Archive for the ‘IT Management’ Category

Intelligent Decision Aids and the Accounting Professional

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Last Wednesday evening (25th May 2011) I was invited to present to the CPA Australia discussion group for Information Technology.  The topic was to do with my research, and is all about intelligent decision aids and the accounting professional.  Thanks to John Halliday of BDO in Brisbane as the discussion group convenor for his suggestion that I present.  I am recording this output as TTD

This is the session outline I provided to CPA Australia (note:  I was a bit concerned when I showed up at 4:30pm to see signs everywhere saying I was presenting on Sharepoint – no way am I going to do that, although we could always workshop it 🙂 ):

Ever since the pocket calculator replaced the adding machine and the slide rule, accountants have been debating whether today’s accountant is less skilled than those that went before.  The increasing reliance upon legislative compliance and ‘best practice frameworks’ has ensured that the modern professional must rely on the computer to carry out their tasks.  

This session presents preliminary results from Micheal’s research into whether the sophisticated use of computers (‘intelligent decision aids’) to assist with accounting and audit reduces the professional’s judgment capability – their ‘know-how’.  Micheal’s research draws upon interviews with 59 public sector auditors to identify whether this ‘deskilling’ is occurring.

The session identifies the driving forces behind this ‘deskilling effect’ (‘technology dominance), outlines recent research into the phenomenon (and in fact whether it exists or not), and identifies risk factors that may be at play in deskilling yourself and your staff if you rely on computers too much. Potential strategies to reduce this deskilling effect are also outlined and discussed.

This session should be of interest to any professional that relies upon a computer to help them with their professional tasks.

The session in my humble view went quite well.  It’s really good to see that John and CPA Australia have a discussion group that is going quite well on an infamously ‘non-core’ topic.  Feedback from audience members that I saw was also reasonably upbeat.  At any rate, the Powerpoint I presented is given below:
Hopefully you find this interesting – it is after all my thesis so be a little kind :).
Thanks:  Micheal Axelsen


Data management strategies

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

On 14th October 2009, I will be presenting at CPA Congress in Melbourne to the topic ‘Data Management Strategies’.  Apparently CPA Australia didn’t like my originally suggested title ‘The devil is in the detail – which is why the Lord of the Nine Hells should never be your DBA’, which I blogged about earlier.  I think the new title is rather bland, don’t you.

The session overview is below:

Micheal Axelsen FCPA Director
Applied Insights Pty Ltd

As accountants, we prepare the information that a business uses to make its important decisions. Sometimes though, the data we use seems to be impossible to track down – and when we do find it, who knows whether it’s actually useful or not?

In this entertaining presentation, Micheal looks at some of the practical pitfalls and case studies of working with data – from rampant spreadsheets to the DBA nightmare – that Micheal has seen, with practical advice you can use to help your business escape its database nightmare.

Anyway, it promises to be fun, although it would have been much more fun if I could have brought theology into the debate of DBAs vs rational people.

Image from Flickr User Lessio. Some Rights Reserved.

Decision Support Systems And The Professional

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Today I presented for the INFS332 class for Dr Sophie Cockcroft of the University of Queensland as a guest lecturer.  The class has been discussing decision support systems and how fantastic they all are; my role was to temper that enthusiasm a bit with a bit of balance, particularly with my work around the theory of technology dominance.

My presentation is given below:

The mother of all demos – and ‘intellectual workers’

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Wowsers.  Saw on this video:  ‘the mother of all demos’ by Doug Engelbart in 1968: 

I haven’t seen all of it yet – you’ll need to set aside a chunk of time – but it promises to be really, really interesting.  Considering that this is back in the day when you wrote your own OS for every computing machine you bought, it’s very futuristic (and some of it ain’t here yet).  Admittedly it is in the tradition of demos where some of it is smoke and mirrors (‘backed up by 30 people at Stanford University’). 

I love how in the first word or two he comes up with ‘intellectual worker’.  I’m all done with being a knowledge worker – from now on I’m an ‘intellectual worker’. 

Can employers tell us what we can do in our private, online social networking, lives?

Monday, November 10th, 2008

If your employer tells you to ‘stop doing that, you’ll go blind’ online, do you have to stop doing it? 

Short answer:  yes, with a but. 

As I specialise in long answers though – see below.  Caveat – I’m not a lawyer.  This probably misses a ton of stuff cos I’ve shortened it from the original, much longer, draft.  This is just for discussion, comment, and thought provocation at the moment.  It also has far too many Battlestar Galactica references. 

At law it is generally well recognised that employees have several duties of care that they owe to their employer . There are three core duties of an employee to their employer that have a clear link to an employee’s online social networking activities:

  • to work with care and diligence,
  • to obey all lawful and reasonable orders, and
  • to act with good faith and fidelity.

There are essentially two types of employee: a standard employee (on a time-service contract) and a professional or staff employee (on a task-performance contract) . Professional and staff employees, and especially those employees with client-facing roles, are generally held to a higher standard, particularly where their actions may tarnish the employer’s image.

The employee has a positive duty to be efficient, and to avoid negligence in carrying out the work. In the context of online social networking, an employee might breach this duty where their use of such tools affected their efficiency (for example, through cyberslacking) or using a social networking tool in an inappropriate way (for example, to store client material or to carry on client conversations).

An employee must also obey the ‘lawful and reasonable’ orders of their employer, taking all reasonable steps to carry out the tasks promised under the contract of employment. Criminal acts outside of the workplace may prevent the employee from carrying out their duties, and thus breach this duty. So if you joined an illegal OSN, or advocated criminal behaviour in an OSN (use your imagination but it probably involves terrorism, nazis, or pavlova) it might be difficult to keep doing your fracking job (sorry – Battlestar Galactica reference).

It is likely though that the activity would need to be very much at odds with the employee’s role for summary dismissal or discipline to be justified.

Employees do have a duty to act with good faith and fidelity (see especially Blyth Chemicals Ltd v Bushnell 1933 ). Employees must not act in a manner that is in conflict with the interests of their employer.

As part of this duty of good faith and fidelity, the employee must not disclose information where disclosure of such private information (for example, profits and losses, customers, methods and techniques, etc) might help a competitor. It is likely, for instance, that posting a blog topic about business strategy, or the file notes from an internal meeting, would breach the duty. The duty operates to limit the employee’s ability to comment upon the business of the employer.

I was flabbergasted to find though that in the Cockatoo Docks Case (1946) it was found that an employer was justified in summarily dismissing an employee who wrote an article in a Labor Party newspaper that was critical of his employer. Try that one on today! Although it is not likely that this decision would be followed today, there are clear parallels to be drawn with online social networking activities.

The biggest issue for bloggers and Facebookers everywhere? Tarnishing corporate image.

For this duty to be beached there generally needs to be a relevant link with the employer such as a uniform. In Rose v Telstra Corporation 1998 it was acknowledged that employers ‘do not have an unfettered right to sit in judgment on the out of work behaviour of their employees. An employee is entitled to a private life.’

In the context of online social networking, presumably this connection would exist where the employee discloses the name of their current employer, or where the individual is in a senior client-facing role so as to be likely to be identified from their profile by a customer or prospective customer.

Some employers use things such as AWA’s etc to prevent, for example, a mining company employer stopping an employee joining a group that is protesting the mining company’s actions.

As a general principle, employers seeking to rely upon this power of control must set out their expectations very clearly, and ensure that the employee has consented to such contractual terms and that the expectations have been brought to the employee’s notice. In particular, the duty that an employee owes to act in good faith and with fidelity operates so that the employee should not ‘tarnish the business’s image’. The business’s expectations of its employees however must be very clear if the employer seeks to control their employees’ actions in private.

Personally I’m coming to the view that if it’s your private blog or Facebook, keep your employer’s name out of it – it’ll be sweeter for all that way.

Image from Flickr User Akbar SimonseSome Rights Reserved.