Innovation is often considered the path to growth – both for a company and for individuals. While we agree that new product or service approaches are exciting, we also believe that innovative ideas are critical to improving our culture and the way we work together. We look for breakthroughs that help us excel, whether coming up with new approaches for our clients or for our day-to-day work life.
That’s why we launched AAFCPAs’ Innovation Lab in 2018, which included our Changemaker Challenge. The Challenge is designed to be similar to ABC’s popular “Shark Tank,” and AAFCPAs team members are encouraged to question the status quo while developing creative solutions to everyday problems.
The Challenge brought us many exciting ideas and culminated in a development we hadn’t seen coming: VGo, the first robot in the AAFCPAs family. No, VGo doesn’t replace our brilliance by conducting audits or providing accounting guidance – but it does allow our advisors to be in two places at once.
Here’s how it works. VGo, designed by Vecna Technologies, is a mobile unit with a live interface that we place at a client site (if they agree, of course). When there are meetings or if questions arise, an AAFCPAs team member can dial in, move about the office, and participate in dialogue through VGo. This cuts down dramatically on travel time for our valued employees, without sacrificing their ability to gather information and be a present and active member of the team.
The idea for VGo was hatched by Tracy LeMaire and Bella Amigud through the Changemaker Challenge. They recognized that time on the road was cutting deeply into their productivity and balance, and VGo was a potential solution. They were right: travel time is one of the most frustrating challenges in our industry, especially in Greater Boston, one of the most notorious traffic capitals of the country.
VGo’s remote capabilities successfully allow children to attend school, doctors to conduct rounds…could it also allow auditors to be onsite without leaving the office?
We bet on “yes.” VGo immediately saved Tracy over two hours in travel back and forth to Connecticut, provided a novel way of thinking, and allowed her to seamlessly connect with the onsite team and keep visually involved in audit processes.
Clients who agreed to host VGo have already told us it’s a winner.
“We’ve always experienced AAFCPAs’ teams to be highly efficient and approachable, and now with Robbie the Robot they can actually be in two places at once. Robbie maneuvering around the office brings a smile to the office but more importantly I have been able to interact with remote team members as if they were in person,” said Mark Baker, Controller, Crabtree & Evelyn. “Time is a precious resource for all of us, and we appreciate how AAFCPAs offered us this innovative approach to making key employees available to us to achieve our mutual goals.”
VGo is an outstanding example of how we prioritize innovation and create new opportunities. In 2018, we saw exciting ideas from seven teams. The result? Seven ways to improve the way we work together, and a leap into the future with VGo.
“We can only grow by nurturing and embracing innovation that helps us work ‘smarter not harder,’” said our Co-Managing Partner, Carla McCall. “The great ideas we saw in the Changemaker Challenge – including VGo – influence how we make decisions in an increasingly technological and data-driven business environment.”
We’re already looking forward to what we may learn from each other in the Innovation Lab in 2019. For now, though, we are enjoying the flexibility and fresh perspective we get from our utilization of VGo!