Accountants in organizations that need to outsource tasks often find themselves in a quandary. The question that most accountants seem to be asking themselves is – which tasks can be outsourced? While there is a simple answer to the question, there is a need to look at many important factors before making a conclusion. The simple answer is of course the fact that almost all accounting services can be outsourced. However, from a different perspective, there is a need to look at the granular aspects and the criteria for outsourcing decisions before concluding on the nature of accounting services and the need for choosing the right outsourcing partner.
Accounting tasks that can be easily outsourced
Whilst the jury is out on what can and what can not be outsourced, there is consensus on three types of tasks which can be offloaded to outsourcing vendors. These three tasks fall within the criteria for outsourcing decisions and the call can be taken easily after a proper search for the most suitable and qualified service provider.
#1 Administration – These tasks are typically the more mundane and repetitive tasks that are manpower intensive. This includes data entry and other accounting related administrative tasks. They are basically repetitive in nature and do not require a very high level of expertise. It only requires compliance to certain procedures, and the need to maintain the security of the data that is entered.
#2 Bookkeeping – These tasks, despite slipping into the category of repetitive tasks, require a higher level of expertise and knowledge than the first set of tasks. A certification on the part of the outsourcing vendors would certainly help. This is because of the regulatory aspect and the fact that the data that is handled will form the basis for other accounts related tasks such as filing of returns and auditing. For instance, the daybooks which comprise records of sales, receipts and payments are the basis on which accountants file returns, are the basis on which statements are prepared.
#3 Pre-filling – This involves expertise more than those of the previous level of outsourcing. Data needs to be pre-filled for the purpose of filing tax returns, by declaring income. This exercise will take into consideration various factors such as exemptions, at the time of pre-filling. There can be no room for error or discrepancies and the submitted data needs to be accurate. Any wrong representation of data is likely to be perceived as wrong and deliberate misrepresentation of information. It helps to use the services of outsourcing vendors to file returns on time and in the most accurate manner, while availing all legal exemptions. Exemptions are different from evasion, and this distinction can be made only by a qualified accountant who will help a business to interpret the clauses in the right manner.
Striking the balance between outsourcing and retaining roles
Many accountants in firms typically conclude that the tasks that need to be outsourced are those tasks where a resource shortage is faced. While this approach can help meet the shortage of resources, it is not always the only or the best way to go about deciding on what needs to be outsourced. Many tasks that are presently being handled in an organization through adhoc or stop gap arrangements certainly meet the criteria for outsourcing decisions. This is because it simply means that the organization does not possess the right kind of resources and workflows to handle the tasks. An adhoc or stop gap arrangement would inevitably mean that the task is handled for a limited number of hours per day. Effectively this also means that it does not require a full time resource. It effectively means that a full time resource would certainly not be fully justified or used optimally. This makes this role a perfect candidate for outsourcing. Similarly, outsourcing decisions need to factor in various other considerations. For instance, the levels of qualifications of resources presently handling the tasks. If, for example, an unqualified resource assists the accountant in the discharge of certain duties, there are bound to be errors which will not only affect the outcome of the process, it will certainly be a drain on the time of the accountant who will have to rectify the errors. It therefore makes sense to use the right resources for specialist tasks. Making do with available resources in the hope of getting them trained along the way will sometimes backfire.
Reverse research on the need for outsourcing accounting
The criteria for outsourcing decisions demands a little bit of reverse research on the part of accountants in an organization. It should ideally begin with an exercise to identify areas where workflows hit bottlenecks. If the workflow is not seamless or smooth as desired, and if the result of this is because of a lack of manpower, the use of shared manpower, a lack of right tools, or insufficient bandwidth on the part of resources handling the accounting tasks, then it effectively means that there is a need to look at outsourcing. Additionally, if accounting resources are being utilized in roles that do not actually fit into the scheme of things, then it simply means that it is not an optimal fit. An accountant needs to be able to sharpen the deliverables, by keeping a very small and compact team to handle the core of the responsibilities, while offshoring most other tasks to a suitable ourtsourcing partner. Here, the emphasis will on choosing the right outsourcing partner.
A simple comparison of costs will help to decide on the nature of tasks that can be outsourced. For instance, a full fledged department may be in place to perform a set of tasks that include handling of – invoicing, statements, pay-ins, petty cash, personal details, salary information, debtors and creditors list. If the management of this full fledged section requires a specified amount towards expenses, and if the same tasks can be performed more efficiently at considerably lesser costs, it makes more sense to offload part of the work in such a manner as to reduce the costs, while having a small team in place to handle the core activities, while using the outsourcing partners efforts as supplementary services. This way the requirement of the organization can be fully met without posing any risk to the workflows or processes or financial health of the business.
Leveraging efficiency and expertise of outsourcing partners
By choosing the right outsourcing partner, an accountant in an organization brings to the table the efficiency and competency of a full team of specialists. This is not complementary in nature, but adds considerable value and knowledge to the internal processes in an organization. It is not out of place to add here that organizations looking at implementing a change or transformation, always look at external agencies to achieve it. This is a fundamental practice in change management, and is rooted in the fact that it brings in a refreshing change to existing methodologies while giving a whole new perspective and new techniques from experts in the field. It is the same when there is a search for chartered accountant. A qualified, competent and experienced outsourcing partner would possess experience that brings in greater value to internal processes. Therefore, an accountant should look at outsourcing tasks whenever he or she feels that the workflow could do with considerable improvement.
Tasks that can harness the power of automation
This is the milieu of the march of technology and organizations embrace the use of technology on the path to digital transformation. Accountants in organizations need to look at tasks that can be performed more effectively and efficiently by harnessing the power of technology. For instance, automation can be used in generation of triggers for the filing of reports. This will make the process a lot more efficient and reduce the resources used for creating the reports. The search for chartered accountant inevitably includes a search for services where technology and software play an important role. An accountant needs to employ the filter of speeding up tasks when looking at the need for outsourcing. If a possibility exists, then it certainly becomes a candidate for outsourcing.
Size does matter
Accountants in small businesses and organizations have come round to acknowledge that the only way to achieve better efficiency with the least outflow of expenses, is outsourcing. In addition to businesses that are small, many large organizations have also found that it makes business sense to outsource part or most of their accounting services. By retaining just the most critical and confidential aspects of accounting, businesses have realized that a search for chartered accountant offering outsourcing services merits attention. As organizations enter into a state of flux, with dynamic changes, resulting in a surge or sudden dip in transactions, accountants have found that outsourcing has the bandwidth to handle the dynamic changes in the volumes of transactions. This is certainly difficult to achieve with inhouse resources. Therefore, accountants in businesses that face swift and considerable swing in the numbers of transactions, need to look at outsourcing as a surefire way of handling the change in fortunes, without spending a fortune.