I am posting a follow up note at the top of this blogpost because, I have learned quite a bit subsequent to posting it and much of what I have learned is very disturbing. I strongly encourage everyone to read this post My Experience as an Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) Worker after reading the blogpost. Then go over and read through the cloudfactory.com website. It raises serious questions in my mind as to whether they and other US corporations are literally subjecting human beings to conditions that would be deems slavery and labeled as unconstitutional under the 13A.
I have spent a fair amount of time over the past couple of weeks engaged in the discussion over the role of bookkeepers in the environment of cloud accounting software and virtual bookkeeping. The discussion always goes around in a circles over the issues of:
- Whether clients wish to have a personal relationship with the person that is doing their bookkeeping.
- The concerns over data integrity, security and privacy.
- Issues of quality control and timeliness in getting the work done.
The reality of the situation is that like cable television and broadband before it, the combination of cloud accounting and virtual bookkeeping has rapidly become a commodity service where all of the firms performing the service essentially become fungible, and it is no longer viewed as a professional service, rather the bookkeeping and administration process including data entry, account reconciliation, the processing of A/R and A/P essentially become entirely mechanical, and expectations shift from “oh this is amazing” to an expectation that the service will always be available, instanstantaneous, and flawless in its performance, much like having running water and electricity in an office. Thats how broadband internet came to be viewed as a utility.
Once that point is reached, effincancy and speed in execution, and cost reduction become increasingly important. The concept of outsourcing the labor component and seeking out offshore pools of inexpensive talent to perform the work comes under consideration.
If one is going to be successful in this area, there are a number of components that become increasingly important:
- Standardization of workflow, including obtaining the raw financial data, procedures for dealing with missing information and exceptions, receiving data in a digital format becomes critical [PDF is the de facto standard].
- The ability to take over a substantial portion of back office process including the accounts receivable and accounts payable cycle become critical to have a sufficient volume of work to keep the human resources deployed through out the month. We believe that while accounting with a platform like Xero.com is an excellent starting point, extend the process requires structure, and bill.com is the ideal platform for this.
- The addition of a structured file sharing and collaboration system such as the one provided by box.com is a critical addition.
- The entire process can be documented, standardized and monitored with the addition of a workflow management application like WorkflowMAX. Crunchboards.com can be added to the platform as it scales to provide for the implementation of dashboards to monitor production activities.
- Once the workflow becomes standardized and recurring, the ability to get proposals out rapidly, and arrange for regular, recurring electronic and invoicing becomes critical, and thats where the practiceignition.com proposal and quoting system fits in.
Much of the foregoing isn’t “news” any more, everyone knows about it and many have started undertaking to implement. Well there is an additional step that can be taken, and this one usually becomes controversial. The performance of the work can be broken down to individual task and price out as piece work. Literally obtaining the labor on a transaction by transaction basis.
Amazon Mechanical Turk [“mturk”]. mturk is a virtual marketplace that trades in human intelligence tasks [“HITs”] A Human Intelligence Task, or HIT, is a question that needs an answer. A HIT represents a single, self-contained task that a Worker can work on, submit an answer, and collect a reward for completing. Amazon Mechanical Turk is a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence. The Mechanical Turk service gives businesses access to a diverse, on-demand, scalable workforce and gives Workers a selection of thousands of tasks to complete whenever it’s convenient. Amazon Mechanical Turk is based on the idea that there are still many things that human beings can do much more effectively than computers, such as identifying objects in a photo or video, performing data de-duplication, transcribing audio recordings, or researching data details.
Traditionally, tasks like this have been accomplished by hiring a large temporary workforce (which is time consuming, expensive, and difficult to scale) or have gone undone. Essentially you can essentially drive the cost of labor down to the individual transaction level..think “PIECE WORK”. It takes a special kind of person to pursue this approach, and i can guarantee it will make bookkeepers shudder at it implications. You can read more about it at https://requester.mturk.com/. The process of implementation is focused on:
Work Distribution Made Easy – mturk gives businesses and developers access to an on-demand, scalable workforce
Categorization on Mechanical Turk – mturk makes it simple to get fast, accurate results on your a categorization project.
Sentiment Rating Simplified – mturk makes it simple to collect and understand sentiment on your data.
The platform is appropriate for:
- Scrubbing Raw Data – verification & de-duplication, data entry and collection and algorithm training
- Creation and moderation of content – moderate photos & content, creattion and editing of content, and transcription.
In addition to the the accounting cycle, the digitization of historical data, and cleaning of CRM data applications adapt very well to the platform. There is a wealth of additional information to be found at on the amazon mturk site. I have to say, I have been smiling as I have been writing this post. I can’t wait to share it with some of the folks that have become complacent in their jobs, assuming that have a friendly face that speak and act like you do could shield them from the changes in technology. Say hello to the virtual version of the Roman Galleon Ship. It boggles the imagination like this: