Ep. 1: Pierce Kohls - The Deceptive Allure of Emerging Technologies

Pierce Kohls, CFO at TENTE Canada, Inc. tells us why we need to be cautious when it comes to implementing emerging technologies in accounting and finance. Pierce Kohls is a CPA and a CMA with experience in strategic planning and accounting and finance, and current responsibilities include managing the day-to-day financial, IT, and risk management operations of five companies across North America. In this episode, he tells us about the technologies used at TENTE, but also why businesses need to be cautious when considering emerging technologies and make sure we avoid the deceptive allure of the industry "buzz words".

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Mitch: (00:03)
Welcome to Count Me In, IMA's podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. I am Mitch Roshong and with me, as always is my cohost Adam Larson. The topic of this week's episode is the deceptive allure of emerging technologies. Adam, can you tell us a little bit more about this? 
 
Adam: (00:17)
Sure can Mitch! A technology's an intriguing topic in today's accounting profession as the future is here, yet still constantly evolving. We hear all about new technologies there, benefits, hype curves, et cetera, but I was curious to hear about how it's actually implemented. So I reached out to Pierce Kohl's CFO of TENTE to ask him what he thinks about this trend and what he and his company are doing with emerging technologies. Pierce definitely has a great outlook on this topic. So let's take a listen. 
 
Adam: (00:51)
What kind of technologies do you utilize at your company and how do you see the impact of emerging technologies affecting the accounting profession? 
 
Pierce: (00:59)
That's a great question. You know, emerging technologies is such a great topic, mainly because it includes all those buzz words that everyone loves to throw around. Things like artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, blockchain, and all the other ones that I'm sure but listeners are aware of. But the important thing that I want to remind listeners is not to get lost in the world of emerging technologies and forget about those existing technologies, which is why I kinda like the title of this, the topic of this podcast to be the deceptive allure of emerging technologies. You know, and I trust me, I know this is something easier said than done because I struggle with this as well as the CFO of TENTE. I not only lead the finance and accounting departments, but I'm also responsible for it, which I actually love because I'm so fascinated with technology and you know, it's probably something most likely due to my age, but I don't like things staying the same for an extended period of time, which is why I'm constantly looking into different ways of doing things, mainly by utilizing technology. But something that I see is that people, and like I said, I'm guilty of this as well, is we tend to get too hung up on this topic of emerging technologies and we forget about, like I said, the existing technologies. You know, you take a look at, you know, certain department leads, you know, they're thinking, okay, how do I utilize things like artificial intelligence, blockchain when if you take a step back, the departments that they're leading are utilizing technologies that are like 10 15 years old, which is kind of crazy to think about because of how fast we know technology changes. And I kind of look at technology the same way you would look at dog and human years where one human year is equivalent to seven dog years. Technology is not that much different. And I think it's important for people to kind of keep that in mind as they think about technology and you know, they need to keep in mind, it's important to stay up to date and relevant because if you don't, your competition might, and that might be a competitive advantage that they get on you. So don't get me wrong, I also love the buzz words. And TENTE we utilize technologies such as IBM's Cognos for our BI needs and we use it for predictive analytics. Something also we use is Microsoft's power BI, which I would highly recommend people to look into. We utilize it with our CRM software and it's become a game changer for our sales reps and sales managers. They got visibility that basically they've just, they've never had before. So a little side note there, I really recommend people look into Microsoft power BI. But moving on, when it comes to technology, the thing to keep in mind is that it does not need to be emerging to be worth implementing. You know, the cool thing about technology is that there are some very simple technologies that can be utilized that can make a, maybe not a huge significant impact, but can make people's lives easier. And in my opinion that's one of the main purposes of technology. You know, there's two main things I look for when deciding on whether or not to utilize some type of technology, one, does it make the user's lives easier or to does it break the bank? So that first one should be a kind of obvious answer. But trust me, there are things implemented that have made user's life worse. And then to, it's also an obvious one in my opinion, but that's more of the finance guy and me coming out. You know, if it's gonna cost an arm and a leg, you know, you always gotta have a return before you move forward with something. But the main point there I'm trying to make is when it comes to technology, it does not need to be emerging to be worth implementing. You know, at TENTE, we use things like Expensify for our expense tracking. We use something called Tax Jar for automated sales tax reporting. We use Trello for project management teams and communications. You know, these are all great uses of existing technologies that are simple to use and implement and can definitely make a positive impact on the department. So as you can tell, the point I'm trying to make is that you don't have to implement emerging technologies to make an impact. It can be something small that can just maybe make your life a little easier. You know, another thing we've started utilizing at TENTE is our banking's mobile application. Mainly the reason why is because we used to approve payments and transfers via physical token IDs. And what that meant was if I wasn't physically at my desk with that token ID payments could not be approved, which would cause issues because if I'm traveling or on the road and I don't have that with me, payments aren't going out. So our banking, our bankers told us that they came out with this app and basically told us that there was, that the token ID was actually contained in the app. So no matter where we were, we could get on our iPhones and basically approve ACH is and transfers right there on our phones and get all of our banking information right there on my phone so I don't have to be tied down to a desk, you know? And that was something that was very small to implement but may a nice impact and made my life much easier. So that was just another example there. Now to the second part of the question, as far as the impact that emerging technologies are going to have on the accounting profession, you know, it should be no surprise to anyone that technology has already in, is going to continue to make significant impacts on many different job functions and accounting is right there among the rest of them. It shouldn't be no secret that there are technologies out there currently that can kind of do certain accounting job functions that maybe in the past it took, it required a physical person to do, for example, at TENTE we've started utilizing a program, called Paymorang where basically we pay, send a wire or a payment to Paymorang and then they are responsible for distributing that payment they received to us, to our vendors. And so this saved us from, you know, headaches like stuffing and mailing checks, clearing checks off the bank rec. And not only that, it made the bank rec a lot simpler. There are some negative things with it. Like you kind of lose out on the float. But you know, so when cashflow is kind of an issue, maybe you might want to look into something a little different. But those are kind of things that we started to look at and utilize and the department that I lead, another thing to really keep in mind when it comes to the impact that technologies are having on the profession is, you know, businesses are going to have to be more receptive to remote work. I think we've already kind of seen that and in the example I gave with the banking application, they told me that's why they actually came out with that application was because they see the trend towards people wanting more flexibility and being able to work more for a look remotely and not being tied down to a desk. So it's important for businesses to kind of see that and kind of be thinking, okay, how do we implement technologies that not only make our lives easier, but maybe give us a competitive advantage in terms of recruiting, you know, and maybe if we can implement some kind of technologies to where people can work more remotely, that could be a recruiting advantage for us to get, you know, some higher talent employees. You know, this is actually a topic that me and my boss have discussed, um, because it's kind of becoming something new at TENTE and something that people are kind of certain to ask about more and more. And it's, it was kind of interesting because when you, when I was talking with my boss, you know, to him, flexibility when he started meant something completely different than what flexibility means today. When he started flexibility meant, Hey, if my kid has soccer practice at 3:30, can I leave, you know, an hour early and go to that? Or, Hey, I got a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning at 11, kind of come in a little later. You know, that was the flexibility. Then the flexibility now is more, tends to be more, Hey, I would like to work remotely one or two days a week. You know, that's a pretty big change and a pretty big shift in the term flexibility. So I think it's important that businesses and companies try and utilize technologies that kind of push that way in terms of, you know, being able to let their employees work remotely and so forth, especially in the accounting profession. But, and, and closing and just to kind of wrap this up overall, I just want to reiterate the point that when it comes to technology, it does not need to be emerging to be worth implementing. I think that's really important for people to remember. Don't forget about the emerging technologies, don't get me wrong, they're important and you need to be up to date. But take a step back and see if there's things within your current department that maybe you could utilize an existing technology to make your life easier. And as far as the effect on the accounting profession, the key takeaway for management accountants and accountants in general is to not dwell on the fear of your skillset, for lack of a better word, becoming irrelevant, but rather work on adopting and adapting to the new technological changes, which in the end will only make you more valuable. 
 
Announcer: (11:52)
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