Backsource drudge work to boost client service

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Returning time-consuming data entry and paper shuffling tasks to business clients with cloud technology can benefit both sides, according to FreeAgent.

The cloud developer’s business development director Kevin McCallum explained that backsourcing is the process of bringing previously outsourced jobs back under the company roof. There are challenges and risks involved in reverting to internal control, but they can be mitigated by recognising that different users have different perspectives and needs, he added.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone in the accounting profession, especially those working with micro and small businesses, that there has been a general shift to the cloud.

It’s also clear there are both “pull” and “push” factors at play. Often the client will introduce their accountant to the concept rather than the other way round.

“For those firms who are actively driving this as a strategic direction, we are regularly told that process automation, optimisation and efficiency are key motivations. This makes perfect sense, but this efficiency is more difficult to achieve when large volumes of low-level data entry and paper pushing remain in the workflow,” said McCallum.

It is a stereotype, but shoebox clients still exist in vast numbers, as many who have just made it through self assessment will attest. Larger firms and sector specialists that serve thousands of clients often use a single standardised accounting and bookkeeping platform to drive efficiency. This enables them to scale the number of clients each member of staff can handle, but depends on the client being able and willing to do their part as well.

Smaller firms or those with a broader spread of clients will tend to feel the pressure more, so it’s important to optimise the time they spend on each client.

“Often these firms will support more than one accounting program as different clients have different requirements,” said McCallum.

“The right solution that is designed specifically for the right type of client enables both improvements in automation and time saving as you would expect, but also offers another benefit from a re-division of responsibilities.”

Reviewing internal processes was an opportunity to redefine the relationship between accountant and client, rather than just considering replacing outdated software and traditional processes by presenting them in a browser window, he continued.

“Business owners feel good knowing where they are with their finances, so invoicing, expenses and banking undoubtedly sit within their sphere of interests and should be something they take an active role in. If the processes and procedures required to perform these tasks are too complex for them to get to grips with, they will struggle - or worse still, ignore -  and the onus falls back on to the accountant for data entry and basic tasks.”

Contrast that with a solution where the client feels involved and engaged with their accounts and happily takes responsibility for the front end of cash, income and expenditure, secure in the knowledge they have a professional in their corner looking after their core complex financial affairs.

“The collaboration between accountant and client and the joint ownership of a single version of the truth continues to be crucial, but for a lot of accountants backsourcing large elements of time consuming data creation and paper shuffling is fundamentally changing their business,” McCallum said.

Download a free guide and top tips from the Practice Excellence Conference about onboarding and convincing clients to work with you in the cloud.

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