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image of workers logging time | accountingweb | Untangling a recruiter’s time portal knot

The Accounting Tech Repair Shop: Untangling a recruiter’s time portal knot


In the next part of our series on digital transformation in the accounting world, Cloud 10 Accounting’s Stuart Hurst tells us how his firm helped overcome convoluted processes to extract more information, ultimately helping them to open a new US office.

26th Jun 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. You can read the first article, “How one KPI led to client success” here.

The second visitor to the repair shop with a tech tale to tell is Stuart Hust, founder of Cloud 10 Accounting Limited, former MD at Accounts and Legal, and Xero MVP 2021. He told us how a former firm helped a recruiter overcome manual and convoluted processes, extract more management information, and ultimately help them open a US office.

Who was the client?

They are a big recruitment firm, often dealing with large advances for placements in technology companies. 

What was the project?

Moving them from an old Sage Desktop product to Xero.

Any particularly knotty problems from the outset?

Because of their industry, they deal with a lot of time portals. Placed workers log in and enter their hours, and this triggers sales invoices. If the portals aren’t integrated into the system correctly, it won’t load the invoices and pay people properly, which is obviously a problem.

There were no handover notes for the portals and the knowledge about them internally wasn’t the best. It turned out there were seven different steps in the portal process, a lot of which were manual.

How did you tackle this?

We spent time with the two owners to find out what they knew and what they didn’t. It turned out they thought the portals were generating everything.

We then got in touch with the portal providers. Some had educational materials, some didn’t. We recorded every conversation on Loom and made at least 10 videos per portal and how to use them. They were all short videos, just two minutes each, broken up as a dummy’s guide to using each portal to make sure they didn’t fall down if staff were off.

Anything else?

The handover notes for the accounting processes were dire. The project took a lot of systemisation, recording data to understand how everything worked. It was high pressure. With some projects, you can do it gradually over three months, but with this client we couldn’t stop for a week because of their processes and volumes. That was tricky but we did it gradually in lots of stages.

Sounds like a lot of work you weren’t expecting.

Yes, and we made it clear to the owners what they knew and what they didn’t. We also raised our fee from £1,000 a month to £2,500. That had to happen if we were going to continue because it was so much more work than we’d thought. They wanted to make it so someone just had to click a button, so we had to educate them on what needed to be done.

Initially, it also meant a lot of face time with the client. With this, the difficult bit is making enough time to ensure day-to-day jobs aren’t neglected. The core work needs to keep rolling and if something goes wrong things can get messy pretty quickly.

To organise this, we used Float’s resource management and staff scheduling tools. With this, we could make sure regular accounts work got done or shifted to other staff if needed.

How did you manage the accounting system move?

For the migration from Sage Desktop to Xero we used Movemybooks. We had to run both systems for a couple of weeks due to the volume of sales invoices. There was duplication but it actually served as a useful demonstration of how different the two systems looked.

Any tips for this type of project?

I often use overqualified members of staff to start the process, for example having fully qualified accountants doing everything for the first month. It depends on the project, but the reasoning behind it is that they feel confident in challenging things with the client. From a cost perspective, it’s not great –  in this case, we overran on month one massively. However, I feel it’s worth getting it right the first time, and then handing it over to someone more junior once it’s up and running.

For this kind of transformation, communication is everything. Even if you’re not doing anything for a couple of days, keep the client updated. Clients get agitated if they can’t see where they are. We thought about building a loading bar for projects like this, but that was a bit much!

What did you communicate to this client?

With this project the most important thing was to make sure the numbers were accurate, so from the start we made it really clear: it’s going to get worse in the first six weeks, then much better. 

We also advised them to tell suppliers about disruption on payment runs because they were moving finance system.

Did you implement any other apps during the move?

For making supplier payments we put them onto Modulr. I really like the wallets as protected cash because you can only use what’s in the folder. It’s a good halfway house – direct payments are a bit scary. This increased our fees for each weekly payment run and we charged for any ad hoc runs. Once a system like this is up and running, it’s profitable. 

A lot of recruiters use Bullhorn software to manage staff time. We put together an Excel template to pull data from Bullhorn into Futrli to make financial and non-financial boards for things like meetings vs follow-ups, and activity vs productivity. They could then put these boards on screen – it’s one example of bringing finance to the sales team. 

Did the project help the client in other ways, and did it bring in more work for your firm?

They were always profitable but once they had migrated and were up and running they could get visibility on which parts of the organisation were working (and which weren’t) with things like profit centres per sales team. They could make each team accountable with leaderboards. 

We used this as a chance to reset their chart of accounts. They had millions in turnover but telephone, mobile and landline were in three different nominal. We asked why. They didn’t know, so we trimmed several processes and moved things to one nominal code.

We were also able to help them plan for the future and do proper virtual finance director work with them. We helped offer them with future planning, opening their first US office, using Futrli to model it and other big-picture, driver-based scenarios. 

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 until 28 June 2024. For more information and entry criteria visit the Accounting Excellence Awards categories page.

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