This article expands upon my podcast from 25 June 2019 (titled “SaaS skills and my CV”) whereby I focused on what I believe is the need to understand the latest SaaS available on the global market for your sector or functional area of business when circumstances in your current role do not permit adoption of such SaaS. I published this on LinkedIn and Medium in July 2019 and updated it on 27 December 2022 upon completion of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Qatar: A World Before the Cup
I saw first hand how the current tech in use by Ooredoo Group, one of the main mobile carriers in the State of Qatar, limited the customer service representative’s ability to properly service its customers. To put into context, my family and I were getting our personal affairs in order in June 2019 prior to relocating from Qatar to Canada. One important aspect was cancelling the home broadband and mobile service we had in place with Ooredoo.
The Ooredoo mobile app seemed like the logical and most efficient choice to complete this action. The weekly earlier I successfully utilized the mobile app of the Ministry of Interior, called “METRASH”, to sell my 2014 Toyota Prado. The METRASH app handles all matters related to your residency while in Qatar, including traffic fines and family permanent resident registration. The Ministry of Interior has put in place a seamless process whereby the sale and purchase of a motor vehicle can be completed through a series of key strokes, uploading Qatari identification of the transacting parties and a final two-factor PIN verification text message sent to the aforementioned mobile. Within minutes, title to my automobile was transferred to the buyer and I did not have to leave my driveway.
Imagine if a government ministry could put in place such technological innovation for what is normally a complicated and drawn out procedure in most countries, surely I could expect similar, if not better, service from the leading commercial mobile operator?.
My expectations were let down within minutes of clicking on the Ooredoo app on my I-Phone. I came to understand that I needed to speak to customer service for such a unique requirement. In turn, the telephone service representative informed me that in order to complete the “termination” or “cancellation” of my subscription, I would need to visit one of the “bricks and mortars” service centers located throughout Doha.
With such an expectations gap between the leading tech company in Qatar and one of its usually more conservative ministerial bodies, what could I expect from the “office” visit?
Technology has hampered the phone company from being able to handle “outside the box” situations. Within seconds of informing the agent that I was cancelling my service, another Ooredoo representative was called over to assist. It seems that my “off cycle” cancellation could not be properly processed by the “system” and the two of them manually calculated the outstanding billing amount. Incredible to believe that such primitive technological tools – pen, paper and calculator – were not part of the city-wide billboards advertising 5G technology, unlimited mobile data and the latest selection of programming for Ooredoo’s home brand—band service.
Bonus marks came when a third agent was called in to help input the manual calculations into the system. I imagine this represented an override to allow the initial customer service representative to finalize my account and file the handwritten calculations as “evidence” to support the closing balances.
The manual interventions described above existed as of June 2019. I have no way of knowing if such conditions exist during the time of writing this update (27 December 2022, just 9 days after Argentina defeated France in penalty kicks to win their 3rd World Cup title).
Some likely explanations for not being able to utilize the Video Assistant Referee ("VAR") during my account closing:
The technology in use by the phone company is a legacy (proprietary) system and cannot be readily modified to handle the “off cycle” cancellation situation.
The mobile-app is proprietary to the phone company and requires modification to allow for what really should have been envisioned as a normal situation: cancellation of service.
The customer service representative has limited ability (or no authority) to provide “value-added” services to customers and has limited ability to suggest changes that could improve the front line service.
While I am not specifically aware of SaaS applicable to mobile phone company sales and services, it is quite likely one of the finance and accounting SaaS currently available on the market could bolt on or could be readily integrated with the telco billing system to automatically calculate the closing statement:
BILL | https://www.bill.com
Roger.ai | www.roger.ai
Xero | https://www.xero.com
ScaleFactor | https://scalefactor.com/
Botkeeper | https://www.botkeeper.com/
MineralTree, Inc. | www.mineraltree.com
NOTE: Innovation in the automation of the accounting function continues; the 9 June 2022 StrictlyVC newsletter issued by Connie Loizos and her team revealed the following funding announcement:
Trovata, a six-year-old San Diego startup that provides a platform for businesses to automate cash reporting, forecasting, analysis, and money movement, raised a $27 million Series B led by Fin Capital, with JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo, Capital One Ventures, Pivot Investment Partners, and NAB Ventures also participating.
Under the circumstances, the Ooredoo customer service representative, the accounting staff and possibly the personnel working in the IT department, will continue to utilise out-dated and legacy ERP systems until some external factor influences a change. Imagine if some of the advertising dollars spent on getting Lionel Messi to promote the 5G services could be diverted into improving the UI/UX of the customer experience?
World Cup in 2026
As I highlighted during my 25 June 2019 podcast, it is my view that the latest SaaS effectively represents “new” products that are not necessarily offered beyond the traditional ERP systems being utilized by companies in the Middle East. The Accounting and Finance SaaS noted above represent tech companies that have received some level of venture capital funding as announced in various tech news feeds: StrictlyVC and FinSMEs newsletters (mentioned above), Crunchbase, TechCrunch, VentureBeat and UKTN | UK Tech News.
Adoption of latest SaaS will face resistance, not only by companies operating in the Middle East but across the globe, in several forms:
Implementing, or proposing to implement, new SaaS in combination with legacy IT systems may come across IT departments that deem such SaaS as “lacking compatibility” to properly integrate with existing systems. This may or may not be true.
Senior management or Board members of public & private companies may feel the existing ERP systems are sufficient, the new “SaaS” will potentially violate confidentiality of their sensitive data/information or it will be too costly to implement.
There may be a lack of incentive to introduce new SaaS particularly if there is a deemed threat to existing jobs or perception that it will lead to a head count reduction. This is very important in certain companies where such headcount reductions threaten the budget allocations for staffing and resources.
The circumstances and reasons for rejecting new SaaS will vary from company to company. Like the next World Cup in 2026, a joint effort is likely needed by multiple departments (maybe two or more) to allow SaaS adoption to improve the production of the "on pitch" staff.
In my 26 June 2019 podcast, “Will you review my CV?” episode #3 titled “Stay in Your Lane”, I made reference to David Ulevitch and the a16z podcast (hosted by the team at Andreessen Horowitz) originally aired on 20 May 2019 titled "What Time Is It" (https://apple.co/2EvQaAT) in which he highlighted:
SaaS today give unlimited power to small businesses that just did not exist 10 years ago.
SaaS covers all major aspects of the business.
IT department does not have to decide upon the use case as long as they can get comfortable with managing potential security threats.
More and more people are becoming “digital experts” and want to become “power users”
SaaS or Not to SaaS?
Unfortunately, the “CV” of the Ooredoo representatives will suffer just because their employer does not implement the latest SaaS. At minimum, introduction of simple accounting SaaS has the potential to:
improve the Ooredoo customer experience
increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Ooredoo customer service representatives
provide value-added skills to at least 3 departments of the Ooredoo staff: the sales representatives, the accounting staff and the IT staff.
As outlined by David Ulevitch, partner at Andreessen Horowitz, SaaS products have moved from the “IT Department” to the “Operations” teams tasked with managing the business. Non-tech users DO NOT NEED to attend classes. They DO NOT need to be an IT expert. SaaS today are affordable & bolt-on to existing ERP systems.
SaaS and Job Search
In my view, becoming familiar with and learning such SaaS has value to any individual, regardless of the choices made by their employer. Such SaaS represent adoption in many countries and by many companies across the globe of the latest finance and accounting technology to resolve some of the challenges faced in the Ooredoo situation. New SaaS does not stop there. It crosses into virtually all sectors: healthcare, real estate, banking, farming, hospitality, manufacturing and supply chain and practically into all major business activities: accounting, legal, human resources, marketing, data management and cybersecurity.
Many job seekers are likely thinking: “How can these SaaS get me a job?” The answer is, the SaaS won’t get you a job. Learning and understanding them and how companies in their city or country can adopt such SaaS will help in the interview. The more an individual can learn about SaaS applicable to their functional area, the more readily they will identify the potential gaps which exist at the companies they are speaking with. SaaS can be readily learned:
download the free demo;
subscribe to the company newsletter;
follow the company on social media
Opinions may vary but ignoring such SaaS innovation just because an individual's current employer chooses not to implement them will only reduce their competitiveness in securing jobs in the next 18 months or over the next 3 to 5 years. It is often said in professional services and other large firms:
Imagine if we train these employees and they leave?
Imagine if we don't train them and they stay?
Next time I am asked:
“Will you review my CV?”
I will immediately respond with:
“What SaaS are applicable to your current job function and what have you done to upgrade your skills in relation to such SaaS?”
About the author
Allen Wazny is a Canadian Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) in good standing with CPA Alberta and Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) that has worked in progressive senior financial roles in oil & gas, mining, manufacturing , construction and renewable energy sectors in Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Since 2017, Allen has extensively researched emerging technologies and co-founded two blockchain projects. Such focus lead to advisory roles with Uncloak™ (a UK-based cybersecurity startup); DIGIPHARM, a healthcare payments startup out of Switzerland; Hardboot Inc. | Staffing & Resourcing a tech staff resourcing company out of Toronto; Backers Network Inc., a crowdfunding platform out of Toronto and as a mentor for startups that are part of the Newchip Accelerator incubation program.
Allen was a keynote speaker at the MECA CFO Academy seminar in Dubai on 1 December 2018 under the theme “Emerging Technologies and the Future of Finance”. Allen also participated as a panel expert at the IBM sponsored event “AI-enabled Supply Chain Master Class” in Doha, Qatar on 19 June 2019. Finally, on 4 March 2020, Allen presented "Podcasting" to the Digital and Emerging Media Class of Eileen Gaetz, M.A., an instructor at Bow Valley College.
This article, and the 440+ career advice submissions I made on LinkedIn since August 2018, provided the inspiration for my YouTube series under the title, “Will You Review My CV?” | http://bit.ly/3ikvfpr