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AccountingWEB

Outsourcing: Deliver a consistent experience

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Historically, outsourcing was haunted by the stigma of failed engagements, loss of control over client data and poor communication that soured relationships with clients. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

29th Aug 2023
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Horror stories about reliability and poor communication are less prevalent in the new era of outsourcing. Here are some suggestions from outsourcing accountants and providers to help firms maintain the quality, timeliness and management oversight of accounting work delivered by external specialists.

  • Online working has blurred the differences between in-house and outsourced labour to the extent that management and quality issues are much the same, according to our outsourcing experts. A firm that lacks standardised, documented processes and has poor visibility on execution and quality control will struggle to be productive and profitable in either environment.
  • Do your due diligence and don’t choose a supplier based on price alone. Selecting an outsourcing provider is like choosing a new employee, but on a much higher order of magnitude. 
  • Outsourcing is a long-term relationship, so get to know who’s doing the work and bring them fully into your processes and culture to ensure they understand your expectations, standards and preferred ways of working. 
  • Make sure your existing team is informed and involved in the relationship to minimise friction. 
  • Check the provider’s HR policies, staff retention and career development prospects. Sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised by the quality and expertise of professionals working offshore.
  • As well as establishing good working relationships with your provider, pay close attention to the commitments you both set out in the service level agreement (SLA) to ensure the work is done accurately and on time. 
  • The prevailing advice on maintaining quality is to view the outsourced service as though a semi-senior has done the work – so make sure to review it internally. 
  • Ensure letters of engagement are updated to indicate that clients’ data may be accessed by subcontractors working with you.
  • Professional qualifications and certification for software, information security and quality assurance won’t guarantee the quality of the services provided, but are a good indication that the provider is committed to delivering a competent service and is willing to invest in gaining these credentials.

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  • Larger firms that have relied on outsourcing more regularly tend to have standard processes in place. Rather than being driven by individual client demands, smaller firms considering outsourcing need to implement more systematic processes and train clients to comply with them.
  • Test system compatibility during negotiations with outsourcers to ensure they deliver a seamless service, preferably with electronic workflows and oversight tools in place. 
  • Cloud-based systems should give you the same access and data security controls you use with in-house people. If the technology infrastructure requires you to make any significant changes, ensure that you do not have to compromise your data protection obligations, for example by allowing clients’ personal data to be processed in a non-compliant GDPR location.

This article is an extract from our new editorial special report:“Alternative guide to solving your skills crunch”. Download it here to discover practical strategies and real-life examples for recruitment, retention and using outsourcing and automation as alternative solutions.

This article was written by John Stokdyk before his tragic passing in June. Read AccountingWEB's tribute to John and share your memories

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