Today, as the week draws to a close, the world seems a little riskier than it did Monday.
Yesterday, President Obama signed the new JOBS act which, among other things, will give new-ish companies with less than $1 billion in annual revenues a pass on a variety of SEC regulations, specifically a temporary waiver on outside audits of their internal financial controls. The thinking is that such Sarbanes-Oxley-derived auditing requirements are onerous and can inhibit emerging growth companies from, well, emerging and growing. While that may be true, the passage of the law, coming hard on the heels of the much-publicized revelation of Groupon's "weakness in its internal controls," has to give one pause, especially if one is an investor, auditor, or accountant.
Not that most finance practitioners like regulation. Indeed, as Brian Tankersley, a CPA and associate with K2 Enterprises, a provider of continuing accounting education, warns, if the profession doesn't get serious about monitoring itself, and about information security, far from giving anyone a pass on regulation, the government will add to its list of "Thou Shalts" -- HIPAA, SOX, Dodd-Frank -- and, says Tankersley, "that will cost money. If we as a profession don't wake up, we're going to get one-size fits all regulation."
Meanwhile, the BYOD trend continues to accelerate. A recent Forrester Research Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey of almost 10,000 information workers in 17 countries found that 74% of them use two or more devices for work; 52% used three or more, and 60% of those devices are used for both work and personal purposes. (And it's not like these workers are lugging PCs; we're talking phones and tablets.) Now CFOs may love outsourcing device support to their employees at minimal cost, but there's still a price to be paid. That price is that BYOD equals mobile, and mobile means those employees are accessing data remotely, communicating with co-workers via e-mail and text, and syncing their devices in the cloud. Therefore, critical company and customer data is stored and being passed around outside your corporate firewall, outside your control. As Tankersley says, accountants "send e-mails, unencrypted, un-password protected, all the time. And e-mail is as secure as a postcard." (Tankersley uses iTwin in his practice -- a paired set of USB keys that create a secure connection between two machines, essentially creating an instant virtual private network, or what Tankersley calls "stupid easy VPN.")
Speaking of stupid, last night Google co-founder Sergey Brin went out to a charity event wearing Google's new "smart" glasses that display maps, photos, Tweets, you name it, right on the inside of the lens. You can see what that experience might be like here. As if people aren't already distracted enough.
Well, apparently, they're not. Intel and Nissan just brought a new concept Infiniti to this week's New York Auto Show that will let drivers receive real-time traffic information, watch movies, and order ham sandwiches from the nearest deli recommended by Yelp, all at the same time! And, no doubt, the car will automatically contact the driver's insurance agent when he or she rear-ends you.
We live in amazing times. Look around. Everything is bright, shiny, and new. I think that's good reason to be especially careful with how we use all this new stuff, and how we do business.