When Applications Scream “I don’t Trust You”

Between telecons today, I was glancing through twitter and had a brief chat there with Ben Haines, the CIO of Box.
See below.


Just reminded me of a few phone calls I have had from the expense police in past life

Expense Police :Can you explain why you tipped $10 more than 15% at dinner ?
Moi : err- because the client loved the service at the dinner I took him to and let me get away with a missed milestone which would have cost the company a few thousand dollars

Expense Police : I need a daily exchange rate breakup for your claims for Germany trip last month. If you can’t respond in 2 hrs , I will deny the claim and you have to raise a new claim later
Moi : sure – let me step out of this stupid negotiation with CIO for a $30M deal right away and go find the exchange rates for you for my $5000 claim

3. Expense Police : I am denying the $2K air ticket because you didn’t attach a manager approval note

Moi : sorry – I made the assumption that the General Manager 3 levels above my boss had the authority to approve the travel and only attached his approval . Let me call and yell at him for aiding and abetting a willful negligence of company policy by me

4. Expense Police : I will let the first 3 things slide this time based on your explanation. But this is the last time and I will have to notify your manager

Moi : Much appreciated. I will let my manager know so that he can prepare his manager for his call with you for his own expenses

5. Expense Police : Remember I told you I will pass your claims this time? Well, we cannot do that. The system does not allow us to do that. So I am denying the claim.

Moi : OK – I am sure the system has good reasons to do it, given it is more intelligent than both of us. Does the system accept thank you notes or flowers that I can send to mark my appreciation?

I will stop here – there are a dozen more along these lines .

I would be hard pressed to find an application that is more universally loathed than expense apps .
Why is it so ?

Mostly because the fundamental thinking behind corporate expenses is. “Trust no one”. Everyone from CEO to Janitor are out there to cheat the company on expense reports apparently . Put as many obstacles in the way – and we can find that one bad guy amongst the thousands of employees and contractors.

Second , legal frame work is stuck in the 1950s . There are places where you can claim electronically with a nice iPhone app but you need to mail in receipts . A paradigm of productivity and efficiency , eh ?

Last, apps get built by people who don’t travel and hence have limited knowledge of how traveling employees live and pay .

I know many including me wanted job promotions in past strictly because then you can offload expense reports to an assistant . But every time I give a bunch of receipts to my EA , I feel rather sorry for her . I hope she doesn’t get as many calls from the expense police .


Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

2 thoughts on “When Applications Scream “I don’t Trust You”

  1. Interesting thoughts Vijay. The issues discussed seem like “The shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot” syndrome. Let me explain:

    Issue 1: $10 more than 15% tip. I don’t believe this is trust related, rather system related. It seems someone didn’t take time to analyze how much money is being spent on trivial issues such as this one & how many times these exceptions were approved than denied. This looks like an analytics issue. If it costs x dollars to resolve these issues manually(in addition to frustration, low morale, unproductively etc), would it make sense to allocate a portion(if not all) of X dollars in some bucket & let the system handle automatically based on some criteria(Example: Fruitful conversations with an important customer)? Every month send a electronic report to the employee concerned & manager listing the exceptions made, amount spent under exceptions etc.

    Issue 2: Daily Exchange Rate: Is there any reason(other than “Shoemaker’s son syndrome”) why the system can’t convert to another currency (based on the transaction date exchange rate ) automatically?

    Issue 3: Manager’s approval: Is there any reason why the system was not used to handle the approval process?

    Issue 4: “legal frame work is stuck in the 1950s . There are places where you can claim electronically with a nice iPhone app but you need to mail in receipts .”

    I don’t believe legal framework is the reason why we need to mail in receipts. My real estate agent sends everything(contract) via email & asks me to sign electronically. This is legally acceptable. The process she followed was so simple & elegant. No faxing, printing, emailing etc. This again shows we try to do everything possible to make the life of our friends in other professions comfortable ignoring our own needs!

    I would love to know your thoughts. I still believe I’m probably missing something!

    Best regards,
    Bala Prabahar


  2. Pingback: Expense Hell Sucks

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