It just works!

September 14, 2012

Every now and then a tool comes along which is so fit for purpose that its simplicity is a form of beauty.  For years I have struggled with keeping up to date with expenses.  I remember well over a decade ago hiding in a holiday cottage while the family were at the beach frantically completing six months of paper work to avoid a very embarrassing conversation with the bank manager, and the near panic when my manager of time realised that I was a year behind in claiming a significant amount of money.   Then there was the boxes of three years of back receipts that went to the Bristol accountant who sorted out three years of tax returns before the repossession order arrived from the Inland Revenue.  Since then my son has had an annual summer holiday job going through piles and piles of receipts, some faded to the point of illegibility to keep things in some form of order.   I know that I have lost money as a result, but every time I resolve to do better, the envelope of receipts at the end of a long trip gets de-prioritised behind email backlogs, blogs that have to be written, proposals reviewed and books to be read.  Then it is joined by the next envelope and the whole sad and sorry cycle starts again.

Now finally, for the first time in over twenty years, I have been up to date on a daily basis over a round the world trip and this weeks quick hop across the channel to Amsterdam and its all thanks to an app which really works.  The name of this paragon of utility is BizXpensTrkr and I've show a screen shot.  Its very very easy to use.  You simply set up a log for each trip, download currency rates and just keep entering material as you go along.  Once home you can print out a pdf report, attach it to the receipts and bung them in a large box.  You also output a spreadsheet for claims, records etc.   Now over the last year I have tried several apps, but none worked easily and for everything.  I ended up with two, one for the UK and one for overseas, but then that all got too hard and they fell into disuse very quickly.
The developer is obviously passionate about the product.  You can email from the app and replies generally come in within a day.  It paid for itself on its first day of use and I recorded material without receipts.  Milage and Time are also there for client billing etc.  

For years I have argued that technology needs to be a tool that, when you pick it up, fits your hand.  In practice most technology tools require you to bioengineer your hand and brain to work within their constraints.  This is a great example of the former and I see from the active discussion forums that companies are adopting it for their employees.  We need more tools like this, ones that augment human intelligence, that are designed to improve life not add burdens.

… and as those who know me, know; its very rare for me to be this enthusiastic about software that I haven't invented  grin

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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