At the beginning of the pandemic year, everyone expected to return to everyday life in a month or two. So they did not change anything in their lives or business processes, hoping to wait out the storm. However, as today’s situation shows, we need to adapt and optimally adjust the processes. As folk wisdom says: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. This is precisely how you should treat the novelties brought about by the quarantine. Only by accepting the new rules of the “game” in time can you become a winner.
For example, a year ago, we held all the meetings live and had no clue about Zoom, Teams and other online communication tools. Nevertheless, today we are already used to communicating remotely, and it even turned out to be quite convenient. We also save time and money on tickets, hotels, etc. In addition, our new rhythm of life has helped dispel many stereotypes about remote work and its inefficiency. Of course, not all work processes can be done remotely. However, the flexible schedule that employees can use has its positive effect. Quite often, travel time to work was a decider when looking for a new job. In addition, remote work allows the employer to reduce the size of the office and save on rent.
Of course, we need to reorganize processes to ensure the smooth operation of employees, but, on the other hand, this allows us to re-evaluate the efficiency and optimization of work. For example, earlier, when communicating with potential clients, we often heard an argument for the disadvantages of outsourcing the fact that the accountant is not in the office but somewhere remote, which was perceived as an inconvenient and unusual option. Also, work processes were often divided into those that can be outsourced and those that only an in-house specialist can handle.
Given that most companies switched to a dedicated work mode, including accounting, all arguments about the inconvenience of remote work of an accountant quickly happened to be in the category of rudiments because even full-time employees had to master all the subtleties working from home. Therefore, our team conducted a desk survey among companies that met the following criteria:
- They have their own accounting department (more than three full-time accountants);
- We made the right decision not to use outsourcing services.
The purpose of this study is to evaluate the following criteria:
– What has changed in the overall approaches of business processes in connection with the pandemic?
The main message of all the answers was that all business processes had been reconsidered significantly since the beginning of the quarantine. Because the quarantine directly affected the profitability of companies, management was forced to review business processes and internal policies, reduce costs, and develop schemes to increase labour efficiency. Most of the companies that took part in the survey commented that thanks to the quarantine, many processes were optimized and automated, which positively affected the company’s activities. However, on the other hand, there are also negative consequences such as staff cuts.
– Did you have any problems in the accounting department after the lockdown?
Almost one hundred per cent of respondents had them and continue to pop up, which is why we want to scrutinize this issue. First, remote work requires setting up a workplace, and it is not as easy as it may seem at first glance. After all, the workplace is not limited to such prominent concepts as a desk, chair and computer — this is a real office in miniature, which requires technical equipment, rent, secretary and other support. When you work in an office, and everything is “at hand”, such as cabinets with documents, a printer and IT specialists who will come to the rescue, you don’t even have to think about the importance of these everyday things. In addition, certain difficulties were inevitable in establishing the most effective conditions for remote work of the accounting department, which in modern realities is still associated with a large amount of work with paper document management. Everyone knows accountants primarily deal with documents every day. There are many pitfalls here because documents are sent to an office with no one in. Accountants had to face the problem of receiving documents, signing, sending copies of them to counterparties, sorting and storing the originals of primary documents. That is, the seemingly simple process of receiving/sending/storing documents really turned out to be almost a disaster. Also, obstacles arose because there was a question of the severity of control over employees’ work, which immediately affected the quality. Employees found themselves in an informative vacuum, and it was difficult for them to establish communication processes at a distance.
Moreover, here, of course, we want to look into the loophole to understand whether outsourcing companies go through these difficulties. Furthermore, here we have to disappoint you because switching to remote operation mode did not create any problems or troubles for our company and our customers. The outsourcing “machine” was and is working without quarantine restrictions. All our employees are technically equipped, internal quality control systems allow you to check employees’ work regardless of their presence, auditors regularly send out all news related to changes in legislation, programs for online communication are installed, and our IT specialists are always ready to help all employees. Thus, 2020 can be safely called a winning year for outsourcing as the companies that abandoned in-house accounting saved their time and focused on solving the acute issues for this crisis period.
– Has their attitude to outsourcing services changed?
The answer is unlikely to surprise anyone, because thanks to quarantine and the forced daily distribution of remote work, outsourcing has won many points at once, starting with the fact that there is no need to control or train employees, equip their workspace, etc., ending with the optimization of labour costs.
– Are they considering certain outsourcing areas of accounting?
For a deeper analysis, we have grouped companies by the types of operations they are willing to outsource.
|Number of companies||Accounting for primary documents||Accounting for advance reports||Accounting for VAT transactions||Preparation and submission of tax and financial statements|
Based on our survey and tracking, we can identify the main trends in the accounting outsourcing market that will manifest themselves in 2021:
- 1. Robotization of accounting routine, which accountants usually performed with the lowest qualifications. Thus, it is possible to achieve economic benefits and eliminate the human factor from many processes, focusing on more resource-intensive tasks.
- Shortage of fantastic specialists and growth of their compensation. Finding ordinary accountants is not a problem, but with financial directors, everything is much more difficult. In this matter, we can confidently say that outsourcing companies with a clearly defined certification and professional development system will benefit compared to in-house personnel.
- Increasing data protection requirements. Now, the availability of reliable information security certificates and strict, and most importantly — practical internal standards for compliance with the terms of the confidentiality agreement are no longer just an important criterion when choosing a provider but a vital necessity for any outsourcing company.
- Increasing the quality of service. During the period of self-isolation and daily changes in work, business owners and company managers soberly assessed the capabilities of full-time accounting in terms of rapid reconfiguration of accounting processes and its weaknesses in terms of business assistance. It is by increasing customer confidence in outsourcing and, as a result, market growth that experience in effective change management is accumulated, and the quality of services improved. The second factor is that there are worthwhile players left among outsourcing companies who managed to provide customers with a smooth service process during quarantine and restrictions.
Summing up, it is impossible to overlook changes in the financial sector and general global trends. After all, now we no longer live in a world with predictable crises, but in conditions of economic turbulence, which each time shows us the importance of a “plan B” and permanent readiness for changes. This can be seen as a threat, but, on the other hand, when the world around you is changing at a breakneck speed in a state of crisis, any crisis stages can be considered not only as a time to tighten your belts but, above all, an opportunity to make a crazy leap in business development. We can already see how ideas about the need for classical organization of work processes in the office have faded into oblivion. Digitalization has become a vital necessity because delegating accounting functions helps you turn your eyes to “hot” issues.