We have now given some thought as to how we would tackle certain difficult jobs. Possibly the worst kind of job is a private bank account being used for the business. There are a huge number of small transactions, of which about one in ten are relevant to the business. What would we do?
To begin with, we scan in all the bank statements using optical character recognition. This reads in dates and numbers, but not narratives. We then start adding narrative to income items, but every expenditure item is just labelled with the letter X. After a month or so, we run the Narrative Prediction routine. This guesses all the remaining income narratives, with a fair chance of getting it all right first time since income tends to be repetitive. We then overtype the guesses that are wrong, which won’t take long.
All expenditure items will now be labelled with an X after Narrative Prediction. We look through the bank statements and start overtyping with obvious business expenses. For petrol, we just tap the F9 key to generate the narrative “Petrol”, and this is easy to change to “Diesel fuel” by typing Alt-F9. For telephone expenses, we use the F7 key, which is easy to change to generate “O2” or “Vodafone Ltd” or “Virgin Mobile” or whoever else is the provider of telephone services. For rarer expenses, we just type in the full narrative, and the autocomplete system will help out the second time. It is good policy to add narrative to large items and to standing orders, even if they turn out to be private, and we can add narrative to standing orders in bulk if we want to.
We think that this system is the best way to do it. The large number of transactions dictates the use of OCR, but we don’t want to have to start processing a large number of private narratives when we don’t have to.
The point about this type of job is that many of the transactions are computer-generated, as direct debits or standing orders or similar, and computers can churn them out in a way which a human cannot. If we just get a pile of invoices to type in, there tends to be just not that many invoices in the first place, because each invoice requires the action of a human being. Likewise, handwritten records are seldom more than 72 transactions or half a dozen per month. It’s the computer-generated stuff that we fear.