[In the early 1990s], most of us did not even have a personal computer; and if you did, you had a DOS-based system on it. So when I went to work for Hewlett-Packard and they had a financial accounting system called Aquarius, the name seemed a bit odd because I was thinking, “Wow, this is pretty antiquated.” But in fact it wasn’t any worse off than what I had already been used to in grad school. It’s not like I came out of school using Excel spreadsheets at the time.
What I found most disappointing, though, was that out of a month, I had at most two days to actually do any kind of business partnering, which is why I went to grad school in the first place. And that’s because a system called Aquarius basically had you doing very manual journal entries, and you weren’t able to actually see the entry in the system until the following day when a batch process was run overnight, and a very big printout would come out, and it would sit at the back of the room because there was only one, and you had to wait your turn to look up what your journal entry was. So it was extremely inefficient in terms of how FP&A operated, and it really prevented us from doing the value-added skills that they were paying us for.
Smartphones have had a huge impact on those of us in FP&A because it’s really enabled us to work from anywhere. Because I can access my email, and I often get spreadsheets or Word documents or even PowerPoint presentations in email, I am able to open them up on my smartphone. So if I don’t have a Wi-Fi connection and have to rely on the phone for a network connection, I can still get my work done. Now granted it’s a fairly small screen, and you really have to manoeuvre your way around it to get at the information, but at least you have access to the information 24/7, which we didn’t have when I first started.
So technology is wonderful in that it really should enable those of us in FP&A to really focus on what we want to be doing, which is the predictive analytics. I would much rather be spending my time trying to understand the signals out there in the marketplace and work with my marketing business partners to enable better business insight decisions around pricing or market share or any number of other relevant factors, rather than spending most of my time generating reports in a system that acts rather kludgy.