New Year, New Direction, New Course

January 1st is an arbitrary day to be the first day of the year. As a former public servant in the UK I would also see 1 April as the first day of the financial year. Several years ago I wrote a post explaining why the UK tax year starts on 6 April (which itself refers to the first day of the year traditionally being 25th March, “Conception Day”). Anyway, 1 January is the conventional start of the year in terms of the change from 2018 to 2019 (CE, not AD) and the extended break I had over the Christmas and new year period has given me a chance to think about this blog.

Hitherto I have regarded this blog as something aimed at anyone working in government or public sector organisations who is responsible for managing money. This includes people working in finance/accounting departments but also all the managers and frontline staff with budget responsibilities, the politicians and others who direct the organisations, and even volunteers. My reason for this was, I think, an attempt to have the broadest impact. To some extent it also reflected my mindset in writing my first book, Financial Management and Accounting in the Public Sector, which was conceived to be a book that librarians, social workers, police officers and nurses would find useful.

Over the last 9 months or so I have been developing online training courses based on my books and my experience of real-life teaching. I confess at times to have struggled to know who my target audience is and what, therefore, they would need from the courses. This has been a tension between the fact that I’m an accountant and I best understand the skills and needs of accountants and my wish for my courses to appeal to the librarians, etc. My recent reflections have resulted in a decision, for the next year at least, to focus my courses, and this blog, on skills and productivity tips for accountants working in public sector organisations, whether in the UK or elsewhere. This means parking, for now, the major finance for non-financial managers course I was working on and focusing on a programme of shorter courses: Essential Skills for Public Sector Accountants. 

I have five courses planned for the first half of 2019:

  • Financial modelling in the public sector

  • Presentation skills for public sector accountants 

  • Writing for public sector accountants

  • Procurement skills for public sector accountants 

  • Measuring value in the public sector

The titles of these courses may change if/when I think of titles that are better in marketing terms. Whatever the titles ultimately are I think the content will be unique. I know there are courses about financial modelling but I do not think anyone has created on specifically about the kinds of spreadsheet models used in public sector organisations. And I am almost sure that no-one has ever targeted presentation skills at accountants. This course, by the way, is about how to communicate financial messages and information and not about helping introverts to speak up. (I’m in the 99th percentile of the scale of introversion—really, I am—and yet I can and do stand in front of audiences and talk to them. Introversion is not the same thing as shyness.)

What does this all mean for this blog? Well, first I hope to post here more frequently than I’ve managed over the last few years. Second those posts will be related to the content of the courses I’m developing so they are more likely to be practical tips than news items.