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Is outsourcing the answer to the skills shortage? Part 2

13th May 2024
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Are you running an accountancy practice? Or is it running you?

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Outsourcing can be highly effective for increasing capacity without having to recruit new team members. AVN’s Emma Slack looks at the systems you need to make it work successfully for all parties.

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In Part 1 we looked at what to consider before you start the outsourcing process. Here, we look at the internal systems that will help you to make it work efficiently.

For detailed insights on how to get this right and avoid the common pitfalls, watch Emma’s recent webinar: Outsourcing – How to plan, prepare and execute

1.    Plan the workflow (to the best of your ability)

Create a workflow plan for the next 6 months if possible. Outsourcers also have to plan their resources and you’ll find that turnaround times suffer if you continually dump them with ‘urgent’ work. 

It’s much better to set out the approximate month of completion for each job you want to contract out. This allows the outsourcer to plan and allocate their team to deliver what you expect. You may even want to get the client involved in setting the timeframe as they’re likely to be the biggest reason why the timetable slips.

2.    Set realistic deadlines and ensure they are complied with

None of us like getting the email which starts, “I know its late but……” And that includes outsourcing companies. 

You won’t get them going the extra mile for you if you continually give them little or no time to do their job properly. It’s often useful to agree deadlines for different stages of the work e.g. first draft of accounts, amendments, finalisation and submission.

3.    Build in a regular conversation with your outsourcing provider

Communication, as always, is the key. Use a platform such as Teams, WhatsApp, etc to keep in contact with your remote team. Answer their queries as soon as you can or schedule time when you ‘meet’ with them and deal with all the issues.  

Regularly discuss what is going well, what could be improved and any plans to change the volume, scope or type of work. Listen to their feedback too. There may be things you can do to make the process smoother or they may have identified things you need to discuss with the client.

4.    Systemise in detail

It’s critical to have detailed notes on the job you require, the software you will be using, the outcome you would like to achieve and the timeframe within which this must be done. Videos, pictures and templates are also useful. 

5.    Internal systems – keep it simple

Design a system that enables you to stay in control and make it as simple as possible for all involved. Share the system with the supplier, so that they can input anything that will improve it.

  • Include communication points throughout the process e.g. confirmation of work received, work started and expected return date, and when to inform you if there is delay.
  • Identify the key people who are managing the outsourcing in your firm as well as in the outsourcer, including how to contact them.
  • Monitor the system on a regular basis to make sure it is working. It’s important to rectify any areas that aren’t working straightaway; otherwise they will just get worse and end up costing you time and money.

6.    Agree the plan if something goes wrong

Make sure that you agree with the outsourcer what will happen if: 

  • Something stops them working that is out of their control e.g. a power outage
  • A piece of work is not correct 

7.    Manage the concerns of your existing team

The reason you are outsourcing if you already have a team is because they are at capacity and stressed. But they may not see it this way and they may be worried about losing their jobs. So you need to explain this to them. 

The goal is to reduce their workload in order to give them the capacity to deliver better customer service and start delivering other services. It’s about giving them the opportunity to enhance their own personal development and career prospects and removing the day to day, repetitive work that has held them back.

Perhaps start with outsourcing payroll, then bookkeeping, and then accounts.

8.    Allocate a manager (or more than one) to review

Your managers will know your clients much better than an outsourcer ever could. So it’s essential that your managers review ‘their’ client jobs before the final documents are released for approval. In any event, you still remain responsible for the accuracy of the accounts, tax returns etc., even if you contract out the preparation.

More importantly, your detailed knowledge of the client will put you in a better position to identify any relevant risks and opportunities shown up by those figures. 

Done right, outsourcing has enormous potential to help you scale your practice, diversify your services and free up your time. These guidelines will help you avoid the mistakes that prevent so many accountants outsourcing successfully.

For more detailed insights on outsourcing, watch Emma’s recent webinar: Outsourcing – How to plan, prepare and execute