Finance & Management
How to implement a successful outsourcing strategy into your accountancy practice by Jimmy Sheehan
How to implement a successful outsourcing strategy into your accountancy practice
by Jimmy Sheehan
Even when we really want to, it’s hard to please all of the people, all of the time. Accounting companies are used to this age-old problem of dealing with competing demands. Limited resources mean it just isn’t always possible to expand or grow our practices’ profitability while delivering quality service.
woman showing graphs printed on paper to man wearing glasses
We’ve all experienced the challenge of achieving the right ratios of knowledge, expertise and staffing at the right time. Busy season is always a balancing act of prioritising and staffing and often it’s the same cycle of exertion and exhaustion every year.

Achieving balance isn’t just a goal for busy season. It can be difficult to grasp opportunities when we have little capacity or lack the skill to leverage and it’s hard to upscale fast to meet lucrative demands, more so when the employment market is buoyant.

There is an answer to this capacity problem though. Industry and technology advances mean that Outsourcing is now an excellent way to create an organisational culture of agile responsiveness without compromising on company values or sacrificing quality.

Remind me how that works
Outsourcing means delegating tasks (anything from routine work to specialised projects where the practice has a current skills deficit) to third-party specialists to enable the practice to reduce costs, free up time, and focus on core or new aspects of business.

Low cost, high revenue work can be completed by qualified outsourced staff, freeing up local teams to focus on functions crucial for future growth.

It all sounds great, but how does it work for Accountants?
Accountants have plenty of bread-and-butter work that can be outsourced. Think of bookkeeping, reconciliation, financial statement preparation, payroll, VAT and tax return preparation. The majority of these tasks require high time investment where the bulk of the work can be completed by those with lower subject matter knowledge.
Outsourcing companies are often based in global locations that offer well-educated English-speaking staff operating in lower-cost settings. Outsourcers employ a pool of qualified staff, sometimes known as ‘the bench’ and contract out individuals to fill staffing gaps in other locations remotely. They pass these cost-savings onto their clients.

Labour markets vary globally. When there are shortages in one place, there may be excess supply in others. Accountants sometimes require particular skillsets that are in limited supply at home.. Outsourcers often have access to top talent in low-cost regions.

However, the benefits of outsourcing span more than just processing at reduced rates.

Top 5 advantages of Outsourcing for Accountants
  1. Adding outsourced expertise to teams gets client work done on time, to regulatory standards and provides the ability to right-size teams during busy seasons.
  2. Reduced overall overhead and space requirements result in cost savings and remote professionals often cost less than in-house staff. When you outsource accounting tasks, you lower overheads without compromising quality. Done right, outsourcing can drive business growth and reduce costs.
  3. Global helps local. The ability to respond to skills shortages with remote assistance from the global workforce. A global workforce also allows for the advantages that multiple time-zone working brings.
  4. Repetitive accounting tasks like financial statement preparation, auditing, management reporting, payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable require a significant amount of time and resources to accomplish. By transferring these tasks to your outsourced team members, your home team can focus on higher value work and client relationships.
  5. Subsequent investing in your home team and allowing them to pursue more interesting and challenging roles is a great staff retention tool.
It’s Outsourcing, but not as you know it.
Two major advances benefiting the outsourcing industry over the last 10 years make the proposition safer and more desirable than ever.

1. Tech advances, enhanced cloud computing and data security mean data is secure and accessible
The implementation of rigorous computing standards such as ISO27000 and the development of secure cloud environments mean client data is safer than ever. These standards are backed by rigorous protection of client data via GDPR regulations. AI and automation are increasingly integrated into business processes allowing for faster and more accurate data processing.

Improved global connectivity allows us to capitalise on a highly educated global workforce working in complementary time zones with impressive knowledge banks.

2. Consistency of quality and continuity of service
While many outsourcing companies use the ‘Bench’ outsourcing model, a new departure ensures quality is built in. The “bench” refers to the outsourcing provider’s in-house team. The team is selected by the provider but the client’s choice of who works on their project is limited to the bench available. Benches have high turnover, and their staff are re-deployed as soon as one project is finished. If your preferred team member isn’t available, then you must settle for a new person. Every time.

An innovation in Irish outsourcing is the Extended Teams approach, where an outsourced person is recruited for, and is dedicated to just one client.

The outsourced colleague is trained to deliver work to the standard and manner the client requires. This guarantees consistency of quality and continued client control. It eliminates local team disruption and allows clients to develop a long-term strategy built around an Extended Team.

7 ways to do outsourcing right
1. Choose the right Outsourcing company.

The firm you select will be your partner so make sure you research and understand their offering. Do they provide team additions or just bench outsourcing? Do they understand your market and have the cross-cultural expertise to enhance your team?

Get references, check online reviews and industry data to ensure they have a quality reputation. Investigate their certifications and licenses to ensure they’re in line with regulatory requirements.

2. Plan objectives, roles and responsibilities

Make sure you know exactly what you want. A reputable outsourcing partner will assign you an account manager to help you establish exactly what type of help you need and for how long. Before you start this process, you should be clear about the roles each member of the team will assume. Make sure all your requirements are clearly laid out in your scope agreement, together with usual contract terms. Assign an outsourcing champion role to your upper management to ensure top-down success.

3. Communicate your strategy at home

Discuss your plans early and often with your home team members to ensure maximum buy-in. Make sure they clearly understand how your outsourcing agreement will positively impact them and why it’s being done. Let your home team know how this arrangement will benefit them and the practice and dispel any worries immediately.

4. Have your say

Interviewing potential outsourced team members should be part of your selection process. An interview process is the best policy for any hiring decision, temporary or permanent. This person will be your team member and you should make sure they fit your team and your culture. The interviews shouldn’t be onerous, because your account manager should shortlist and arrange them for you, but your input to the selection process is vital. You want the right people that will work well with you on your team and are committed to long-term excellence.

5. Set your new team member up for success

Make sure your new team members become productive as soon as possible.

A quality outsourcing firm will draw up an onboarding plan specific to you and help implement that. Meet with the new team member to discuss their responsibilities and goals and establish work guidelines. 

Get them onboard like any other staff member. Have training ready, ideally facilitated by their team colleagues, on topics such as operating practices, methodologies, and any standard operating procedures.

Get their tech ready so they can hit the ground running. IT delays at your end will impact productivity so get essential technology and training organised before your new team members start.

6. Be clear about targets

It’s a good idea to set expectations for your new team member and key performance indicators (KPIs) are a clear way to help them understand what’s expected.  Set up a simple process before work begins so you can monitor progress. Discuss hours incurred or working paper reviews as the engagement progresses.

7. Insist on transparent communication

Be transparent with your outsourcing partner. Be open about any issues from the start and use your local account manager as a vital tool in your success. This includes being honest about performance and any problems encountered with your outsourced team member. Having a free and reciprocal flow of communication is crucial to quality work done and successful collaboration.

How to guarantee success
Modern outsourcing is all about working together and establishing the most successful collaborations. Successful outsourcing partnerships feature a deep knowledge of the regulatory frameworks and business environment they operate in. These are partnerships of quality, built on and maintained by a thorough understanding of company culture. Partnerships of unbroken commitment maximise quality, minimise disruption and eliminate breaks in continuity.

When Irish accounting practices work with an outsourcing partner whose business is rooted in the Irish financial industry and who understands that real benefit comes from the promise of dedicated quality, they’re assured of the best approach.

TeamsPLUS is an Irish outsourcing company specialising in providing services to Irish Accounting practices. Teams PLUS offers its clients a unique outsourcing opportunity by sourcing, interviewing, and hiring team members to work exclusively with your practice, eliminating the bench and guaranteeing quality continuity.

This innovative approach guarantees that outsourced staff are dedicated to one client only, are deeply embedded in their client’s organisation and are backed by training to deliver work to the standard and manner you require.

This guarantees consistency of quality and continued client control, eliminates local team disruption and allows clients to develop a long-term growth strategy.

Jimmy Sheehan headshot
Jimmy Sheehan
Jimmy Sheehan FCPA is Managing Director of Teams PLUS. Contact him to learn more about outsourcing in Ireland and the opportunities to revolutionise your practise and build your future.