyway.

Why would I not want a chip which would have me all knowing; simple I don’t want to feel like a machine, I am happy with not knowing everything finding out little titbits as I go along, I am happy to switch off my electronics for a couple days and read books and write, I am happy to see two people debate and listen to how well they present their arguments from memory, last but not least people are people never expect too much from them, at some point someone will find a way to abuse it.

Links:
eletimes.com

Brainthrough!

10. Technology: blind eye

I read the below article and it got me thinking; do us technology fans appreciate assholes or do we simply respect someone who can get it done?

From the article I read:
We have this habit of highlighting and celebrating brilliant assholes like Steve Jobs and [Uber co-founder and ousted CEO] Travis Kalanick, when the reality is they are awful human beings,” said Greg, head of technology at e-commerce startup Brandless, adding that it is women and people of colour who tend to bear the brunt of their behaviour.

“It reminds me of stories that came out of Wall Street in the 1980s, when sexism was part and parcel of the culture,” he added. “Stories like that become public very quickly and people find out and paint tech with one brush.”

Some of this behaviour stems from the hubris that positions profit-seeking corporations as benevolent forces in the world.

“You are selling ads, you’re not really making the world a better place,” noted the former Facebooker. “But most people drank the Kool-aid.

I can’t take comments from a previous employee too seriously as most tend to be bitter plus this all wreaks of virtue signalling (my new favourite term).

So let’s ask the question, are these people assholes or do they just call it like they see it and get stuff done?
Let’s talk about everyone’s favourite CEO (except mine) Elon Musk; he’s is known to be an asshole but unlike many before him he seems to be getting stuff done and is loved like get it done Steve Jobs before him; those same people who whine about technology companies are the same ones who are kissing his ass, I guess it’s different because he’s a green guy right?

So let’s ask a different question; do you need to be tough and terse to get things done?
In most cases yes, the CEO who is more concerned about appeasing everyone rather than getting things done usually gets tossed out on their ass and does not churn the results investors want or the products consumers need, they don’t become obsessed with the companies vision, instead they become obsessed with people pleasing which will not always go hand in hand with good results.

When you read up on any of these titans you soon come to find similar personality traits which is no coincidence, so why do we keep whinging about it?

In an old AAT accounting magazine I read it said one of the reason small accounting practices fail is owners have a tough time letting people go when times get hard or who are not cutting the mustard, i.e. they are people pleasers and this behaviour is partially responsible for the failure of their business.

Another quote that made me smirk was this one:
Some of these folks aren’t the most socially gifted people and therefore suddenly having a culture encouraging this experience for them bleeds into everything, giving them a sense of self-importance and entitlement. It’s effectively like dealing with children all the time,” Greg said, referencing his time at Dropbox when people would “fly around the office on these stupid scooters and skateboards”.

This is probably the same type of person who hates ‘suits’ wants ‘dress down Fridays’ and considers being able to bring a blooming dog to work an ‘awesome’ idea, to me it’s simple, build a better company, change companies/careers or do us all a favour and shut up!

Links:
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/nov/08/ashamed-to-work-in-silicon-valley-how-techies-became-the-new-bankers

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/02/technology/uber-drivers-psychological-tricks.html

Brainthrough!

9. Technology: AI are you scared?

Should we go down this route? The answer “screw your debate because money” is the true reaction most US technology companies, if there is money in it, it will be done, screw your concerns!!!

The AI is coming, the AI is coming!

All this panic about AI puts a smile on my face, Hollywood films, countless books, social commentators and tech heads have warned us about the dangers of AI forever.
I have heard some good reasons for this, the best coming from a colleague (who either read in a book or heard in a podcast that,) that the main fear with AI is there’s no 2nd chance! i.e. if the programming goes kaput, then we could find ourselves really fighting the machines. Why does this put a smile on my face? Irony, AI is being created to solve issues we create.

This debate actually take me back to my first encounter with it; whilst most people’s first cinematic/televised experience with the machines changing their views was probably the terminator, Space Odyssey or the Matrix movies; mine was a great scene from the X-Men cartoons shown in the 90’s.

Dr Trask built Master Mould to build sentinels to deal with mutants, unfortunately for the Dr, Master Mould demands that a senator’s brain be replaced with a computer (which paints another irony); trying to plead with his creation the following conversation happens:

Dr Trask: “You were designed to protect humans from mutants”

Master Mould: “That is not logical, mutants are human… therefore humans must be protected from themselves”

I don’t think the writer could have picked smarter words!

This scene even as a kid for some reason just stuck with me, and here I am, no longer as happy, no longer as free, no longer as innocent and no longer as trusting but still hearing the same debates… amazing.

Currently we have the following: Alt left vs Alt Right, misandrist vs MGTOW, Theism vs Atheism, Vegans vs Meat eaters, religious vs anti-religious, feminism vs anti-feminism, socialism vs capitalism, pro-genders vs anti-genders heck we even got Cyclists vs non-cyclist, the point? we are brilliant at being divided and the question that has to be asked is; who’s programming AI and what are their views on life?

For example; misanthropy is growing; people are constantly showing us they love animals more than their fellow humans, what happens if one of these are let loose on the programming?
What we should be doing is ensuring there is a clear understanding of how they are being programmed and who by; where will AI be drawing their information from? & the most obvious question, is it even possible to keep AI unbiased?

So should we fear AI? No, it’s coming either way and you’re part of the reason why they will be needed!

Links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCFlYL9RhBM

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/elon-musk-neuralink-brain-computer-startup-a7916891.html

https://www.neuralink.com/

Brainthrough!

8. Technology: DriveNow or Zipcar?

Which is better?
Value for money & ease of use Zipcar, convenience and cleaner cars DriveNow; DriveNow has replaced Zipcar as my default Car club.

ZipCar (I have been a member since 2008 when it was Street Car)

Likes:
Keys: I like the fact that ZipCar has a key for the car, this makes the whole booking straight forward, you unlock with your key card (or app but the (UK) app can be trash), you use the key throughout the booking and when you’re done, you put the key in the holder lock the car with your card/app and finished! Brilliant and effortless to use.
Bookings: Being able to book a car weeks in advance makes planning trips easier, being able to extend bookings by text messages also make it easy to extend booking for occasions you might be stuck in traffic.
Overnight booking: 18:00-09:00 for £29.00 Monday-Thursday is exceptional value for money.
Variety of cars: They have Ford fiesta’s, Audi A3’s, Hyundai’s I30’s, 7 seaters and even vans, the range of vehicles can’t be beaten.
Hourly packages: you can book a car for an hour for a reasonable price.
Fuel: Arval card is present just fill up and put it on the card.
0% Excess: annual fee of £99.00 for the year provides zero excess.
Congestion charge: all included within the price.
Moving vehicles: they can often quickly and swiftly move your booking to a another vehicle if there is a issue i.e. dirty car.
Phone Syncing: Excellent, I don’t usually have issues syncing my phone to cars (except one particular Ford Focus).
Customer service: usually very good, it was even better when it was Street Car (I now wish the EU blocked the merger).

Dislikes:
Dirty cars: When I joined Street Car which later became Zipcar the cars where usually clean, now they are just forever dirty, to the point of frustration that I don’t even bother using Zipcar since joining DriveNow.
Weekend price hike: The hourly car rate increases on weekends.
Text message charge: you get charged £0.29 to extend a booking by text.
Parking: if you are doing stuff within the borough you can’t park the car anywhere in the borough as you can with DriveNow which is a shame.
App (UK): the app (UK App) is straight trash, constantly crashes and when they announced ‘ZipCar anywhere app’ that was a laugh! you could not even get the app to open without it crashing, I stick with the USA app as it usually works fine.
Limited use of the car: This I need to explain, with DriveNow there is an air of freedom when you book a car as you don’t have to worry about getting caught in traffic and incurring a fine when you book a car; with ZipCar this is not the case as someone could have booked the car after you, thus if you get it back even slightly late it’s a fine (which is fair enough if there is a booking after you), however initially in Street car days, if no one had a booking after you and you got the car back 5-10 minutes late, there were no fines but that is no longer the case.
SatNav: Not all cars have SatNav.
Lack of automatics: All these types of cars should be automatics.

 

DriveNow (member since August 2017)

Likes:
Cleaner cars: on average the cars are usually cleaner than Zipcar (though I have had a few instances where this is not the case).
Location: the cars are usually located around the borough, you can always find one.
App: The App works well and I have had next to no issues with it.
Range of cars: Not as good as ZipCar but they do have a convertible Mini’s as well as the regular 2&5 door hatch backs, there are electric BMW’s and a BMW 1 series.
Parking: for local use this is crucial, being able to park the car anywhere within the borough makes shopping or doing things locally a buzz!
20 minutes free: If the fuel is less than 25% and you fill it up, you get 20 minutes of free driving credit.
Unlimited use of the car: What I mean here is; if you book a car and set the timer for 3 hour package; well if you go over 3 hours you get to their charge per minute rate which is great and means if you’re a few minutes over your time you don’t incur the penalty like you would with ZipCar as the cars effectively yours until you end the booking.
SatNav: All cars have SatNav!
Automatics: To me this is one of the best things about Drive Now and it has definitely been a reason why I gradually stopped using Zip Car for it, driving automatics is far more pleasurable than driving manuals especially in traffic (yes I come across a lot of traffic).

Dislike:
No key: A massive frustration of mine with DriveNow is having to argue with that ‘Park and Keep’ function which is just trash, when you’re in a booking, especially having to re-enter your pin number in front of others.
Fuel card: Unlike ZipCar you have to faff about with the menu and get the pin number, it’s annoying and needs to be simplified.
Tyre pressure: When I do get my own car it will not be a BMW, the constant warnings that come up around tyres is a little more than surprising (never had these warnings with a golf!).
No zero excess insurance option: they do not have a 0 excess option like ZipCar does.
Can’t swap cars: they can’t swap vehicles, to my surprise, when I got to a vehicle that was dirty, they were unable to swap my booking instead they had to cancel it and then I had to re-book (I was on the phone with customer services at the time), all the ‘smart functions’ and they can’t move a booking for you.
Can’t book additional hourly packages: This is frustrating; hourly packages are overall cheaper than the per minute rates, if you book a two hour package but realise you might need the car longer (heavy traffic which happened to me twice), there is no way to book additional hourly packages; not even with a phone call, you have to end the booking, re-book and book another package (I’ve actually done this) it’s just the stupidest thing and can make you blood boil.
No timer/reminder: There is no timer on the app or in the car to say how long you got left in your booking (this is in relation to booking hourly packages), I usually set a manual timer on my phone but I should be able to go into the app and it say ’24 mins remaining from my 2 hour package’ for example.
Phone Syncing: Don’t bother doing it wirelessly; the phone syncing is garbage, complete and utter garbage, non-recyclable garbage! When you do manage to get your phone synced after goodness knows how much hassle; everytime you turn off the frigging car (even in Park and keep mode) it delete the damn sync, then you have to go through the learning mandarin exercise to get it sync again, get a USB cable, don’t argue with me, just get the damn cable and thank me later.
Customer services: meh!

I have seen another Car club company called Ubeeqo which I will join in the new year, they have golfs which is my preferred car (Street Car had golfs and I find these miles better than the BMW 1 Series), the rates seem reasonable let’s hope they have clean cars, if they do turn out to be good; I will probably drop ZipCar.

I have been car sharing for over 9 years and truth be told; I want my own car, dirty cars plus annoying bits with both services just make me want my own vehicle now, plus the costs of these car sharing clubs can quickly rack up, I’ve easily spent over £2,000 on car clubs this year alone!

Been a couple years since I wrote this; here’s an update:

14. Technology DriveNow or ZipCar 2?

New post on DriveNow leaving:

15. Technology DriveNow leaving London

Links:
http://uk.businessinsider.com/studies-uber-drivenow-demand-private-car-vehicle-sales-2017-8

Brainthrough!

7. Technology: Love bots?

Who do you love?

30th November 2017, I was channel surfing and stumbled upon a channel 4 program regarding adult dolls and oh boy!!!

Let’s get to facts, 20% of non-AI dolls are bought by women and 80% are bought by men; despite having no smart features these basic dolls can costs anywhere from £3,000 upwards! The smart bots (or AI dolls if you prefer) are expected to sell from £8000 upwards; we know these will sell, let’s face it, the current adult toy industry is a billion-dollar industry with female items topping the list.

What’s the bloglem?

The reaction people are having to the soon to come smart bots/Love dolls, reminds me of an episode of Futurama where Fry falls in love with his Lucy Lu bot, painted the grim picture of what could happen if man opts for machines over women and if social media was anything to go by, people share the same sentiment.

Channel 4 which has brought this to the forefront (in terms of mainstream TV) and in my opinion has shown it is AGAINST this; I remember watching Humans, we have the scene where one of the bots works in a brothel, it paints a grim picture, long story short the #AI becomes self thinking and leaves but before she leaves she says “everything those men do to us, they want to do to you” as a parting word to the female brothel owner.

Then this program, boy was the men they found creepy as heck…. I don’t think you could of found a better selection of customers to make you want to ban a product, one of the damn dolls looked like a freaking kid; I am not kidding and the shocker was the man actually had a WIFE!!!… she should have been left him, then you had this other plonker who took his doll to the beach and took photo’s of it WHAT ON EARTH!!!; you can’t make this crap up but the icing on the cake for me, was when the guy with the arguably pedo doll had his first interaction with ‘smart’ doll and he asked her if she has ever been to Brazil, ahahahah this was a good laugh. Additional comedy came when I saw the lady who’s campaigning against the sex dolls, I can’t remember if it was some made up moral non-sense or the usual ‘men’ liking something makes them evil rhetoric but all I got was she only wants sex bots to be in male form (I say this because she did not mention the male form of dolls being an issue).

Is there a moral issue?

No, but I don’t buy morals are universal as everyone reads off different pages; here’s what will happen; some men and WOMEN!!! will buy these, as the technology improves and the #AI can be perfectly tuned into what their owners want (giving them the perfect partner), more people will jump on board. A surprising customer base will be those who are just flat out lonely or unable to get the male/female they are truly attracted to, when the technology improves and these bots look/act more human and gain the ability to do domestic duties, some will cover the ‘other’ uses for the love bots under the guise of it being a personal assistant who can watch your pets, take your parcel, watch the house, control the heating etc but that’s quite a way away; but you can see that happening.

There are some who are panicking this could be the end of humanity, I’m bored of this story naturally being a Christian I have a different view but let’s pretend I buy into a different view, this will be adopted massively by western societies (all the weird stuff happens here first), other cultures it won’t effect as much if at all, thus the entire globe and the human race will continue but there may be a significant population reduction; or with an additional train of thought it could lead to population increase, surrogacy requests could sky rocket as the new family becomes human + bot + surrogacy child!

Interesting times ahead!

Links:

Brainthrough!

6. Technology: Imac pro, huh?

“Hey guys, we know the MacPro has received some backlash and as a result of this in 2018 we are going to make the MacPro we should of made from the beginning; one that is modular for you professionals!, we’ve struggled to figure out how to do this but rest assured this is a high priority for us,… oh by the here’s an ImacPro”….. wait? What?!!!!

So let me get this straight, pretty much from when the MacPro was announced it got backlash and the smug statement of “can’t innovate my ass” has provided some good laughs, in fact the best joke I’ve heard from the MacPro fiasco is “Apple has learned the importance of vapour ware” Lol

We all know the MacPro is not core to Apple sales anymore, and common sense could tell you the Imac is a better seller than the MacPro and the current turd MacMini, he’s where I say what on earth.

Apple basically said they are struggling to provide a modular re-designed MacPro but one will be here in 2018, so you think fair enough let’s wait; and for no good reason they announce the ImacPro, so you struggled to give users a modular MacPro but surprise… surprise….; you somehow, someway managed to redesign a product that has limited upgradeability, that no one asked for, slapped a ‘Pro’ moniker on it and I’m supposed to buy the garbage MacPro story.

Here’s my theory, Apple’s design language points towards slim devices with limited user upgradability, they are also working to blur the lines between Pro and non-pro users as they have successfully made footways into enterprise via casual users who love their Mac’s, the Imac Pro tells the truth, the users who want to upgrade components are dwindling, they would rather sell their current computer and buy a newer one model, fiddling about with drivers etc is just not appealing to the majority of people anymore, people are happy with an all in one, especially as the Apple monitors are high res, and Apple know this, heck they damn near pioneered it.

The Imac pro will become the default ‘pro’ desktop for Apple and sales will gradually slip for the MacPro and upgrades will come at a slower pace until it becomes like the current MacBook air, stale but still sellable because you can upgrade it yourself, right?

 

Brainthrough!