Productivity

Hey Accountants, We’ve Found Your Productivity Sweet Spot

You’re three sips into your grande double shot as you pull into a desolate, jet black parking lot. By the time you hear footsteps walk through your office hallway, you’re an hour deep into next week’s big project. You are Monday’s early-morning warrior—an anomaly in today’s ever-changing accounting landscape. Right?  Nah, sorry. Being an early […]

stay productive remotely

How to Stay Productive When Working Remotely

I can tell you what’s going to happen on Shameless, Dan: They screw up their lives. Again. We live in an age of constant distraction–especially for those who work at home. TV, videogames, Netflix, and more are all within an arm’s reach. And that’s not to mention the ultimate time stealer: the smartphone. How many […]

It’s Time for Accountants to Ditch Dual Monitors

Here’s what my first day at a client would typically look like (circa 2012): 1. Carefully navigate through a new parking structure to avoid bumping expensive cars.2. Park.3. Obtain a security badge with an unflattering photo from the front desk.4. Return to car to collect my obnoxiously large (not technically portable) external monitor.5. Saunter into […]

Is Our Productivity Obsession Counterproductive?

Don’t let the #productivityhack hype lure you in! It’s busy season and bloggers and app developers are just waiting to entice tired accountants with their claims to speed up your efficiency and change your life. I am convinced our obsession with productivity is simply a ruse for procrastination. Every time I add a “game-changing” new […]

Stop Doing Other People’s Work Because It Saves Time

My senior had the worst life when I was on his team. I interrupted him every two seconds with one question after another…

You Should Take a Nap This Afternoon Because Science

Is it just me or are we most productive after a few beers at 3am? Just me, then, fine.  For most of you, rising at dawn to produce a work product from 9am by way of copious amounts of caffeine is the routine. You then sustain this energy throughout the day (and for some of you, […]

We Can’t Help But Wonder if This EY Conference Room Cactus Is Trying to Say Something

It would be bad enough to spend your life as a cactus, but a conference room cactus? I'd rather be reincarnated as the E. coli on your lunchmeat. It seems this cactus, shared by @EYStaff earlier today, has something on its mind. I can't quite put my finger on it… Cactus in the conference room! […]

If Your Firm Appoints a Chief Happiness Officer, You Should Definitely Run Away

Beyond the typical grunt and senior grunt titles — associate, manager, partner — there are a group of people employed within public accounting firms whose sole job it is to get quoted in the New York Times, push mythical work/life balance arrangements, make sure the firm has enough "other" people so as not to appear […]

Consultant Shares Secrets For Milking the Most Out of CPA Firm Staff

It isn't enough that you give your heart and soul or at least most of your billable hours to the firm for which you work, but you are also expected to go above and beyond by bringing in that cash money, son. The Rosenberg Associates ("Consultants to the CPA Industry") wrote a blog post meant […]

The Debate Heats Up Over How Many Computer Monitors You Should Have

This is relevant to you all because we all know how you feel about multiple monitors. You will recall, before we get into the debate, that dual monitors are critical for success even if you are working on the weekend poolside. PwC realized it could suck the life out of its grunts in half the […]

Everyone is Overwhelmed and Companies Don’t Know What to Do About It, Says Deloitte Survey

What's this, now? Too much access to information has turned us into “overwhelmed” employees. Nearly every company sees this phenomenon as a challenge to productivity and overall performance, but struggles to handle it. Information overload and the always-connected 24/7 work environment are overwhelming workers, undermining productivity and contributing to low employee engagement. Sixty-five percent of […]

Why Busy Season Is an Exercise in Futility

A reader sent along this article on how campaign managers can easily work 60 – 80 hours during campaign season (oh the horror!) and promised we'd find an interesting bit buried in it. Sure enough, how about this? Burnout sets in fast. For every 10 hours of weekly overtime, you’ll need an extra day off […]

How to Stay Focused Using Technology When Technology is Keeping You Unfocused

Jumping off Colin's Open Item earlier today about Tracker — a Chrome extension developed by a former EY employee that allows you to better understand what you spend your time doing — we came across a few browser extensions you all might find useful in this, the most non-joyful time of year where every minute […]

Science Says You Should Have Multiple Large Monitors

Back in October, we learned that PwC auditors had finally whined loud enough to earn a second monitor. Up until that point, it was only by the grace of God that anyone was able to accomplish anything and it probably explains the firm's dreadful PCAOB inspection results. Some found it strange that a firm of […]

Nightmare Audit Rooms Have Their Consequences

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

With no place to work in the office of the housing authority of a major city, the audit team was provided tables and chairs in the hallway of a renovated apartment building that connected the swinging front door with the elevators. In the middle of winter in a city located on a bay, the wind swept into the hallway driving temperatures to near freezing. Clothed in parkas, scarves, wool hats and gloves, the audit team struggled through the engagement.

Auditing rural hospitals, CPA firm personnel were ordinarily assigned to a patient room for workspace since there was no room for them in the hospital office. This year there were no patient rooms available so they were assigned to the morgue! Steel tables and high stools were their accommodations. Formaldehyde, dead bodies draped in sheets and the medical examiner’s buzz saw greeted them each day.


The auditors of a plumbing contractor were assigned a dark, damp room in the basement for workspace. The room was two flights of stairs and several hundred yards from the accounting office.

Two auditors were assigned workspace at a desk adjacent to and facing the controller. The controller smoked, they didn’t.

I could relate more true stories on and I suspect you could add your experiences to this list of inadequate fieldwork workspace. Here are some obvious questions:

1. Did any of these scenarios increase time charges on the engagements?
2. Who had responsibility to correct or prevent these circumstances?
3. When should corrective action be taken?
4. What actions should have been taken?

Question 1: Of course time charges were increased! The auditors of the housing authority said the audit required almost twice the amount of time it should have. The hospital auditors lost numerous hours going for fresh air and to the restroom to vomit! Going back and forth to the accounting office wasted enormous amounts of time, although the team did lose weight. Not only was the health of the non-smokers impaired, they wasted time leaving the room to discuss audit issues and securing all working papers and electronic equipment every time they left the room.

Question 2: The in-charge accountants on these engagements had responsibility to run the fieldwork but their “stick” wasn’t big enough to get the managements to change their workspace. It was the engagement leaders’ responsibility to speak with managements to correct the situations.

Question 3: If the workspace could not be improved internally, a nearby motel room, a recreation vehicle parked outside a client’s facility or an electronic air filer could be remedies. The cost of these alternatives is likely far less than the unbillable wasted time.

Question 4: This is a planning activity! Proper workspace should be arranged by the engagement leader before the fieldwork begins. Engagement profits can be increased considerably by using foresight and arranging for proper workspace!

The Technology Productivity Bureau Accounts for All Stakeholders

We all know about getting a credit rating. Whether it’s for a personal credit card, a supply chain vendor authorization, or the much maligned oligarchy who rate public companies and entire nations. Based on alion, a score is developed that (attempts) to capture the inherent risk of a credit failure.

How much could firms benefit from getting a Technology Productivity Rating?

What is the risk of a technology failure?

If an objective ratings agency existed that scored a company’s use of technology, how well would other people score your company? Who is the ‘Greece’ of technology?


To rate technology productivity, the rating has to encompass the entire organization and the way in which technology extends to external stakeholders (customers, suppliers, staff, etc). Optimal productivity from technology doesn’t simply mean newest technology. It’s not just about what technology a company uses that matters. It’s about how the technology is used. I met with a colleague in the technology industry recently who went so far as to say there’s still times when a FAX is the optimal technology for a task. It depends on the potential outcomes and workflows.

To date, I think the focus of technology productivity has been too inwardly focused in companies. Companies say, ‘How can this technology benefit us?’ instead of looking at the workflow effects for external stakeholders too. Granted, most organizations are completely overwhelmed simply by this one-sided approach. But if you look closely at some productivity software, part of the “technology” benefit is actually a workflow transfer to external parties. If I had to rate the technology, the score would decline in the event of workflow transfer being masqueraded as technology.

For example, look at productivity tools around supply chain management and recruitment:

Supply Chain Management
As a means to increase productivity, big companies implement supply chain management systems that effectively transfer the burden for account administration to the vendor companies (sometimes they even charge a fee!). For the implementing company, it is great. All the vendor information is keypunched and filed away into the database for free.

The system integrates with the ERP for invoice approvals all the way to point of payment. The internal technology productivity score is high. For the vendor, every new customer could conceivably mean a similar routine resulting is a productivity loss and therefore would rate the technology lower. A vendor with a lot of customers practically needs a Mechanical Turk just for the data entry!

Seeing these scores could be really beneficial when vendors are choosing what customers to prioritize.

Recruitment
Recruitment technology can be burdensome to external stakeholders while being helpful to internal stakeholders in a similar way. The key to recruitment technology is capturing candidate data to enable filtering and search. Some technology in this field is simply transferring the data entry task to the candidate. Each candidate types out their life story field by field, row by row. From the company standpoint, they see the output of the technology. It is good. From the candidate standpoint, they see a time sink.

Taken in isolation, this candidate time commitment is not a big deal. One candidate typing their qualifications one time in response to one job posting is fine. But what happens when the candidate is applying at a dozen jobs? Two dozen? At what point does the opportunity cost of doing a whole bunch of data entry deter the brightest candidates from these particular employers?

The brightest candidates will apply to the companies that DON’T require a massive typing drill first, selecting away from this less productive technology until it’s unavoidable. The overall technology productivity score would take this into account.

For a company purchasing new technology, understanding the opportunity costs both from your perspective and that of external stakeholders and developing a Technology Productivity Rating may not become a formal process. There is no Technology Productivity Bureau, or least, there isn’t anymore. There was… for a short time… an idea before its time… may it rest in peace.

Perhaps it’s enough to look at it from a more macro-level. Ask yourself, is my business technology liberating for stakeholders or, or are they being repressed? Then, act accordingly.

Geoff Devereux as been active in Vancouver’s technology start-up community for the past 5 years. Prior to getting lured into tech start-ups, Geoff worked in various fields including a 5 year stint in a tax accounting firm. You can see more of his posts for GC here.

Productivity Means Accepting The Fact Reinforcements Are NOT Coming

Are you feeling strapped for time? Have more work than hours in the day? Still waiting for that new person in the department???

I hate to be the one to break it you, but reinforcements are NOT coming.


You can find the evidence here, here, here, and here. The economy jumped off a skyscraper, hit the pavement, and now everyone’s trying to figure out whether or not this “recovery” (NBER says the US is still in recession) is real or is it a Dead Cat Bounce. Hiring for your little Cost Center will have to wait it out.

Of course the REAL evidence is probably already in your possession. Crack open the budget file; what’s the headcount look like for your department next year? The truth is right there in front of you in bits and bytes. If you’re doing the job of 2 people, chances are pretty good you’re going to continue to do so. You’ve become a 2-for-1 special!

The good news is that the unemployment picture has probably hit bottom. Those of you who remain employed probably don’t have to worry about losing your jobs anymore. After all, as the investor/pundit Kevin O’Leary likes to say, “a company can only fire 100% of their employees before they have to find a way to generate revenue.” Departments have terminated everyone they can terminate.

The bad news is that your job survived. It’s a classic case of the survivors envying the dead.

But I’d rather light a candle than curse your darkness.

There’s plenty of glib mantras I could be extolled at this point:
– do more with less
– work smarter, not harder
– corporate business process re-engineering consultancy services
– stop reading this slogan and get back to work, slacker!

The dirty little secret behind all of this kind of rah-rah, cheerleader stuff is that YOU are still the one left to actually DO all the work. Getting more productive is the only way to help you help yourself. You don’t need the BPO consultant to pull a Beetlejuice on you (“move in with you guys for a while, become real pals”) to figure that out! You need to look at every activity you do and ask:

1. Why am I doing this?

And if the answer doesn’t smell like a dead cat,

2. How am I doing this?

And finally,

3. What’s the alternative?

And for the love of Pete, watch for the technology trap! The technology trap is the assumption that, just because you are using technology to complete a task, it automatically means it’s the best way to get it done. Technology is like a dog. Do you walk the dog or does the dog walk you?

I’ve worked in accounting departments for years. There’s been times when I felt more like a dishwasher than a business professional and I was booking crazy overtime with zero comp! Over the years, little routines became big, dogmatic, time sinks and my hands were permanently puckered. I can only imagine what that sink would like on a skeleton crew.

The upside is that you have a bit of leverage suddenly. Since you’re the only one left, you’ve become that much more difficult to replace. Hiring sucks and it takes a long time. No one wants to deal with another recruiter, no one! You have a chance to redefine how you get your work done so take advantage. Wouldn’t it be great to use leverage for good for a change?

Deloitte Starts Off the New Year with Some Generosity

Good news Green Dotters with iPhones. After having to shell out $13 a month, we’re now happy to report that because so many of you were coveting them Deloitte will now offer the iPhone under at the standard rate under its mobile device program.

Our records indicate that you have an Apple iPhone connected to the Deloitte network–and we have good news for you!
We have continued our negotiations with AT&T and Apple. Based on Deloitte’s volume of iPhone orders, we are now able to offer the iPhone at the standard rate covered by the Deloitte mobile device program.
The good news–you will no longer be charged the monthly $13.00 surcharge for the iPhone.
Sincerely,
The PDA Team

So now everyone at Deloitte will have an iPhone? That should help with AT&T’s service issues. If you’re less enthused about this development, or you’re just hella-jealous because your firm doesn’t offer cool gadgets, discuss.