Today marks thirty years since Star Trek: The Next Generation aired on television. It was a brave attempt to bring back a short-lived, but well-loved series from the '70s and it was risky not only because it had to be done right, but also because of its unusual choice as captain: an actor best known for his ability to bring Shakespeare. What followed were seven seasons, several movies, and several spin-offs within the same universe.
Those shows had the power to teach us a lot, not only about the importance of feeding Tribbles sparingly, but also about the potential of the future. In the year 2364 (Stardate 41986.0), there’s not a lot of talk of expense reports and timesheets. Perhaps this is because the Replicator can produce what they need on command without the need for a receipt. But, today (Stardate -305258.9) on the 30th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek: TNG, expense reports are a very real part of any organization.
Even William Shatner—who brought Captain James T. Kirk to life in Star Trek: The Original Series—knows that expense reports are an essential aspect of any organization. In his book Shatner Rules Deluxe, he jokes about an internship in accounting he once did to make some money after the show ended. He would walk by and someone would say:
“Hey, that temp in accounting? Didn’t he used to be on that Star Trek show? Tell him to beam up my expense reports.”
So, even the original captain had to deal with expense reports every now and then in real life. The upside is that expense reports can almost fill themselves out nowadays and that isn’t science fiction. Our mobile devices (unlike Communicators) have the power to take pictures of receipts, read the receipt using OCR (optical character recognition), and then use details from that reading to fill in details like the date, vendor, and total. The result is reduced data entry.
New tech reduces Data entry (get it?) .
Essentially, expense reports don’t have to be technobabble (“The temporal surge we detected was caused by an explosion of a microscopic singularity passing through this solar system. Somehow, the energy emitted by the singularity shifted the chroniton particles in our hull into a high state of temporal polarization” according to Chief O’Brien).
Expense reports can be easy to submit and still powerful enough to meet the needs of the finance/accounting team (who I like to think of as Starfleet Command back home on Earth taking care of the financial/practical side). All it takes is the right crew (like us here at DATABASICS working in Engineering doing what we do best and your team on the bridge doing what they do best), the right mission (you doing what you do best), and the right captain (you!), and you’ve got an action-packed, productive hit show that boldly goes where no one has gone before.
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