Everyone is talking about Outsourcing. Here's an Accountant's perspective.
By Josh Tuohy – Finance and Accounting Support Lead, hammerjack
A little about me
Starting my professional life as a cadet in a mid-sized accounting firm, I have seen how the industry has shifted and evolved over the last 10 years. I have worked with businesses, large and small to meet their compliance needs, support their bookkeeping, implement cloud software, develop internal processes and build efficiencies within their businesses. Over this time, I have grown an interest in the rapid shifting of how the industry operates within the new digital world, supported by outsourcing with the people affected and enabled because of it.
The future of accounting
The day is coming when bookkeeping just ‘happens’ and the use of smart outsourcing combined with technology will mean business owners can simply login and understand in an instant how their business is tracking, what taxes are due and visit their accountant for strategy rather than compliance.
I wanted to drive change rather than waiting for it to happen. So, 18 months ago I made the decision to step outside of my comfort zone working at an Accounting Firm to work with a boutique outsource services provider based in Manila that were driving this change forward by combining people, processes and technology.
My first year in the job
My initial thoughts were, “This will be easy!” We can develop our people, maximise efficiency through technology, and create a system where finally the day to day data entry is automatic, up to date and high quality. We could finally create a platform for accounting firms to be client focused and advisory based!
As it turned out, my experience of being able to deliver a good result for clients, working side by side in Sydney with skilled, experienced colleagues did not necessarily translate to success while outsourcing these roles to the Philippines. What I learnt was, as accountants, we needed to change our approach from being knowledge based to being process based to support not only the technology but the people doing the ground work, freeing us up to be true advisors.
What I have learnt
As an accountant, knowledge and understanding is paramount. Our success, capability and efficiency is determined purely by the skills we have built up through years of experience, study, on the job training, not to mention mistakes. However, when this is translated into an operational mindset, you are left with a single point of failure (yourself), no failsafe when staff leave, a hesitation to develop those around you and most importantly, no consistency or control of quality across the business. All of which are a necessity when building an offshore team.
When taking a step towards building an offshore team it is important to identify the areas within your business to which you can apply a standardised approach (a process) which are repeatable and measurable. This does not always come naturally to most of us accountants and we tend to refer to grey areas and “it depends” scenarios which will require knowledge to get the result. In my first year I learnt how to look at bookkeeping and accounting functions differently, focusing on process steps, checkpoints and metrics rather than simply end to end. It was kind of a “Matrix” moment. When you look at functions as processes and build in measures, checkpoints and outcomes you will be able to transition these tasks and functions with greater consistency, confidence and control over the outcome. The goal being to avoid just transferring the reliance on knowledge outside of your office, where the same pitfalls will apply, and when managing your team is even harder.
The most intelligent and gifted staff still need to be managed, but by clearly providing policies and procedures, and finding a provider who can give you transparency into their success, an outsourced model is a recipe for success, and a foundation to finally build the structure needed to become an advisory, customer focused accounting firm.
Feel free to reach out if you ever want to chat about my experiences so far or in the future.