Thursday, February 21, 2008

All About the Sophie Taeuber-Arps


When I started working here, I was given two weeks training covering about 5% of the vital functions of the job before the guy who sits next to me was shuttled out of the country for extended on-site support.

While he was gone, I had about two hours of time when we were both in the office to bog him down with questions about where various files were hidden and what made two identical tasks look completely different when they involve different clients.

He's back now, and the pile of receipts on his desk was intimidating to me, even though I have nothing to do with his expenses.

He has spent over a day entering line-by-line the smudged data from these crumpled bits of paper before dutifully flattening them out and photocopying each one, in order by date, to make the job easier on whatever corporate accountant gets them.

But then he was back at it again yesterday, the same piles of receipts, a whiteboard displaying a calendar with Post-It notes (documentation format of choice around here) and the Yahoo page for currency conversion.

Rather than pay him back in the exchange rate of today, they asked him to pull up historical records for the date and time of purchase to best match the currency rate at the time the money was spent.

This process was, I'm sure, tedious and pointless from the point of view of the guy who just wants to get paid back for meals while he was out of town for the company for a month.

Accounting offices just want to be sure the company isn't getting ripped off, I'm also sure, but this seems like an undue burden to place on a valued company asset who may well decide to decline the next trip on the grounds that the return paperwork was too annoying.

As I watched him toggle data in the Yahoo currency conversion screen, altering the dates and amounts, copying and pasting the results back into his email client, I wondered if there wasn't a software product out there to do just this.

It would poll world markets constantly to keep amounts in line with a baseline and track changes in currency value over time. Transactions made at any point along the timeline constantly created would be given in relation to the currency in the local area rather than the remote one, easing timely payment of amounts due.

I started to contemplate the potential market for such a program before I came to a startling realization:

Our company makes one product, and that currency conversion function is one of the most marketed features of it.

So I decided the potential market must not be so great if the accountants at the company that produces it don't bother to use it.

Friends, if I made this stuff up it wouldn't be half as imaginative.

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