Thoughts on the industry practice and IT in the current world.

Managing Expenses

posted 7 Apr 2014, 02:11 by Daniel Bryden   [ updated 7 Apr 2014, 02:16 ]

Sitting down at the end of the week with a bunch of receipts is pain. Fortunately there are plenty of tools out there that can reduce the hassle of this. We've been using Expensify for a year now and I would like to tell you how it has helped us.

For a long time we used XpenseTracker to manage our day to day expenses. It was good, but it was only available on the iPhone at the time and I new I was going to be looking at Android devices in the future.

I found Expensify through the Google Apps Marketplace and we have been using it for just over a year now.

The premise is simple: it's free for up to 2 people submitting expenses per month (a third person can approve them). Take a photo of your receipt using the app on the phone, categorise, enter an amount and the name of the merchant, save it and you're done.

At the end of the week I go to the main website, add my expenses for the week to a report and submit that to the person who approves expenses (affectionately known as mum in our company). I will then receive notification when it is approved and when it is paid. I can mark it as received for my own records.

Mileage can be added by creating a Google Map from Expensify and using the quoted distance. We can set up various policies for the business (e.g. ensuring that receipts are always added to a submitted report) and the system has a nice clean interface and is easy to use.

For me, a tool like this is great because it means that I can do receipts as I go along. That is manageable - you can do it while on the train or waiting for your next meeting, and it stops being a Friday chore that you would rather not do.

If you want to use Expensify, start by heading to www.expensify.com or find it through the Google Apps Marketplace. We have it added to our apps account so it appears in the dropdown list on Google. It's worth taking some time to go through the settings so it does exactly what you need it to do.

As for the future, you never know - I've just started to use Zoho Invoice for estimates and invoicing, and that has expense management in there as well. There may be a change at some point, but for now we're happy. And as a general rule of thumb, if my mum is happy using it, it must be good.

It's all in the name

posted 31 Mar 2014, 01:01 by Daniel Bryden   [ updated 31 Mar 2014, 01:06 ]

I had my eyes opened after a conversation with a friend the other week. We were talking about websites and the services that I can offer, and he explained the idea of funnelling your traffic to where it needs to be.
In Bryden Consulting we offer a number of services from actual consulting to more specific solutions. I am currently pushing the solutions side of the business and I am thinking that a name specifically for that could be of benefit.
Trying to come up with a name for a business that sounds good is one thing; trying to think of one that hasn't been taken, that has an available domain name and Twitter, Facebook and G+ links is somewhat more difficult.
So I have a plan, and an offer: if you can think of a name for the solutions side of the company (on the caveat that the domain exists and it can work on Twitter etc.), you can have a day of my time for free.
That's all very well, but I can hear you asking the very key question: what does he do???

Spreadsheets

I do spreadsheets and I do them well. I can program in VBA, the programming language that sits behind Excel. If you work with spreadsheets and you think that you spend too much time on them, I can save you that time. If you are manipulating large amounts of data to produce reports then I can automate that process for you. If you are doing repetitive tasks in Excel then you should look to see if you can have them automated - reducing 2 hours a week to 5 minutes is a significant saving over the year.

Process Analysis and Improvement

If you find confusion at some points in your business and need to put robust processes in place, we can work with you to do that. We can also look at changing your processes to improve how you work, making you more efficient and saving you time.

Project Management

If you have a sizeable project to do we can offer ad hoc project management. This will involve the kick off work (generation of plans, risks, issues etc.) and then regular contact to ensure that the project is on time and in budget. When smaller businesses are busy it can be hard to keep track of what is happening; we can help.

Failure Demand Analysis (inbound call analysis)

We have tools to help you understand your inbound calls. If you have a function in your business that receives a lot of calls, you will know that not of all those calls need to happen.
With our consultancy and logging tools we can analyse the calls that are coming in, review these with the call handlers to understand them and then develop solutions to reduce the number of calls.

Proclaim Database Updates

We have worked with Proclaim Case Handling systems and can do updates and maintenance.

And finally...

The key thing with our business model is that we aim to save you more than you spend. Personally I take a lot of pleasure from helping a business and seeing the results, especially when the saving is that of time.
Any work will include an analysis of the existing situation so that we can understand the projected saving across the next couple of years.

If you can think of a snappy name (it doesn't have to explain what we do, just be good!) then a day of my time could be yours. If it helps, on a non-work related theme amongst other things I like horses, motorbikes, scuba diving, squash, walking and mathematics.

Start the suggestions!

We love Excel

posted 27 Mar 2014, 07:24 by Daniel Bryden

It has been a very good morning. I have spent nearly 4 hours at the Sleaford offices of Wright Vigar, learning about managing staff, SEO optimisation and how to sell. In my line of work, the second two are essential and I hope that one day the first will be of great use too.
The two speakers were great: Tim Meagher and David Clarke outlined their subjects incredibly well, keeping everyone in the room engaged for the entire time. Wright Vigar were excellent hosts.

I have taken away a lot of valuable information, and you are seeing two things in operation here.

Firstly, I am going to say that we love Excel. It isn't the only thing that we do, but when we do it we love it. To be able to go in to a business, improve how they use their spreadsheets and deliver substantial time savings is incredibly satisfying. In fact what we really love is seeing our customers realise how much time they have just saved, either through Excel improvements or through more general process improvements.

Secondly, you're probably reading this because I've posted it on Twitter and LinkedIn. Hopefully a brief link and a bit of curiosity has brought you here (I'll no doubt keep the Realtime Google Analytics open all afternoon). If you've liked a link, someone else will see that you've liked it, and maybe they come here as well.

I'm going to read back through the notes and see what else I will be doing differently. I know that I will be reading Dan Pink's book 'The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us'. I picked up on this a couple of weeks ago and it was mentioned by Tim again today. It is fascinating reading for anyone that employs staff, even if it's only a small team.

A Good Case

posted 11 Jun 2013, 04:41 by Daniel Bryden   [ updated 14 Jun 2013, 00:22 ]

We have recently worked with Magna Accident Services to update and improve their Proclaim system.

Using our knowledge of the claim process we were able to understand the requirements quickly and translate those into the technical changes that were required in the system. In a short space of time we delivered a large number of changes which will save the company time in their day to day processes.

Our background is business based, but we have always had the technical expertise to be able to deliver the required changes.

Working with Bryden Consulting

Work always starts with a free consultation to understand the requirements and what can be done. From this an estimate of the cost will be produced.

We keep our clients informed of progress and ensure that the client stays on track with their expected spend. We will not come to the end of the agreed time to explain that there is still more to do. It is important to us to agree what needs to be done and to deliver that on time and on budget.

Where changes have been made we will also look to understand what that potential saving is. If something takes an hour a day and it now only takes 30 minutes, you need to see this so that you can reorganise your staff. It doesn’t take too many changes to free up a day a week.

Changes do not have to be specific to Proclaim. As a business we have over 50 years of business experience and we can help with many things.

How to contact us

Email: info@bryden-consulting.co.uk

The Galactic Empire Strikes Back

posted 13 Mar 2012, 01:22 by Daniel Bryden

In response to Forbes' article on why the Galactic Empire failed, the Death Star PR blog has retaliated, which has resulted in a further parry from Forbes.
What can we learn from all of this? Maybe that it's good to have some fun from time to time.

Five Leadership Lessons...

posted 9 Mar 2012, 04:52 by Daniel Bryden

...from Captain James T. Kirk.
A good read, and a nice alternative link in the article about why the Galactic Empire didn't do so well in Star Wars.

Touch Typing for Efficiency

posted 9 Mar 2012, 04:35 by Daniel Bryden   [ updated 11 Jun 2013, 04:50 ]

When you spend your time looking at Operational Efficiency, your mind starts to spend increasing amounts of time wondering how life can be improved.
Frustration mounts at your local pub as the bar staff spend most of their time walking backwards and forwards to reach out of place drinks and glasses, and you start to wonder why we spend so much time in life trying to decide whether we need a small, medium or large, when most of the time the sizes are almost the same (I always order a medium).
To a certain degree I am able to touch type. I am self taught but the fingers rest over the keyboard correctly and I can put together an email quickly. When I look at the people working around me, wherever I go, I see some very highly paid individuals spending a lot of time writing the shortest of emails.
From an Operational point of view this seems to be a waste. If you put this in to a call centre where staff on measured on the time they spend on a case, those that can type quickly are going to be more productive. If you send 10 emails a day and each one takes 6 minutes to compose, doubling your typing speed would save half an hour a day. In an office of 16 people you have just saved one FTE.
I believe that touch typing needs to be a compulsory lesson at school. It is a skill that will improve productivity in the work place, and the reality is that everyone will be typing in the future. Even for simple tasks - chatting on Facebook or filling in online insurance forms, it will save the world time.
Touch typing is the new writing, and it needs to be encouraged at all levels.

S: is for Stupid

posted 14 Dec 2011, 02:17 by Daniel Bryden   [ updated 14 Dec 2011, 02:17 ]

It is time for companies to move away from the use of letters for network drives. My first task in any role is to remove any drive mappings and ensure that I know the paths for the drives that I need. Why? Simple: IT appear to insist on giving different drive letters to the same path for different people.
Once you are setting up an Excel spreadsheet with links to other files you are stuck if your users don't share your drive mappings. You are also stuck when someone sends you a hyperlink and you can't access it because your K drive points to a completely different folder.

This is a legacy issue; legacy isn't good. It is time to cast aside drive letters and embrace a much easier future.

Head in the Cloud

posted 13 Dec 2011, 04:39 by Daniel Bryden   [ updated 14 Dec 2011, 04:00 ]

As a business we moved to Google Apps a little over a year ago and we haven't looked back. It is almost perfect for a business like ours and as we have now moved the website to Google Sites we can look to save some more money by removing our web space with our service provider.

All of my contacts, emails and calendar entries sit within Google Apps and the iPhone, iPad and MacBook simply sync to these. I certainly have my head in the cloud.

You may notice an Apple theme to the technology. The iPhone has been owned for a long time, the iPad for about a year and the MacBook is a new addition. It is my first Apple computer and I am delighted. It does become a little confusing though. I now have an iCloud account, and to sync documents in Pages and Numbers it happens through that. So now I have my head in 2 Clouds. In fact, I have my head in 3 if you include Amazon for my reading. I also rely on Facebook a lot for personal communication with my friends.

I am trying to work out where this will go. For now it is working, but I already see that different companies are vying for your attention and commitment. It is very easy to be faithful to Apple, for example, and the reality is that if we could use our own domain with the @me.com email address then a move in that direction would be a strong possibility.

In a few years' time the Cloud may well be on a par with our Utility suppliers as we look for the best deal.

(Un)limited Broadband

posted 15 Nov 2011, 07:45 by Daniel Bryden   [ updated 13 Dec 2011, 04:15 ]

It amazes me that in the data rich world that we live in, domestic ISPs are still offering broadband contracts with a limit on the amount of data you can download.
I spent 18 months on a 1Gb download limit with BT. I thought that this would be fine as I work away a lot and I consequence I don't use my own internet connection often. Unfortunately a single session of upgrading an iPhone, an iPad and iTunes completely destroyed that. Add on a couple of episodes from iPlayer and the penalty for breaking the limits are high.
I have since moved to Virgin broadband where you pay for speed and not for quantity. Surely this is the way forward? My main difficulty was knowing how much data I had used and I would rather not have to worry about it.

We need a review of this. In this age unlimited broadband needs to be a certainty and not an option.

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