Driving change in an accounting practice is notoriously difficult. MD Vipul Sheth runs through the change aspects that you’ll need to grasp to make outsourcing or offshoring successful.

 

The metronome that is accounting and tax work often makes for a workplace and culture that is change-averse.

This is not a criticism. All organisations have rhythm and some order to what they do: whether farming, construction or indeed accountancy.

But a lot has changed, and is changing, in the world around us – more quickly than ever. That means the rules by which practices operate, the technology they use, and the needs of the clients, are shifting.

Utilising outsourcing or offshoring requires change. And for practices, looking to move their critical production work away from the confines of their office (or indeed the country in which they operate) can be a scary and risky proposition.

A step change

So, what changes will an accountancy firm go through when outsourcing or offshoring? As previously stated, you will have people potentially far away undertaking work on behalf of your firm. And if they are isolated, they will never be able to support your firm effectively. So, you must understand that you and your service provider will need to keep collaborating with each other.

Wish list

Your accounting practice will then need to run a procurement process, and starting that off requires you to set out a ‘wish list’ of what you are looking for from your provider. This could (and should) include: physical and IT security accreditations; values and cognisance of the law relating to employment/privacy/IT security. There are also ethical questions too; as a profession, accountants should be beyond reproach – your outsourcer should mirror that.

Outsourcing vs offshoring

It sounds counter-intuitive that offshoring (the setting of someone to work on your firm’s behalf, full-time) is a slightly easier change process to manage than outsourcing (where multiple people could work for you as required). Basically, if you have someone new to work for you, they are trained and utilised – which would effectively be the case with an offshored member of staff. But if the project presented is ‘AdvanceTrack is supporting us with outsourcing’, then more structure is needed in place. In the latter, it’s vital to remember that outsourced provision is still ‘human’.

Good signs

We’ve discussed the traits of practices that work well with us before (click here to read more). But it’s worth pointing out that any kind of change project requires senior support – leadership must be upfront and clear about what the project is looking to achieve, why and what change it is likely to involve. Of course, involving those most affected by the change early on is a great way to to achieve buy-in.

What’s missing?

Outsourcing and offshoring projects, like all other projects, sometimes fail. We have seen some not work out. Open communication and collaboration, as mentioned before are crucial.

If those lines shut down then it will fail… you will see staff that are meant to utilise the support just not bother (‘we told you it wouldn’t work’). And that’s more likely to happen if they weren’t involved enough during the earlier stages of the project. Remember that change is scary for those directly involved – particularly if is framed around their roles changing or disappearing. Secondly, if metrics aren’t put in place to measure the project’s success then it can’t ‘stick up for itself’.

Improvements in work turnaround, lock-up, and revenue per head should follow the use of outsourcing or offshoring, so they’re core metrics to gauge the project’s success.

The outsourcer’s role

AdvanceTrack doesn’t sit quietly on the sidelines while these projects unfold… we have world-class processes and delivery models. It is inevitable that a firm working with us will have to modify what they do in some way shape or form. This may even come down to the fundamentals of the work that your team undertakes: if we pick up lots of production work then that usually frees up your team members’ time to undertake evaluation and review work, or have more client communication.

Secondly, many outsourcers see themselves as offering ‘extra bodies’, where we see tech and systems as integral in making this work as smooth and efficient as possible. Good systems and processes should support you in your measuring and benchmarking too.

While tax and accounting rules develop annually, the fundamentals of how accountants work has been relatively stable since software became widespread in the 1980s. But the ability to operate in the cloud, AI, outsourcing, the digitisation of compliance, and increasing client requirements are driving accountancy forward. Are you and your people willing and ready to meet change head-on?

 

Vipul Sheth is founder and MD of AdvanceTrack

If you’d like to chat about driving change in your accountancy practice, please get in touch by clicking here.