Many CPA firms are challenged with balancing completion of critical operational tasks, such as bookkeeping and accounting, with simultaneously growing the firm’s business. The two functions seemingly are often at odds. The more tactical, administrative functions are time-consuming and necessary, but they often detract from a CPA partner’s ability to focus proactively on business development activities or activities directly related to business growth, such as consulting or service expansion.
One of the most underleveraged solutions to address this challenge is outsourcing. Businesses can significantly and positively impact productivity (and as a result, profitability) when they incorporate outsourcing into their operations strategy. Not only does outsourcing alleviate the pressure on CPAs to find time to focus on “everything,” it also offers a number of added benefits that contribute to increased efficiency.
Outsourcing provides a scalable solution to augment existing staff during peak periods, such as tax season. It provides the opportunity for firms to convert a fixed staffing cost to a variable cost. Simultaneously, it allows for the flexibility to draw upon additional resources when the workload warrants incremental manpower while maintaining the option to scale back on these resources when that busy period ceases.
More importantly, partnering with a reputable outsourcing company provides CPA firms with direct access to skilled professionals who are trained and experienced in servicing the specific functions required. This eliminates the need for a CPA firm to worry about hiring and managing people – especially when sourcing the right level of talent and retaining that talent can be a big challenge for firms.
For example, a CPA firm may require additional accounting assistance during the period leading up to tax season, whereas they are staffed appropriately for the remainder of the year. Partnering with a provider of bookkeeping and accounting services allows them to manage the workload of tax season by drawing upon the expertise of trained accountants and bookkeepers without a heavy investment in permanent staffing.
Similarly, a number of the firm’s small to midsize clients may require CFO-level expertise simultaneously to manage quarterly or year-end financial reporting, but they may not be able to financially sustain a full-time CFO position for the entire year. Specialized outsourcing providers, such as Analytix Solutions, deliver accounting solutions with a full range of services that can be customized based on the CPA firm’s unique business requirements, including CFO-level expertise on an “as needed” basis.
Access to Technology
Another benefit of outsourcing is the ability to leverage the technology investment of the outsourcing provider. Today there is increased acceptance in technology programs migrating to a cloud-based platform and adopting a Software as a Service (SaaS) subscription format. This facilitates the ability of outsourcing service providers to share their technology infrastructure investments with their clients, as it becomes a cost of doing service that the provider assumes.
A reputable provider of outsourced accounting services will maintain a range of accounting system platforms that they support so that they can integrate with a business based on that company’s unique requirements. As a result, the outsourcing provider often takes on the responsibility of ensuring that the technology is the most up-to-date version available and manages upgrades as needed. The responsibility is assumed by the outsourcing provider while the firm, and subsequently their clients, reap the benefits of the provider’s investment.
Additionally, because the outsourcing provider’s operational infrastructure relies so heavily on the technology infrastructure, the data security measures instated by the outsourcing provider tend to be exceptional and comprehensive.
Businesses may also benefit from technologies they may not otherwise have the expertise or bandwidth to secure on their own. As an example, Analytix Solutions has developed a host of industry-specific operational and financial reporting portals. These web-based portals have customized dashboards and associated tools that can be integrated so that companies can gain insight into their own operational efficiencies by tracking key performance indicators and metrics. The portals can also be branded by the CPA firm and used with their clients to streamline and facilitate communication and to provide their clients with 24/7 access to their updated financials.
The graphic below provides an example of Analytix’s Insight360 product, customized for Dunkin’ Donuts. A firm or business owner may not have the technical expertise or financial backing to create this on their own, but they can leverage an outsourcing provider’s technology investment and customize it to their needs. Similar customizable portals exist for other industries, such as restaurants and hotels.
Extension of Service Offerings
An additional benefit of outsourcing key services is the ability to leverage complementary services as an extension of a CPA firm’s own product or service line to generate revenue. It is an efficient driver of business growth but eliminates the need to invest in developing that product or service from the ground up. For example, a CPA firm that chooses to outsource its accounting systems integration and management may opt to offer accounting systems integration as an extension of their own offerings, reselling the outsourcing provider’s services.
Similarly, a CPA firm could grow its practice by offering outsourced bookkeeping services. The outsourcing provider already has skilled expertise and distribution processes in place, eliminating the need to hire staff to support this additional service option and define delivery processes.
The most obvious benefit to outsourcing is the cost effectiveness. If a provider can perform a core administrative function accurately and more cost efficiently than a CPA firm can in-house, and it allows a business to refocus this attention on higher revenue generating activities, firms should consider outsourcing that function.
Outsourcing providers are often a resource for modeling best practices and process optimization. Efficiency has a direct impact on profitability, and leveraging additional trained, skilled professionals to execute and manage tasks will lead to increased productivity. Furthermore, the option of using a specialized team with foresight as to how they impact other operations can also be more cost effective when considering “big picture” implications.
Outsourcing can be a powerful tool for CPA firms when applied correctly. However, as with any partnership, the outsourcing provider selected should be a reputable company that is willing to work with a firm to understand how its services and products can be integrated to positively impact the business.