Evernote is good, but it’s not everything…

Well, my setup for my mobile life is slowly coming together.  Firstly, I have a Blackberry for when I am out and about – full integration into Exchange server hosted by WebCentral.  It’s an expensive approach by the time Telstra and Webcentral have their cut, but it works well and is my primary mobile device.  Then I have two laptops – a Dell Vostro 1500 (the luggable for power-computing) and an HP Mini-Note 2300 for mobile computing (it’s small, light, and light-powered but does what’s necessary – mostly).  I have an HP Media drive that I use to synch files between the luggable and the HP – I’m currently using SyncToy from evil Microsoft to synchronise the files, although I did try SyncBack as well.  SyncToy is generally easier to use but its reputation is not as solid as SyncBack’s – my trouble with SyncBack is its complete lack of feedback as to what it’s actually synced and what it hasn’t.  I use GMail for my personal email, and it runs on my mobile based upon the Google Apps hosted solution. 

I also use Office Document Imaging to convert all my filenotes to PDF, so that they become part of my backup routine.  Ironically, the only thing I don’t keep electronically like this is my accounting records, as one day I may actually hand them over to an accountant.  And much to my annoyance I continue to use Office 2007 after a run-in with Open Office – it completely lost a major spreadsheet on me by overwriting a filename and annoying me somewhat – also Open Office files (native) don’t seem to be indexed by Copernic, my desktop searching engine.  I use ThinkingRock to manage my tasks and projects and todo lists (I did revert to Outlook tasks, which was good for mobility, but bad for trying to manage projects and generally implement GTD).  The new version of ThinkingRock 2 is much more polished so I am coming back to the TR fold (I was silly for going away, even if I did get mobility out of Outlook tasks). 

Finally, I use Evernote for little snippets of information that I collect and need to refer to, or that I stumble across while I’m researching stuff for papers I’m presenting and so on.  What is fantastic about Evernote is it’s ability to bring a lot of material together in one place, treat it the same, tag it, and bring it back, and do it from multiple vectors (PC, Mac, Internet, mobile phone) and keep it all in synch, for a reasonable price.  If used well, it can be very good.  A major difference from version 2 is the lack of version control.  I also originally came across Evernote while searching for a personal wiki approach, and EverNote doesn’t really support that type of functionality, it keeps it simple stupid.  I now use WikidPad to do that sort of thing.

Overall, Evernote is a great repository for keeping research together, and keeping things in synch between multiple devices (as you can see above, a fair chunk of my setup is devoted to synching stuff between machines.So it’s a great tool for doing what says it does.  Unfortunately it means I no have Yet Another Place with information stored – files (which I index with Copernic), some websites and now Evernote.  I wonder if my stuff in Evernote will convert over in a few years time – hopefully it’s successful and continues to operate, otherwise I will have a lot of information contained in Evernote that can’t be migrated to anything else.

I suppose in some ways it’s not unlike Lotus Notes, ironically, in its original syncing format, although it’s not collaborative I guess.  It is personally focussed.  Still it’s worth my $A47 for a premium subscription, and I’ll think about where it goes from here.  It’s a good tool to add to my suite of stuff I use, but it’s probably not going to be my nirvana for file and information management any time soon. 

Maybe one day I’ll get there.

The hidden danger of Facebook stalking…

One danger I didn’t mention for social networking in my recent articles is that us humble accountants at home quickly become aware of where our friends and former colleagues have gone tripping around around the world  – Facebook currently tells me I have a friend who’s moved from Australia to London to Singapore to England to Germany to England in the past six months, another who has ‘done’ Hong Kong, London & Morocco in the past week, another who is in Singapore, and another who spent the weekend in Vegas and is now going to Niagara Falls. 

Meanwhile I went to the shops to buy bread & milk…

Doing my PhD

Well for a long time I’ve been fascinated by business – did my Commerce degree at UQ in 1991 – I tortured myself a fair bit by deciding to do the Honours course.  Which was nothing like I thought it would be, and was certainly the hardest year of my life (so far) work-wise. 

Graduating in 1991 was not a good time.  Today, you graduate, you get paid $40,000 minimum, and the accounting firms fall over themselves to have you work for them for 2 years before you do the London thing.  In 1991, it was quite the other way around. So I didn’t work for an accounting firm.  Or a bank.  Who, in their wisdom, had decided the world actually really didn’t need accountants.  They were protecting their profits, but probably didn’t do too much for the profession. 

I worked in private schools for 5 years before realising that I probably didn’t want to stay in the same role for another fifteen years (advice I actually received – I was ‘too young’ to be promoted any more 🙂 – try that on today!).  So I went looking somewhere where being 27 was not considered a career choice!

I did my Masters in Information Systems in 1996 (finishing in 2000), again at UQ.  I became a CPA in 1997.  That opened up the door to consulting in business systems with both Horwath and then BDO Kendalls when Horwath merged into BDO Kendalls locally.  I joined the ITM CoE in 1998, and became its chair in 2002 after Tony Hayes moved on. 

I mostly loved BDO Kendalls as a firm – of course, we had our moments, but I was there for ten years so something must have been OK.  It’s a great accounting firm, with very talented and hardworking people.  Unfortunately due to family commitments and the need for long hours, I couldn’t stay there forever so it was best I leave and strike out on my own.  That has mostly worked well, although again that’s had its moments.  It’s reaffirmed my understanding of the need for cashflow in a small business in its growth phase, particularly during that all-important startup period!

Where’s this going?

Well, as part of my new-found life, which still very much involves consulting, but not trying to juggle family responsibilities and a national firm, I’ve done a little bit of lecturing from time to time (mostly QUT).  Which has been interesting and has lead to other things.  When I left, though, the plan was to work as a part-time lecturer as a sort of base job. 

I’ve since discovered that, in reality, to do that you mostly need to either have a PhD or be doing one.  I also found out the pay-rates for academics – even in IS, academics are paid less than the tealady in a commercial firm.  When a web-designer with four years experience commands a $70K package, and an associate lecturer gets $54K, there’s an economic imperative at work.

Fortunately I’m not entirely motivated by money – I like to do new things, interesting things, relevant things. Searching out mobile phone plans for clients is not necessarily my cup of tea (not one of my banner-moments in the past!).  Im a tad more ‘big-picture’ than that.  So I approached UQ about doing my PhD, and they just happen to have a scholarship going for a PhD student to review the impact of IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) on IT audit methodologies (see here, at the top of Page 54).  It’s almost exactly what I’m interested in, involves working with the auditors-general around the country, and it’s important (that’s why it’s one of those rare things, a PhD with funding – not a lot of funding really, for what is needed, but funding nonetheless). 

Peter tells me he’s after someone ‘mature’ to do the work – so maybe I’ve shaken off those baby-faced looks from when I was too young be promoted :).  Had to happen eventually I guess.

Personally it suits me to part-time consult and work on this topic.  It’s not quite exactly what I’m interested in, but half the work of a PhD is coming up with a topic, and here it is laid out for me on a platter, with funding and research subjects on the side.  So – I’ve said I’m up for doing it

So – I’m told an office is involved, and that I’ll have to be at UQ a fair amount of the time, but that is fairly flexible and it’s really about outcomes. The picture below is of the building at UQ where I’ll be spending most of my time.  I’ll have to buy myself some suspenders and jeans now that I’m working in academia.  There is a coffee shop and it’s a wonderful location (parking is kind of poor but we’ll deal with that and how bad could it possibly be (gak! famous last words!).

For any clients reading this, please note that I’ll still be available for consulting work – for most clients, pretty much on the same basis as before.  You won’t notice the difference, I promise, and in the meantime I get to work with some great people on a big-picture topic area of interest.  In fact, it’s a topic that’s just crying out for consulting and linking with the business community.

Guess that’s why it’s a linkage grant then, huh.

Feedback from data governance seminar

Hmmm.  One of my ‘corporate values’ is honesty.  Which translates to transparency.  So… I thought I’d post the feedback that I received for the data governance seminar a week or two ago (30th April 2008).  Out of 7, the feedback was 5.7, and I received comments like:

  • Good, relevant and practical
  • Very helpful
  • A good presentation. Will be checking up on notes
  • Annoying that an accountant knows so much about IT!!!
  • Good governance advice
  • Good, reusable data
  • Practical at times. I didn’t agree with some comments
  • Clear presentation; needs to use gender neutral language
  • Practical and concrete
  • Very data focussed and comprehensive

My favourite I think is that it’s annoying for an accountant to know so much about IT :).  And I’ll watch the gender-neutral language in future, old mysogynistic habits die hard.

Information Management is the new Black

Dr Kate Andrews is a partner at BDO Kendalls (QLD), and Kate’s area of specialty is intellectual capital and knowledge management.  Kate looks for very practical outcomes from knowledge management to benefit the business, and I can’t recommend Kate highly enough as a KM practitioner.  Kate and I, though, often work with clients together in the area of information management and knowledge management.  There are a great number of aspects to a knowledge management strategy that are very relevant to business, and a great many of these aspects are extremely interesting, engaging, and fire the imagination of clients.

Perhaps unfortunately, information management is not, perhaps, shall we say, the most sexy of aspects of knowledge management to pursue.  Unfortunately for those that are really intrigued by the more exotic aspects of KM, information management is the absolute foundation building block of a successful knowledge management strategy.  It is very difficult to manage your knowledge if you can’t manage your information.  And so Kate and I frequently work together in the area of knowledge management and information management to get good client outcomes.

The most practical application of information management that we have found is the framework adopted by the Government Chief Information Office in New South Wales, although these have now been withdrawn from circulation and are in the process of being revised.  These identify specific activities around audit, copyright, framework, inventory, liability, data quality, and information custodianship.  BDO Kendalls uses this framework to provide an information management strategy based around our usual approach (three month milestones, defined work programs, and capability growth for the business in the area of information management for critical information types). 

One of the major variations we use to the NSW approach is that today we think more seriously around the use of a folksonomy instead of a formal taxonomy.  Although it – to my logical accountant brain – is illogical and irrational and makes no sense whatsoever, we find that this approach gives our clients 80% of the benefits for 20% of the effort (well, approximately – there’s never an argument with the pareto principle is there?). 

Future information management posts will provide an overview of information management and build a library around the topic.