Sunday, 23 May 2010

The root of all evil

It’s not, as commonly thought, money. No, the root of all evil, in my humble opinion is the business management tool SAP. Has there ever been a more time stealing, soul destroying, life-erasing entity of rancid, bowels of hell stinking pointlessness? Answers on a post card please, although I suspect not. There are almost limitless ways this foul, pernicious company can make the average workers life more difficult and stop them getting any work done.

I recently attended a training course on how to use their expenses program. It took about an hour of my time and a quarter of my soul to realise that never in a million years would any one of us present in that room be able to use this tool in an efficient and time productive way.

In the bad old days before technology optimized our skill set and we realised we needed an enterprise wide initiative to realign our personal fiscal state of operations (or claim back the £2.50 we spent on a coffee whilst heading to a client meeting) life was much simpler. You simply filled in a pink sheet of paper, stapled your receipts to the back, got a signature and took it to an old lady who sat down the bottom of the corridor and smelled of lavender and cats. And then, as if by magic, three weeks later the £2.50 would appear back in your bank balance. But with the dawn of a bright new technological era we have streamlined the process and made the whole thing so complicated that even Professor Stephen Hawkins would shrug his shoulders and say in his inimitable mechanical way ‘I’ll be fucked if I know.’ Now you have to fill in endless ‘fields’ in endless pages requiring endless numbers and authentification codes to be sent to endless people who will ignore it before you chase them up and then check endless different pages in the hope that somebody somewhere will give you back your own money you have spent on the company’s behalf.

Obviously you will not get your money back immediately because you will, without question fill the form in wrongly. Then a little man who sits in a darkened room with a bad haircut, comfortable shoes, Primark suit and delusions of adequacy will reject it. This will then become a never-ending task to rectify. Hours of your billable time that you should be spending producing work for your company or their clients will be spent in front of the computer screen dying slowly inside.

I simply do not understand how anybody can justify changing a system that is straightforward and effective to one that requires hundreds of people and untold thousands of pounds to set up and results in an entire workforce grinding to a halt for large chunks of their day. A more cynical man than I might think they were making the whole process this difficult so that nobody would bother claiming their own money back, saving the company the expense of repaying them. But I am clearly not cynical by nature so can only presume that they know best. Perhaps it is a government scheme to create employment for would be accountants. There are probably thousands of people across the country with no social skills and greasy hair who like sitting in stale smelling rooms with ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps’ posters on the walls who need a purpose. For this reason we have no choice but to welcome this pointless program into our lives in the knowledge that it is creating employment for a whole swathe of people who would otherwise be watching Jeremy Kyle and experimenting with biscuits.

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