Category: News

If there is one innovation that has turned our lives upside down, then it is the mobile phone. In the not-so-distant past being contactable was place and time dependent. Nowadays, thanks to mobile phones, your family member, colleague, or customer is never far away. Phone calls, WhatsApp messages and emails keep coming in, which is convenient and tiring.

It was to be expected: the right to disconnect has been a topic for some time now. In the Netherlands there is a law in preparation that regulates that employees have no obligation to respond to their bosses and colleagues after working hours. Germany adopted such a law a few years ago.

There is something to be said for the right to disconnect. It is, literally, not healthy if your holiday is ruined because you are constantly working on project A or taskforce B while you are at the beach. Such a law might help to give you the peace and quiet you long for.

But there is something amiss. After a while I realised what’s wrong with the noble ambition to better separate work and private life.

But aren’t we throwing out the baby with the bathwater with such a hermetic separation? Isn’t it nice that people can organise their lives the way they want thanks to technological possibilities? That they can order groceries during working hours by using a grocery delivery app? That they can help a colleague in their spare time by sending a file he or she urgently needs?

It is not a problem that people are working in their spare time. It is also not a problem that people attend to private matters during working hours. The only possible problem is the risk of imbalance. In that case an employee doesn’t need a law but a good conversation.

And there is another drawback, which relates to the 24-hour economy we have developed. The world is organised around the 24-hour economy and such a new law is like agreeing that from now on rivers will flow from the sea to the mountains. It is a nice thought, but it is impracticable.

Such a law denies the reality. That is most evident in the relationship between contractors and customers. Those customers chose a particular supplier because of a nice product or competitive rates, yet ten to one that those customers particularly value the service. ‘You can always call them,’ a customer says about that supplier.

Which is exactly what customers say about August Bridge.

A discussion about the pros and cons of technological developments is a bit like talking about the pros and cons of gravity. Gravity is just as self-evident as the rapid developments in engineering and technology. Regardless of whether or not it would be a wise decision, we can’t just stop.

An acquaintance of mine recently had trouble with his laptop. ‘I miss my typewriter,’ he sighed. ‘You just put in a piece of paper, you type and that’s it.’ ‘Unless you make a typing error, because then you have to start all over again,’ I said, which resulted in a nostalgic discussion about Tipp-Ex.

August Bridge lives from technology yet is also frequently confronted with the imperfections of the complex world of information technology. You probably know all about it. Especially now you are working from home and there is no system administrator or other technician down the hall.

For example, you click on a button to print an invoice. That printer is not next to your laptop, but somewhere else. You may even know where that printer is, but you don’t know in which outsourced data centre or what cloud the file you want to print is stored. When you click on ‘Print’ an error message appears, and you realize there’s so much more you don’t know.

‘It doesn’t work,’ you tell a colleague on the phone. ‘There’s probably a problem with your browser or profile,’ he says. ‘Or you have a faulty internet connection. Try restarting your router.’ You shake your head. ‘There’s nothing wrong with my internet connection. Could it be the software? The programme we use for producing invoices? Or is it the connection between that software and the rest of our ERP system?’ There’s a pause at the other end of the line. ‘Do you have a good firewall? Hold on, does our company have such protection? Yes, surely?’

Ten minutes later you and your colleague have come up with ten to twenty other possibilities. And for each of those possibilities another department of your company is involved. Or another third party. You successively consider calling Microsoft, the internet provider, the, the company that implemented your ERP system, the hardware supplier and finally a therapist who is supposed the reduce your stress levels with a few mindfulness sessions.

‘The layout and implementation of our delivery notes, time sheets and invoices – that is done by August Bridge, right?’ you ask yourself. Indeed. So, give them a call. Even before we pick up the phone, you already know what we are going to say. ‘You are not at the right place. There is probably a problem with your browser, your internet connection, your data centre or you are just clumsy.’ A so-called “user error”.

It turns out better than expected. The August Bridge employee at the other end of the line says there are two possibilities. ‘The first possibility is that you are at the right place and we will solve the problem for you. The second possibility is that you have to turn to someone else, and we will find that who that someone is and how your problem can be solved as quickly as possible. So, please click on ‘Print’ again and tell us what happens.’

Stacked suitcases

Imagine your beloved is standing in front of you. If you don’t have a beloved, you not only need to imagine this person standing in front of you, but you also have to invent an imaginary beloved. You can do that.

He or she is standing in front of you and says: “Darling, I’ve got a surprise for you. We are going on a holiday. I have arranged everything. All your business engagements and private appointments have been cancelled. Everybody knows and they are all happy for you. Go pack your suitcase.” You are so excited that for a moment you are transfixed and unable to speak. You just stand there, gape-mouthed and with tears of joy in your eyes. “What are you waiting for? We are leaving in fifteen minutes,” your beloved says.

You pull your suitcase from under the bed and put in some clothes and other things you need for your dream holiday. Swimwear, shorts, sunglasses, and the Swahili Mini Dictionary that has been waiting in your bookcase for ten years. About an hour later you are at the airport. Your beloved urges you to hurry. ‘Come on, the plane to our ski resort leaves in a few minutes.”

At August Bridge it sometimes happens that customers pack a suitcase in a hurry, and just put in everything they think they need. If it turns out later that the plane is heading in another direction, they can always pull out their swimwear and put in their ski suit. At least that is what they seem to think.

And that is possible. You only need to ask the pilot to turn around because you have decided you need other clothes. The pilot is happy to do so if you are flying with an expensive private jet.

Our proposal is a bit boring and takes more preparation. Nevertheless, here is some advice: start with a plan. Not just for that holiday in Africa or your winter sports holiday, but also for arranging your documents. Start with a plan, or in this case, with a functional design.

This may be the moment when you shrug your shoulders, because to you it is obvious that you start with a functional design. Moreover, it is a piece of cake to write things down. How complex can it be to determine what needs to be put on, for example, an invoice? Or where to put it.

If that is all pretty obvious to you, short instructions for such a functional design will do. “Pack your suitcase, we are going on a holiday.”

75 years ago, the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren created the character Pippi Longstocking, a courageous child with boundless self-confidence. Where others shrink from doing something completely new, Pippi says: ‘I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.’

A marvelous find by the author. Sadly, this is far from reality.

In the world, there are more people who have never implemented software in the field of Document Output Management than people who have. Among those inexperienced ladies and gentlemen there are probably a few who think they definitely can. We, the people from August Bridge, love to be invited to look over their shoulder to see how they get it done.

In other words: implementing Document Output Management has become a specialism.

What makes this specialism different from, let’s say, that of a brain surgeon or an astronaut is that is seems so easy. Think about it, you have got an ERP system, you have got software to create documents and you have got an image of your company logo. All it takes is dragging, clicking, typing the address data and pressing the enter button, and there is your delivery note, quotation or invoice.

Those who really think it is no more complex than this, will scratch their head when we, the people from August Bridge, pay them a visit. ‘All you do is create documents all day?’ Some even jokingly ask if we have people who make tea for us. ‘Boil water, put a teabag in a cup and remove it in time. How difficult is it?’

We smile politely and then explain that it isn’t quite like that. We tell them about the complexity of the ERP system, that Document Output Management has so many possibilities that users can’t see the forest for the trees, and that in certain situations some possibilities are unwanted. We also tell them that creating and distributing documents is not just another link in the business process. That it is crucial to the company. And we tell them about the consequences if no invoices are sent at all.

In a series of articles over the next few weeks, we will introduce you to the amazing world of Output Management. As we have never written such a series before, we think we should definitely be able to do that.