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Havoc during MCO 

Tuan Pengerusi, lagu mano nok prose bantuan ‘tuk ahli.  Toleh masuk ope?

Translated from Kelantanese: “Mr, Chairman, how do we process the members’ assistance when we can’t work in the office?“,  this was the question posed by the staff amidst complaints by the members seeking financial assistance from the cooperative during the pandemic.

Due to the MCO, the accounting system to process assistance can only be operated on the office premises. It was an old system.  Furthermore, the investments activities cannot be recorded and monitored due to the same MCO restrictions.

The technology solution

The Cooperative has to move to a cloud-based system that can be operated by the finance team from the home.  So they sought Wizeewig and used our accounting system.

The cost was RM299.00 and it took a few minutes to get it activated. The Chart of accounts was imported and the opening balance was entered. The training was conducted a few days later. All done.

Then a call came to me…

Ku, tok jale system accounting kito ni!!

Translated: “Tengku, the accounting system you implemented is not working“.  I immediately accessed the system and notice the system is up and running as normal.

After some clarifications, the Chairman explained that the finance team is not using the system. The only answer he got was ambo duduk cubo lagi, translated “I am still trying to use it“…and it has been 3 weeks.

We had set up a discussion with the finance team to find out their problems.  Wasn’t the training not enough? Did they understand it? Did we provide the support for them to use it effectively? These were the questions running through our team.

What we found out was strange.

To others, the norm is strange

For the urbanites like us in Kuala Lumpur, we are used to interactive online systems that shoot out immediate results, but the finance team in Kelantan, they were traumatized by the cloud accounting system.

The old system had the following process for accounting entries for a typical bill: –

  1. Creditors send bills via post or by hand to the Cooperative
  2. Accounts Exec (AE) receives hardcopy bills from creditors
  3. AE then placed these in a centralized physical folder
  4. At the end of the month, AE will enter the bills and tabulate them in an excel sheet and pass it to the manager
  5. The manager checks and does the correction if needed
  6. The manager enters the bills into the old system

A total of 6 steps.  Time: 2-3 weeks.

The new cloud system…

  1. Creditors send scanned bills to the Cooperative via a designated email. The system automatically stores the bill inside the accounting system
  2. AE will convert a digital copy of the bill to an accounting entry by entering the necessary form inside the system
  3. Click POST and done. Entry is now live and immediate. 

Total of 3 steps.  Time: a few minutes.

It only dawns on us that it is the first time the Accounts Executive has used a system to directly enter accounting entries. The old system only required him to tabulate it in an excel sheet and the Manager will enter the entries into the old system.

Now he has to do it. He was scared if he will make a  mistake, it will be automatically shown and every board member can see it. Imagine the stress he was in thinking of the mistakes he could make.  This explained why it took him some time to grasp the new cloud system. The norm was strange (and outright scary) to him.

The unrealized consequences of the old system were that it downgraded everyone, the degree holder Accounts Exec became an accounts clerk and operated on an excel sheet while the Manager became the Accounts Exec.

Not only, the Accounts Exec had to handle payables but also receivable, bank recon, non-cash journal entries, etc. This had further stressed the individual.

It’s not about the technology

The normal prescription to this problem is to put the Accounts Exec through more training so that he understand all features and functions of the new system. We realized that this will just overwhelm the person more.  So this is what we did….

  • So we decided to organize a 1-hour virtual online session every week for him
  • We broke it down for him and make sure,  each feature is an accounting task/ activity for him. By telling him to focus on bills (payables first), then, later on invoicing (receivables), then the rest. This way it will give him space to learn the new cloud system one activity at a time and not overwhelm him. The 1-hour session will give him the handholding and confidence he needs.
  • We then automated the billing process by identifying each bill with a specific accounting entry to avoid entry mistakes. So all the Accounts Exec had to do was enter what is the bill,  for e.g. TNB it will be electricity or TNB.  Automatically,  the system generates the accounting entries, he will just need to ensure the figures are correct and post the entry.

In two weeks, the Accounts Exec manage to implement bills with no mistakes and moved to receivables.

The cloud accounting system was fully implemented within a month and allowed the Cooperative to update its financial records during MCO without any disruptions.

Cost of Investment by the Cooperative…

  1. RM299 for the accounting system per year
  2. RM1,000 for hand-holding sessions (4 x RM250)

Key Takeaways

  • Digital transformation is about talent not technology.
  • Don’t assume by merely implementing a fancy system will solve your problems or achieve transformation.
  • Understand what is the “real” problem. In this case, it wasn’t the lack of training of the system’s functions/ features but the stress of posting a wrong entry due to the perceived system complexities and lack of exposure.
  • Provide a solution to the correct problem.  Avoid the cookie-cutter approach because everyone is different. The norm to you may seem strange/ scary to others.

The article was first published here.

Photo by Ashwin Vaswani on Unsplash.

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