Lately there’s been a huge swing in accounting circles towards setting up offshore teams to reduce costs and become more scalable. But while the move paid off for some firms, for others it has been nothing short of a disaster.
One Australian firm we’ve been helping out set up an offshore office with six staff that quickly became a major problem. They’d already lost one $30k client, and when they surveyed their remaining clients the most positive response they received was, “Thanks for ringing”.
Other firms are taking the freelancer route—great if you’re after only one person, but not so good for long-term scalability. Trying to supervise people with different skill sets in different offices (if not different countries) with limited team interaction and support can be difficult.
Here are five issues we often see that lead to problems with offshore teams:
Focusing on price alone
If your sole aim in setting up your offshore team is to do everything you do in your own office for less money, you’ll probably end up with a train wreck on your hands.
Whether you’re setting up an offshore team or using an established service provider, make sure you factor in supervision, training and communication. With some offshore business process outsourcing (BPO) models you need to do all the supervising, managing and training yourself.
The services we provide at Zerobooks require minimal supervision from our partners, which means they can focus on building their business and working with their clients.
A lot of people think our competitive advantage comes from the labour side of things. But in fact it comes from investing heavily in technology, automation and processes. These provide the bulk of our efficiencies, which both we and our partners use to full advantage.
Assigning the wrong processes to the offshore team
Before you start handing work over to your offshore team, make sure you’re giving them the right work. Look at your processes, and figure out the work you’d like to be reviewing and delivering rather than actually doing.
Some firms, particularly UK-based firms, outsource their compliance work and do the processing in house. But most Australian firms tend to do the opposite—they get the data processed by offshore teams, and do the compliance work in house.
At Zerobooks we do the basic accounting tasks like data processing and bookkeeping for our partners. This means they can focus on the higher-value compliance and business advisory work to deliver Real Advice in Real Time with Real Data.
Having non-conforming clients
To achieve maximum scalability from establishing an offshore team, all stakeholders—the partner, the team and the client—need the follow the same processes and methodologies.
The client also needs to provide all the necessary information and answer questions quickly.
If they don’t, then the data can no longer be delivered in real time—no matter how efficient technology has made those processes. And the partner can no longer list ‘real-time reporting’ as an advantage they have over their competition.
Not taking full advantage of technology
Contrary to popular belief, creating an efficient platform to manage your offshore team takes more than just setting everyone up on Skype and Xero.
Add-ons such as Receipt Bank and Chaser, and reporting tools such as Spotlight and Futrli will help you process the data, manage debtors and provide real-time reports productivity and efficiency.
From a team management perspective, using Google Hangouts will allow team members to see who is available and improve communication. And document sharing programs such as Dropbox and Google Docs will allow them to easily share documents with each other and their clients instead of relying on email.
Depending on the model, staff training and proficiency can vary greatly, particularly when it comes to freelancers. Some are great, but others can be very disappointing.
To set up your own team you need trainers who understand not only the technical aspects of the processes being outsourced but also the technological aspects.
We recently saw members of one team typing in supplier invoices manually, despite having access to Receipt Bank. Needless to say their times were blowing out severely, creating gross inefficiencies for the firm.
Setting up an effective offshore team takes time, planning and effort. But if it’s done right, the results are definitely worth it. We currently service clients across six countries, with dedicated teams servicing clients in the UK, North American and Australian markets.
 Some Australian firms are now outsourcing their compliance work.