Invoice dates in the age of electronic billing

So as not to come off as too unreasonable or difficult on Twitter, a longer explanation of recent tweets is likely helpful.

I tweeted this to Rogers, one of Canada’s big telecom companies:

Every month, I’m billed for my mobile phone service and cable TV on the 11th. Rogers bills in advance of the services being performed, but that’s a subject for another day.

The problem is, I usually don’t have access to the bill until much, much later. When it’s available, I get a notification email.

I started to wonder whether this is a process issue with invoicing (i.e. producing a complete and accurate invoice), or perhaps an interface issue between their usage tracking system(s) and the customer-facing, web-based system. If I had to guess, I would think it’s probably the latter.

But it raises the question as to whether it’s appropriate to backdate the invoice when it’s clearly not created on the invoice date. The question becomes more pertinent when the customer is a business with payment terms based on the invoice date, but that’s not relevant here. (That does cause me to wonder whether it would be beneficial for B2C companies to offer their customers payment terms, but I’m guessing someone already ran the numbers on this.)

Thinking about cutoff, their revenue recognition would be based on when the services are rendered and the amounts are earned, so that takes us back to the fact that they’re billing in advance of those services, and thus that should be accounted for properly, irrespective of invoice dates.

In any case, on November 21 I received notification via email that my invoice was available online. Of course, it was dated November 11.

Secondment to the finance department

For the next couple months I’ll be in Kansas City getting some experience in one of the regional offices of a division of my company, helping with some year end tasks. It’s going to be pretty interesting to be on the other side of the table for once, liaising with the external auditors and working with finance staff located across the Midwest to put together the financials.

Anyway, what’s new with you? It’s been a while…

Are you aware of internal audit?

This month, the IIA has been promoting May as International Internal Audit Awareness Month.

I’m conflicted, because as an internal auditor, I favour people being aware that my job exists. On the other hand, it has always seemed a little silly, or maybe crass even.

Another word that comes to mind is tone-deaf. Don’t we generally recognize awareness months for diseases or good causes or peoples’ heritages?

For instance, Wikipedia helpfully lists diseases or causes that are competing with internal audit for your awareness this month. Just a few:

  • Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Asthma
  • Lyme Disease
  • Guide Dogs

In Canada, various groups are trying to raise awareness for:

  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Food Allergies

Maybe some might consider being audited akin to having a disease, but should the IIA be inviting the comparison?

There’s a hashtag, #IIAMay. On top of that, there’s a logo which proclaims to all: Proud to be an Internal Auditor. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Look, I get it. Internal audit isn’t as well known as practitioners would like. They’re building a business here, the IIA, and trying to grow demand for the services of their members, and their influence in management circles. But that’s the type of thing that’s best accomplished within organizations, by bringing your A game consistently and effectively as an auditor and a function.

Happy End of Internal Audit Awareness Month everyone!

Feeling bloody young

A couple letters to the editor of CPA Magazine in this month’s issue made me feel so young again:

I’m can only guess at what you were thinking, putting “It really is a bloody big deal” on the April cover. Were you trying to be hip, or edgy? CPAs are professionals and the magazine should present a professional image. It doesn’t have to be stodgy, by any means. Certainly language evolves, as does what is considered acceptable use of it in various settings.

However your choice comes across as rather juvenile and ill-mannered.

And this:

Just saw the April issue, lots of good content. But I do think you could have used less offensive language on the front cover i.e. “It really is a _______ big deal.” A little more professionalism would be appreciated by your readers, even though the majority may not offer such feedback.

Arnold Hughes and Lino DeFacendis, respectively, letting everyone know how out of touch they are.

The headline was aping the marketing campaign that accompanied the signing of Jermain Defoe by Toronto FC this offseason, which made use of the (apparently offensive) word ‘bloody‘.

The story was about MLSE President Tim Leiweke, who has arrived on the Toronto sports scene to much fanfare and, dare I say it, hope for better days ahead. For some reason the article is not online, or I’d link to it.

Anyway, folks oughta lighten up.

Return of the Jedi (auditor)

Sometimes, people make mistakes. Recognizing when it happens and moving decisively to fix the situation is an important life skill, I think.

Three years ago, I left a building materials company to start work for a Canadian retail company. At the time, I thought it was a good move for my career. The Canadian retailer was based in Toronto and I thought there would be opportunities to move up or laterally. I assumed that the culture, at least within the internal audit department, would be similar to the team I was leaving.

I was wrong. The culture of the department, and the company, was very different. I think it has something to do with the industry, and probably the centralized structure. But whatever it was and in what proportions, it wasn’t a place where I felt like I fit in.

This is why pencils have erasers, people. Back in August, I returned to the building materials company and the first internal audit team I ever knew. And so far, it’s been like I never left.

Let this be a lesson to never burn your bridges! I kept in touch with several colleagues via email and Facebook over the years, and when I finally decided to go for it, they were able to refer me to the relevant people who could get the ball rolling.

So, in conclusion, you can go home again. And I did.

12/19/13 Update: HBR says Never Say Goodbye to a Great Employee!