Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thinking Out Loud

Every morning around 9am I gather together with around 10 of our key team members for morning briefing.

It's something I picked up from my days working in hospitality where each morning the executive management team would sit in the General Manager's office and each manager would give a quick summary of what was happening in the hotel that day.

Attendance was compulsory.

As Teamwork Oz grows I have become reliant on these briefings to keep me in touch with our clients, our team members and our suppliers.

But what I love the most about these briefings is what I call thinking out loud.

The glass wall doubles as a whiteboard
Some of our best ideas come from these briefings. The simplest comment from a staff member can spark a discussion that turns our 10 minute briefing into a 30 minute discussion and brain storming session. 

Each morning, the briefing points are documented in our team room, which is an electronic collection of all Teamwork Oz meeting minutes, weekly summaries and reports, ideas and action plans.

To support and encourage the team to think out loud we adopted some initiatives that help to generate an atmosphere of comfort to ensure team members have the vision to know what needs to be talked about and to offer suggestions and solutions.

We have whiteboards in every office and area in the building. But i love to just use the glass in the boardroom when I am thinking out loud.  Sometimes I'll just wander into the main office area and start thinking out loud. Somebody is always willing to join in.

The leisure area is a relaxing place to meet
We have also recently created a leisure area for team members to relax in. They can take their work in there, they can eat their lunch there or they can have meetings in there. As long as it is used, I am happy.

So, as I continue on the exciting path Teamwork Oz is taking me down, one of the things that keeps me excited and engaged at work is the ability to keep our organisation and its service offerings at the front of the pack. 

And not just coming up with new ideas but following those ideas through.

Robert Saltalamacchia

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Continuing to invest in the latest technology.

You may have read a previous blog about my determination to find a True Cloud accounting package.  We gave the Quickbooks online offering a trial, which in reality was just their standard software solution dished up to the web using a terminal service or Citrix.

Well I think I may have found what I have been looking for.  Xero is a true cloud offering so it meets our ICT strategy perfectly.  It is simple to use, completely web based and even has an iPad app to allow me to check things on the go - which I never do.

This is not an ad for Xero.  It's just that I love when technology is affordable and can make a difference to productivity.

Some of the things Xero will allow us to do is fully integrate with our Enterprise solution. We are very proud of our purpose built software solution, however, it still requires some duplication of work to ensure our accounting software is up to date.

We are working at the moment with our IT team, TLA Software Solutions to share information between the two systems which we are confident will generate significant efficiencies within our organisation.

These efficiencies also flow through to our competitive pricing model ensuring we offer value-for-money on the services we provide.

Xero already allows us to do a number of tasks that previously weren't available to us including
  • Online payslips available for viewing by staff.
  • Online annual leave requests.
  • Daily bank account reconciliation, using the online bank feeds
  • Eileen, our payroll officer loves that payroll can be saved so she can work on other things and come back to where she left off.
Xero doesn't do everything we would like it to :
  • Job costing for individual jobs
  • Past payslips are not easily accessible.  The pay officer must find the actual pay run to find the payslip for the individual.
Overall we are pleased with our decision to switch from Quickbooks to Xero.  Please feel free to comment on this blog and thanks for reading.

Robert Saltalamacchia
Teamwork Oz Pty Ltd

Monday, July 30, 2012

Goodbye Telstra, Hello Vodafone

One week has elapsed since I ported our mobile numbers from Telstra to Vodafone and the sky didn't fall in.

When I mentioned to some people that I was changing I got some puzzled looks. It seemed that many people questioned my decision with one person asking whether I valued my business.

Yes I am well aware of the problems Vodafone had with their network.  Yes their network had severe issues, but do you realise that was back in 2010.

In the end, their offer was to good to refuse.  I stand to save thousands of dollars over 2 years.  Each time I raised an objection they simply shut it down by upping their offer. 

I know the mobile phone is integral in both business and in my personal life but there are alternatives.  Just hours before writing this blog my mobile phone went flat while on an interstate trip.  No problem, I had skype,and email as backup. Still plenty of ways for me to keep in touch and people to keep in touch with me.

And to the people who questioned my decision I ask, would my customers really hold me responsible for any problems of my mobile network provider?  

My switch to Vodafone should save me thousands and if it means a few drop outs well I guess I am doing my bit to keep the industry competitive.  Really, where would we be if we were still at the mercy of just Telstra.

I have my fingers crossed and I am sure Vodafone wont let me down.

Please let me know what your mobile network provider is like.

Friday, July 22, 2011

QuickBooks Online - getting started

Part of our ICT strategy - (
Information Communications and Technology Strategy) - is to have our IT systems in ‘the cloud’.  Our main enterprise solution has been in ‘the cloud' since we began in 2004.

TLA Software has hosted our enterprise system in a server farm in the US and in that time I cannot recall a single time our server went down.

With this experience I was excited when I discovered QuickBooks had an online offering. As I researched it I became less enthusiastic about it as it was not what I considered a true ‘cloud’ solution.

What Reckon had done was simply deploy QuickBooks via a terminal server solution.  For non-geeks, the best way I can explain it is that a terminal server allows your desktop to connect remotely to it via a web browser.  It ends up that you are viewing the server via your browser such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.


I though I would start with the good things about QuickBooks Online.

1. It is relatively inexpensive.  
Each user is just $295.  For a little more you can have it for a Mac or via a tablet.

2. It offers the benefits of being portable.  
For Teamwork Oz, it allows us to work from home.

3. No more upgrades are required.  
The annual task of upgrading each PC with the latest version and updating the tax tables becomes a thing of the past.

4.  You do not have to invest in any server hardware or it personnel to manage the system.


This is the reason I wrote this blog.  I wanted to let other people know the problems you may face getting started on QuickBooks Online especially if you are an existing QuickBooks user.

1. The instructions when you get started are poor.   
When I first signed up I did not receive my username and passwords.  I paid and selected three users.  I entered their details and I should have received an email from QuickBooks which included my system generated usernames and passwords.  A call to QuickBooks support rectified this and they sent me an email with these details. More thorough instructions would have eliminated this issue.

2. No link was provided between the QuickBooks website and the QuickBooks Online program. 
I logged on to QuickBooks website and followed on screen instructions.  I should have ended up with a link to QuickBooks on my screen.  But I didn't have it.  Another call to support and discovered they preferred I use Internet Explorer.  Teamwork Oz’s preferred browser is Firefox.  So I didn't accept this especially when the documentation I read said that Firefox is supported.  The guy in support suggested that I could download the Internet Explorer tab for Firefox and so I did this.

Success!  I finally was able to log in to QuickBooks Online.

3. Uploading the program was a real drag.
The next hurdle was just around the corner. How do I get my existing QuickBooks file onto the server? Once again… NO instructions. So I called QuickBooks Support again.   They suggested I copy and paste from my PC to the window to the server.  We left it to upload overnight…. no success.  Seems our 200mb file was too big using this method so they directed me to a QuickBooks file upload webpage….  same problem.

By now, my frustration was beginning to get the better of me.

So I suggested to them that I would upload it to my Google docs account and shared it with one of the support team leaders.  It took about 1 hour to upload it.  On the Monday I finally was able to access it, when I had actually purchased it on the Tuesday before.

4. Only User 1 could access the system. 
User 1 began using QuickBooks.  All seemed to be going well.  Then User 2 tried to login but had no file to access when they got onto the server.  Another day passed before User 2 and 3 could access the file.

5. Could it really be that they left us with 2 separate copies of our QuickBooks file? 
On the Tuesday user one began working on invoicing.  On Wednesday user 2 began preparing payroll for 78 staff.  At 5pm user 1 logged into quickbooks to approve payroll and upload the pay file... nothing there.  It seems that when QuickBooks corrected the error of no access for user 2 and 3 they moved the file to the correct location but then left the original file that user 1 had started using.  This meant that for 2 days we were using 2 different files.

Well we missed the deadline with NAB and our staff were paid late for the first time in 6 years.  This was a very disappointing outcome to say the least.

6.  ‘It was all my fault’ 
The following day after we had explained to our staff that their pays would be late I contacted QuickBooks to discuss what happened. Their response was, "I have been doing this long enough to know that this is your fault. You didn’t follow the instructions properly and you will have to manually correct the file"

This got me mad.  After I explained to him what I think happened he put me on hold for some time. When he returned all he said was that he was going to pass me over to one of the team leaders.

They agreed that they had made a mistake.

Surely that is the end of it.

8.  Auto generated emails come from QuickBooks Online. 
When we send payslips our staff receive an email from QuickBooks Online rather than

It's not a big deal but it should be something that is highlighted

9.  When customising reports any columns that you add will drop out of the report when trying to print or export the data.

In conclusion, I believe it is worth persisting with QuickBooks but I think they were too quick to launch their 'online' offering.  Their online help is both lacking and often inaccurate.  If you rely on the online help to do things you will waste a lot of your time.  
My suggestion is to ring support and be guided through any issues you have.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Going Paperless - One step closer to a carbon neutral office!

"I became obsessed.  Every single piece of paper I saw on someone’s desk I picked up and read.  I didn’t want to see it."
The idea of going paperless was not something that I planned.  It started out when I decided to investigate an alternative to faxing.

The nature of our business meant we received hundreds of faxes per week.  Faxes go missing no matter how organized you think you are.  Especially when we have a combined fax, printer.  People often pick up something they printed but don't check whether they have inadvertently picked up a fax.

STEP 1 - Ditch the fax machine.
I had one of my team members, Daisy, look into a fax to email solution.

We decided on faxmate. It was cheap.  In fact far cheaper than our fax line cost us and they had an inexpensive porting option which meant we could get rid of our fax line all together but retain our existing fax number.

Our technology provider TLA Software then developed a simple database which all our faxes forwarded to.  Now all our faxes were in an electronic format.

STEP 2 - Give everyone a second monitor
Daisy continued to help me iron out any issues.

We found that it was really annoying if you had to transpose information from a fax into our enterprise solution so she started printing up the faxes.... so I bought her another monitor.  This meant she was able to have the fax in an electronic format on one monitor and the enterprise system open on the other.

Then everyone got a second monitor.  Got them really cheap from Catch of the Day. 

Just a side note to this, some of the PC’s we had required an adapter to accommodate the second monitor. Cost if buying from a retailer is around $100 but you can buy online for half this. 

The benefits were immediate.  We weren’t ringing people and asking them to fax something they had already faxed, we were saving paper, documents were being filed accurately and immediately and even our invoicing was quicker. And the office was tidier. You could see the efficiencies.

Robert was happy!

STEP 3 - Stop people sending me stuff in an envelope
Now I was obsessed.  Every single piece of paper I saw on someone’s desk I picked up and read.  I didn’t want to see it.

So we started ringing suppliers to see if they could email us invoices.   I have to say I was surprised at how many businesses still could not email me invoices. Hopefully they will read this blog.
‘…..we used to print up staff payslips.
Not any more!

STEP 4 - Stop sending out stuff in envelopes
We rang all our staff and asked them for an email address. I can't believe we had not done this before.  We pay up to around 100 staff each week and we used to print up their payslips.  Not any more!

Now I haven't noticed a reduction in mail yet but I hope to be able to report back in the coming months that this is the case
STEP 5 - Get a really cool scanner
This is the next step in our quest for a paper free office

The problem I have is that I don't want to get just a standard all in one from Officeworks. I have been researching and found some really cool scanners which have cameras on both sides of the paper. This means that the paper is only fed through once.

The hurdles in getting one is the price, around $3000, and the availability. It has hard to actually find a model to demonstrate. They seem to be an 'order in' product

STEP 6 - Now what do I do with the paper I have scanned?
Now I have all my documents scanned into an electronic format what do I do with the original? At the moment we are just putting them into an archive box. In theory I should be able to destroy the original but I just don't have the courage just yet do this.

The benefits of going paperless have been enormous. I wish I did it years ago. I'd love to hear from other people who have gone paperless.