(This column originally appeared in Accounting Today)
Power users are getting more tools in their favorite spreadsheet program; Microsoft stops taking partner’s checks; Zoom evolves; voice-activated payroll at Paychex; and six other things that happened in technology this past month and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.
1. An Excel update gives power users plenty
Microsoft Excel’s desktop version will begin supporting task automation, a feature that was previously only made available to web application users. The new desktop feature will enable users to create, edit, and run Office scripts through the All Scripts task pane and Code Editor. The update will become available sometime next month. (Source: Tech Radar)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Scripts can be used in all sorts of different ways. According to Microsoft, some examples include parsing web traffic records to determine a user’s country of origin, managing interview meeting times and making a flow to schedule meetings in Teams or validating an instructor’s record for their class’s grades. With a little bit of training (or outside help) scripts like these can make your spreadsheets an even more productive tool for your people.
2. No more partner checks at Microsoft
Microsoft has released a statement to North American partners that as of December 1, they will not be able to pay with checks but instead will be required to pay through wire transfers or a bank-to-bank money transfer such as ACH. There has been no official reasoning as to why Microsoft issued this change, although some are speculating that this is to help improve efficiency since checks take much longer to deposit. (Source: The Register)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: The slow death of check-writing continues, although too slow for me. That’s because too many of my clients still pay their bills by checks. Converting to online banking and electronic payments takes effort and for many small firms it’s not worth it. Unless, of course, their largest partners/vendors/customers (i.e. Microsoft) starts requiring them to do so.
3. Paychex launching voice-activated payroll
Paychex recently announced the rollout of a new payroll solution known as Paychex Flex, which will include Paychex Voice Assist, a conversational AI feature. The feature will let payroll administrators run payroll through any devices compatible with Google Assistant, which will hopefully help to automate and simplify the payroll process. (Source: PRNewsWire)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Paychex is a current client of my company. The reason why this news interested me though is because it is just one of many up-and-coming voice activated applications and tools that will make big changes to our office workflows.
4. Attacks on employee phones pose new threats
A recent wave of security breaches at various companies is highlighting the dangers of workers using their cell phones at work. (Source: Axios)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: According to reports, hackers are tricking employees into providing digital passwords and credentials through phishing campaigns targeting cell phones. With more people working from home, security teams are having a difficult time keeping up with new accounts, apps, and personal devices being used for work. You need to invest in more training for your employees.
5. Betterworks adds frictionless integrations with Office 365 and G Suite
Performance management company Betterworks announced in September that it plans to integrate with several G Suite and Office 365 applications. The integrations will enable employees to quickly and efficiently manage performance using plug-ins for productivity tools such as Workspace, Excel, Outlook, and Teams. The goal is to promote more productive conversations between managers and employees. (Source: PR Web)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Betterworks is one of a number of performance management platforms that can help employers of all sizes make sure their workforce is motivated and managed based on their strengths. The platform’s features include helping with employee/manager conversations, feedback and goal-setting. Many of these applications appear geared to enterprise-level organizations so they might not be cost-effective for smaller companies. But I believe that as they become more popular, versions suitable for smaller organizations will become more available.
6. Zoom evolves into a communications platform
Zoom recently announced an evolved “visual identity” and new appearance, as well as rebranded names to familiar features. Zoom Chat will now be known as Zoom Team Chat to promote more collaboration, and features such as Zoom IQ for Sales, Zoom Contact Center, and Zoom Whiteboard will also continue to evolve to better meet the needs of remote teams. (Source: Zoom)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: There’s no question that more people are finally coming back to the office. Zoom, which literally saved the world during the pandemic, now must adjust to the new workplace. And it’s doing so by trying to compete with Microsoft, Google and Slack. One thing in their favor: Zoom has consistently been more reliable — and easier to use, in my opinion — than most of the other collaboration applications available, so this may help sell some companies on these new features.
7. Android 13 can help separate work and leisure data
Android 13 has a new redesigned feature under “work profiles” to keep consumers’ personal data separate from their work-related data. The update will feature two separate profiles and allow users to open an app and designate which profile they want it to be under. Apps that will adopt this feature include — but are not limited to — photo and email apps. Android will also add smart diction that can dictate work specific jargon and keep it separate from personal spaces. More features to this new update will be announced soon. (Source: The Verge)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: This could be a useful thing for people who carry multiple smartphones for work and personal use. But will security be enhanced to the point where security managers at firms will bless its use? If we get to that point, then there could be significant cost savings for companies that require multiple devices, let alone more productivity.
8. IPhone 14 Pro to get major battery upgrades
The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max hit the market September 16 and it is anticipated that the battery life will be greatly improved from the iPhone 13, likely due to the new 5G chip. The battery percentage icon is expected to make a comeback as well. Other than the battery life, some other new features are speculated to be a 48MP camera lens upgrade, satellite connectivity, and an ultra-wide camera option. (Source: Laptop Mag)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: I can think of no better feature to add to a smartphone for business travelers like myself than extended battery life. Will we ever be able to travel for two or three days without charging? Let’s hope so someday.
9. Robots move in, even as productivity slumps
According to recently released data, companies across North America purchased a record number of robots in the first half of 2022 to try and make up for a struggling labor market. Data shows that 12,305 units were ordered during the second quarter, valued at $585 million. This is 25% more than this time last year. (Source: Reuters)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Companies big and small around the country are investing heavily in robotic technology to replace those workers that aren’t available and help existing workers get more done. The price of these units has fallen significantly over the past few years, making it a more affordable investment. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring this investment just because of the current slowdown. That will end and smart companies are preparing themselves for when that happens.
10. Wegmans discontinues the self-checkout app
Supermarket chain Wegmans announced last month that it has discontinued its self-checkout app citing losses. The app known as SCAN — which allowed customers to scan their groceries as they shopped — was rolled out early during the COVID pandemic to help facilitate a more contactless experience. Wegmans did not disclose how much it suffered in losses or whether they were a result of stolen items or customers forgetting to scan groceries. (Source: New York Times)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: There will still be self-checkout lines, but even these are becoming less popular. The cost-savings benefits are tempting, but the reality is something different. Scanning products throughout the store more easily leads to theft, and many businesses, like Wegmans, weren’t prepared for the extent of shoplifting that occurred. And anyone will tell you that oftentimes doing the self-service line is more time-consuming than regular checkout. Improvements to these technologies are needed.