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The Accounting Tech Repair Shop: How one KPI led to client success

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In the first of a new series on digital transformation in the accounting world, Scrutton Bland’s Ryan Pearcy unpicks a tricky client issue by identifying that the staff – the company’s main asset – weren’t recording their time correctly.

29th May 2024
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There are thousands of accounting technology case studies, most of which tell a simple story about how one particular system can solve any business problem. However, as anyone who’s worked at the sharp end of tech transformation will testify, in real life cases like this are few and far between.

In this new series, imaginatively called “The Accounting Tech Repair Shop”, we’ll look at digital transformation in the real world – complete with twists and turns, trials and tribulations.

To kick us off, Scrutton Bland associate partner Ryan Pearcy​​​​ talks AccountingWEB through how his firm changed a client’s fortunes by identifying one simple problem and using the right tool to measure success.

Who was the client?

An HR consulting business that generally works on a project basis. Most of their income is retainer-based. As an HR business their biggest asset – and their biggest cost – is their staff. 

What was the problem?

They wanted to grow and take on investment, and also make sure they were operationally effective. Unfortunately, they were struggling to get information out of their various systems to work out how to do this.

They thought they’d already transitioned into the cloud by using Xero and were using a system called Harvest to do their timesheets and manage some of their projects.

What did you recommend?

We were called in, initially on a small job, to assess their systems. We looked at what they were doing and what they wanted to achieve and identified they could not deliver that with Harvest.

We looked at the marketplace and came back with a recommendation that tracking system Scoro would be a better fit from a project management workforce management perspective. They had regular income coming in, but measuring how you’re delivering against this isn’t always the easiest and Scoro does that quite well. We then sat in on the implementation to ensure the system was set up correctly.

Great! So, end of story?

Not quite. After about six months, they returned and said they were struggling to get the information they needed. They had the right tools but weren’t getting the insights. Although they were growing, the bottom line wasn’t following that.

Ah. What happened next?

We engaged on an advisory basis – a larger job – to find out what was happening. We identified that one of the main issues was chargeability. “They were under-utilising their staff. The system reports indicated that they were meeting their key performance indicators (KPIs) on performance but the bottom line just didn’t match this.

One of the key points that came out was that staff just weren’t recording their time accurately, so the data the system was producing wasn’t accurate. We worked with them, identified what support they needed, and then built dashboards inside Scoro so staff could hold themselves accountable. We did some training alongside that to make sure staff understood how to use the system and why they were using it.

What was the end result?

Over the next three to four months, we saw a huge change in the utilisation of their staff members. Now all time was recorded correctly, the team could see where they were missing targets and, supported by their supervisors, they changed their approach to improving chargeability. 

This improved margins and profits as a result, delivering the critical net profit margin and cashflow that the business needed. In addition, the business was also able to identify which staff were struggling and enhance their training for those to deliver on it and their metrics just kept growing. 

Final thoughts

I like this as a case study because we were engaged in a very small project that grew into changing how they work with their staff. The fundamentals didn’t change, we just identified one crucial KPI. They weren’t measuring the right things in their business, so we gave them visibility and ownership over their figures – and helped them use the right tech at the right time in the right way.

Got a tech transformation tale to tell? The Digital Transformation category at the Accounting Excellence Awards, supported by Sage, is open to firms of all sizes. For more information and entry criteria visit the Accounting Excellence Awards categories page.

Replies (2)

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By paulwakefield1
30th May 2024 09:22

I would be interested to know the long term outcome (beyond 3 or 4 months). The fees/job budgets have to be realistic. If they are not, staff will dump time - they were doing it 45 years ago when I started and I doubt times have changed. If they are made to charge all time, they will start to cut corners to achieve budget - short term gain, long term pain.

So "are the fees realistic?" is the question I would also be asking.

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Replying to paulwakefield1:
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By Dr Fauci
30th May 2024 09:29

Exactly this. As soon as you present a bill to the client which is way over their budget / expectations / ability to pay then this theoretical billable time just gets written off as soon as the client threatens to go elsewhere in the search for an accountant with more efficient staff.

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