Tax & Accounting Blog

Faithful to FOMO: The benefits of leaving your tech comfort zone

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When the first iPhone released in 2007, a generation of users was ‘indoctrinated’ by the ‘smartphone’. With a big screen, a healthy third-party App store and a new way of being ‘mobile’, the iPhone shook up traditional players in both the consumer and business markets.

Ten years later came the iPhone X, and for the first time in Apple iPhone history, demand and interest slowed missing the mark anticipated by analysts. I’m not suggesting anyone sell their Apple shares – it is the first publicly listed US company valued at $US1 trillion.  This shows that big brand loyalty can be sustained over time, just not at the same epic levels.

Obviously, the iPhone is not obsolete. I can still make telephone calls (less of a perk than a decade ago), send messages, navigate unfamiliar terrain, consume media – in all, remain as connected to my world as I was a decade before. So why are iPhone users are turning to alternatives?

Maybe partly because of the hefty price tag, which no longer corresponds to a contemporary consumer value index, or have some users simply outgrown the Apple ecosystem?

The devil you know

‘Designed in California’, the Apple ecosystem is famously ‘locked’, you get what you get. It doesn’t require me to think too much about customisation or how I want to be ‘mobile’. Sure, this still has appeal, why change something that works?

Why indeed? The problem with sticking with what you know is the potential to miss out on a whole lot of options. The market now offers a myriad of phones at a range of price points and features to match, for example, dual sim cards, expandable memory, a flexible operating system allowing customisation and multitasking, to name just a few. These aren’t just for geeks or ride-or-die individualists, they are for the variety of needs demanded by users, as our lives have changed over the last 10 years. Through the powerful combination of consumer need and technology, the humble phone (like so many tools) has transformed into something else completely.

The benefits of being uncomfortable

Technology’s transformative powers have touched almost all areas of our work and social lives. If we take the tax and accounting industry for example – yes, I am returning to my favourite topic, tax and technology – in the 1970s the “pocket calculator” took on iconic status. Fast forward to 1987, and MS Excel took over as the go-to-technology and has remained the solution of choice for accountants ever since.

A solid tool, flexible and just about useful for anything to do with numbers, Excel fits nicely within the MS office ecosystem. It connects me to other productivity tools including Outlook and Word and generally allows me to do what I need, if it didn’t, it wouldn’t still be around in 2018!

So why explore alternatives? Because in the same way as with a fixed ecosystem such as Apple’s, users are missing out on options that would better suit their needs. Sure, Excel gives you the flexibility to set up calculations, pivot tables, macros and generally work with large sets of data – but those data sets are becoming far larger and much more complex.

In addition, the technology sphere for tax accountants has also moved in the last 20 years and while Excel remains a good tool for users who don’t want to ‘mess with the way it’s always been done’, a new generation of technology now delivers greater efficiency, faster insights with less formula error.

In addition to the added complexity of large data sets, governance around internal process has become more important than ever. In an organisation, Excel spreadsheets are passed down from user to user, often with inherent built-in calculation errors, which either become fudged or worked over. It is hard to ever really understand the workings of the spreadsheet unless you created it and certainly don’t ever try and question it!

There is a world of great tax tech available to meet a range of user needs. These solutions far exceed the feature set of calculators, Excel, and everything in-between. Changing habits is hard, but when you find the new “thing” –  phone, computer or tax software solution –   I bet you will wonder what took you so long.