Buggy Whips, Kodak Film and Typesetting

Date: January 14, 2014

I’m willing to bet there is a new generation that has never brought a roll of film to a PhotoHut to be developed–just as I have never used a buggy whip.  And soon, we’ll have a generation that has no concept of traditional typesetting.

When I first started out in the investment management industry many years ago, I became intimately familiar with the various FedEx drop boxes located around my office.  The best routes to take.  The cut-off time for next morning delivery.  Way back then, when we were in the middle of a reporting cycle, I had to print out the SOIs, stick them in an overnight envelope, and send physical pieces of paper to the adviser for their review.

If it wasn’t too late, I could hit a drop box with only a slight detour and when I was about halfway home.  If it got past 9 pm, I had to go to the FedEx office near the airport, sometimes even scrambling to get there in time to make the last pick up and be sure those physical pieces of paper made it to my client’s desk first thing the next morning.

Amazing how things can change over the course of 20 years.  From FedEx, to email, to ftp, to client portals, technology has dramatically changed how financial reports are produced–definitely for the better.  My current day counterparts have no need to use FedEx, and their annual report schedules are not nearly as tight.

But it is more than just making things easier and less time-sensitive.  Administration teams have a fence around a limited part of the financial reporting process.  Despite being responsible for the entire thing end to end, they only control a piece of it.

Fortunately, technology keeps expanding that fence, keeping more control in the hands of those preparing the content.  These days, no one is beholden to a FedEx pick-up schedule when planning their financial reporting activities, as I was years ago.

I’ve had cause to reflect on technology, control, and my unfortunate but necessary FedEx expertise from years past, while working with our product team on Unity® Publishing.  Twenty years ago, I would never have conceived of a financial statement process that did not involve overnight shipping of documents, and I would never have thought it possible to create the final statements without a typesetter.

With new technology, it seems that neither is necessary to get the job done.