Outsourcing your compliance work will always involve a bit of a learning curve on how to work with your remote team to get the best results.
The Connect model is different from the traditional business process outsourcing (BPO) model where you hire and train your own remote staff. Connect has removed all of the HR hassles involved in this model: we do all the staff training for you and maintain a stable workforce that is available to you on demand. This flexibility lets you grow your practice without increasing your overheads.
But even though we take care of the staff training, you should still expect a period of adjustment at the beginning of the process while all sides determine how to get the best results for your firm. We call this the business transformation part of outsourcing.
From our 12 years of experience in setting up successful outsourcing teams, we’ve discovered several key things you can do at your end to ensure you get the most out of the process.
1) Forecast your workload, and aim for a consistent amount of work
If we know how much work to expect, we can resource your team appropriately.
The outsourcing model works best if you have enough work to maintain one or two permanent remote team members that we can build your greater team around.
If you just send us work sporadically, it will become challenging to maintain your team members. We will have to move them to other teams to keep them busy, and your remote team will be transient. This means you will not be able to cement in your firm’s processes for them to easily understand your clients.
The more consistent your forecasting, and the more consistent the available work, the more consistent your quality. This is part of your commitment to outsourcing and separates practices who ‘just have their toe in the water’.
2) Manage your internal process and prioritise clear communication
You need to provide any specific training we need to understand your clients.
Outsourcing accentuates any weaknesses in your operations. Because you can’t make assumptions about the remote team’s knowledge of your clients or internal process rules, it highlights the gaps in your handover processes.
Your remote teams will need a learning curve to fully acquaint themselves with the nature of your business, your corporate culture, your own processes, and the technical requirements of your project before they can function effectively.
Give them time to learn the ropes and adopt your business culture as theirs. Do not assume that once you have given them your requirements document, your team can implement the project right to the last detail. Frustration happens on both sides of the project relationship when requirements are not clearly communicated.
If you are committed to outsourcing, you need to focus on the accuracy and clarity of your process. It will soon become apparent if you haven’t created a good system for documentation and handover.
3) Create an agreement on requirements, rules, and policies
Every accounting firm is different in its tolerance and rules. You need to set your materiality thresholds for things such as GST, PAYE reconciliations, and capital expenditure thresholds and communicate these with the outsourcing team.
Sometimes when a firm begins outsourcing, the offshore team is working on a different understanding on what is an acceptable tolerance, and come review time there can be conflicting feedback. This is why we insist on implementation of a material rules agreement so we can work to a consistent policy.
You need to set the policy for what is the correct protocol. Most importantly, make sure your staff and reviewers know your rules!
If you haven’t documented the company rules and policies clearly to your own staff, the Connect team can find itself working for different reviewers who ask for things to be done in different ways. This leads to confusion and lowers the quality of your results. It’s essential you make sure all staff know the rules.
4) Manage your client information for clear handover and respond to queries promptly
One of the biggest problems facing any accounting firm, whether outsourcing or not, is getting complete information from your clients.
If a file is missing information or unorganised at the client end, your remote team can’t really fix that.
If you maintain your client information and follow a clear handover protocol with an admin checklist, the team can get to work without issue. You can also record notes on a job handover using a free video recording program such as Loom.
Once a job is loaded in our system, if the remote team has all the correct information we can complete the work in two weeks. However, if we are waiting on your staff to go back to a client for more information, the job can’t be completed.
Our Mohali team works to a three-week turnaround time. This includes the review process and any time needed to ask the client for missing information. But if your reviewer doesn’t have a protocol to respond promptly (i.e., within two days), our turnaround time will be delayed.
We have time constraints on our team, but if you place no time constraints on your own team we can’t meet your deadlines.
Outsourcing works best if you can also set your internal team’s priorities and manage their turnaround time to answer questions from the offshore team without delay. To create a smooth and efficient process we suggest the local reviewers need be held accountable for getting jobs back within an agreed timeframe.
Most firms work on a two-day turnaround. This time should also apply for missing information requests.
5) Develop mutual training programmes and systems of feedback
If you outsource your compliance work to Connect, you have to train staff to be successful on both sides of the team. Therefore, it’s important to include your remote staff as you would your own staff in your normal training processes.
We suggest that you check your internal protocols are correct so that both teams have a clear picture of what to do.
Your team has to communicate the best practices that work, but the India team also should be invited to give ongoing feedback as to what is working and why.
If you don’t have a constant feedback loop where both the New Zealand team and India team can learn from each other, you cannot succeed at outsourcing a large chunk of work overseas.
6) Treat your remote team as you would your own staff
Like anything else in life, you get more out of people when you treat them with the respect they deserve. Our employees are able to think out of the box, perform at an amazing level, and produce great results because we give them the training and support to succeed.
For most of our staff, relationships come before commerce. It makes sense to make an effort to be social and friendly, and to give praise where due.
7) Get your own team on board about using the outsourcing model
This is one of the most essential elements of successful outsourcing. Even if you have all the other points fully covered, if you haven’t secured “buy in” from your own staff and the directors of the company at the prospect of working with a remote team to outsource compliance tasks, you are likely to encounter problems.
In our experience, if your own team are not on board and excited, they may inadvertently sabotage the process. They may undermine the success of the remote team by not responding to questions or following up on getting client information. Or they may choose to not prioritise job preparation for handover.
Outsourcing works best when your in-house team is encouraged to participate in the process. We suggest that:
- The directors of your company give clear guidelines on what is expected of your team
- Your team is given accountability for providing the right client information and given timeframes for answering questions or conducting reviews
- Your reviewer has their own turnaround protocol once they have received a file to review
- You allocate an admin manger to be the point of contact for your team communications
- You create an internal checklist before sending a job.
8) Keep us in the loop about staff changes
Our teams will work together, so any new staff members will need to learn the systems and processes we have created for outsourcing.
You need to advise us whenever an individual who is key to your outsourcing success leaves the team, either permanently or temporarily.
Recently we had an example that highlights the importance of clear communication about staff changes. We worked with a firm with a reviewer whose name was John. He left the company and was replaced with a new hire, also called John. Nobody introduced the new hire to the outsourced team, who assumed they were communicating with the same person. It was very confusing for both parties, as assumptions were made about processes and expectations were not understood!
If you let us know when someone has left the team, and what impact this might have on expected work flows and systems, we can manage the change on our end. This means we can manage our workload and capacity and continue to provide you with the best-quality work.
9) Communicate any issues with us
The reality of any business is that sometimes quality can slip or instructions may be missed. It is harder to communicate with a remote team.
To combat this problem we developed an enhancement sheet to track any issues. If you experience any problems with consistency, it is really important that you document them here. This gives us feedback on things that could be improved in the process and systems between the two teams.
Also, don’t be afraid to have a call with the remote team if you feel things aren’t going well. You’d do this with your own team, so do it with your remote team.
Interested in outsourcing but not sure where to start? Its our job to make the process easy for you.
Get in touch with our team today to find out how we can help transform your business to a powerhouse of productivity.