March 31, 2017

Pencil Pusher

Pencil Pusher

As regular readers of this column know, I am generally a fan of technology. I’m as connected as the next guy, maybe more so, since my iPhone and laptop, not to mention Marcum’s IT team, keep me going and let me stay on top of things no matter where I am in the world or what I am doing. But I have my limits. I’m sure some of you would agree with me that it feels like technology is starting to take over our lives. And I’m beginning to resent it.

I almost envy those cast members from the reality TV show “Eden,” who were dropped into the wilds of Scotland with nothing but the clothes on their backs and were then cut off from the world for a whole year. (They emerged from isolation last Friday to find that the U.K. had withdrawn from the European Union and Donald Trump was now the U.S. president – but that’s another story for another day). The disconnection of it all is appealing on some level, although I admit I don’t know if I could have subsisted on the spoils of hunting and foraging, these not being skills I’ve developed in the heart of New York City.

That said, I’m thinking seriously about what we all have sacrificed by becoming so beholden to technology. When I first got into the accounting business, we did tax returns with our smarts and a calculator. We kept accounts payable and receivable journals by hand, and you had to use your own brain to flow chart a client’s business; there was no such thing as a computer program. There were 18-column ledgers and pencils with erasers. There also was no email and no cell phones. When you went home at night you were done for the day. You only got called if there was a true emergency. “Face time” with clients wasn’t just a customer service goal. It was the way business got done. And since there was no internet, there was no cybersecurity threat. The work was more labor-intensive in many ways, but it was also more clear-cut.

Therefore, I am using today’s column to announce a roll-back in the ways and extent to which Marcum relies on technology in our business. Effective immediately, I am instituting a return to certain basics. It was good enough to get us started on the road to growth and it’s kept us there since 1951. So don’t be surprised if the next communication you receive from your Marcum team is a telegram. Consider it our way of showing we care.

April Fools’!!!

With apologies to Peter Scavuzzo, our chief information officer, and his crackerjack team, for the riff, technology has been and will remain one of the most essential investments Marcum makes in our business. Like all businesses, we rely on our technology systems to keep Marcum functioning at peak performance no matter what the world may throw at us, whether it’s power outages or Mother Nature or who knows what else.

To give you a recent example, we told all of our people in New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to stay home on March 14, when a blizzard was expected to virtually shut down the Northeast. Safety always comes first, even in the homestretch of busy season. However, that day happened to fall just 24 hours before a major tax filing deadline for our corporate clients. We hardly noticed.

Over 1000 people across the Firm worked remotely on their laptops that day, and the work got done. All of it. Our infrastructure can actually support the entire Firm remotely with no loss of access, impairment to efficiency, or impact on security, should the need ever arise. All of our data channels are encrypted, so we can communicate with clients and each other securely from any location, using email or client portals. And our infrastructure is loaded with redundancy, so in the unlikely event of a system failure for some reason, our critical systems would just roll over to different ones automatically and seamlessly.

The operation is completely invisible to users, including me, which ensures that client service, responsiveness, and communications carry on as per usual. Of course, I know it’s there because I pay the bills. And because I’m such a frequent flier – literally and figuratively. It’s a mobile world out there. Without technology to keep me connected to our business and Marcum to our clients, we’d be grounded.

So, please forgive me the April Fools’ moment. Technology is here to stay. I’ll just have to get my wilderness fix from “Survivor.”