Thursday, 31 May 2012

Top 4 Problems UK Accountants Face Today, Everyday!

Each company, regardless of the industry or size, deals with problems everyday - each problem as unique as problems can get. Nonetheless, if we were to put things on a Venn diagram we can spot an overlapping area of intersection, a meeting ground, in which I have tried to define the common problems accountants face today. And if you are still reading this, you are most probably an accountant who is just about ready to pull his/her hair out.  Hold on, give yourself another 5 minutes and I promise that’s not the patch you need to unravel.


Problem # 1 - Your clients make a mess of their bookkeeping!

Solution # 1

Yes, I understand, your clients have made a monster of their bookkeeping. Since bookkeeping doesn’t seem like your client’s competency, it may make sense, both operationally and economically, to get them to outsource the bookkeeping to you. And hopefully your staff won’t add arms and legs to the monster. If you are a CA firm and don’t want to be a bookkeeper - and you know keeping records wastes a lot of time - you can further outsource it to a company like QX which specializes in it. Either way, once in the hand of professionals the bookkeeping monster will certainly be put to rest!

Problem # 2 -You either have too many staff or too less!

Solution # 2

Without you saying a word, I perfectly understand the dilemma you are in.  Got a lot of work and not enough fingers to execute it, or got very little work and a bunch of people sitting there twiddling their thumbs! And these economic times! That’s no way to spend my money, you must be thinking. Well, without trying to sound partial towards the offshoring industry, I think it’s the route to travel.  Actually I can’t think of any other way out of this one.

Offshoring companies nowadays offer the option of scalability with an array of engagement models like shared, ad-hoc and dedicated (models). Depending on work volumes, you can choose the one that fits your needs. When you have too much work during peak seasons you can easily scale up your operations team in an offshore center, and when the river runs at a trickle you can scale it down.

Problem # 3 - The economy is out there to get me!

Solution # 3

Ever felt like that - as if the economy was carefully crafted to bring your downfall? Did you ever feel like firing yourself?

I know it has gotten WAY too hard to sustain yourself in these trying times? Especially, if you are not a big or medium-sized practice. Well the times are bad and, boy, do I have any euphemism to put this gently?  No, I don’t. And I am sorry for that. However, without trying too much to sound like a naive pessimist, I must affirm that the roots of recession have dug in deep. It’s time to wear that shrewd businessman hat of yours and weigh your options. Reducing cost and increasing revenues is the only boat that’d stay afloat these days. It is the means to hold your own in this highly dynamic business environment.

Problem # 4 - Keeping up with regulatory changes

Solution # 4

Breaking your back is all you seem to be doing these days. With so many regulatory changes to keep track of, where is the time to foster client relationships? I know how you feel. Or at least I can sympathize with you.  It’s a back breaker alright. I agree. After all, you did not get into business because of your love of administration.

Once again, and I still don’t know any other way to say it - you need to switch to an offshore service provider who will take care of staying head to head with ever-changing regulation.  Let your offshore vendor take over cumbersome legislation, so you can focus on building and maintaining your business.

Conclusion:

I hope you use these insights to move your practice forward today. The voice inside your head might say, “I’d get round to it later”. Well, the right time is now. Right now.

If you have any thoughts, comments or even arguments please don't hesitate to type them out in the comment section below. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Importance of Social Media For SME’s & Outsourcing Companies- Ignore At Your Own Peril!

importance of social media
With regards to a recent blog update which I read dealing with the Social Presence of Startups and SME’s in the Virtual World, I read through a number of comments/questions regarding the ‘Financial viability’ of such presence on Social Networking Sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Broadly speaking most of the questions relate to the vast diversity between the expenditure incurred to promote a business on Online Platforms and the financial gains or returns expected from such promotion.

A majority of people came up with the ‘dripping faucet’ of interoperability between Marketing and Finance in relation to the concept of ‘pay-per-click’. The constant loggerheads between the Marketing and the Finance division also bought out a point which was very valid; how many of the people who actually clicked on an advertisement were really interested in it, how many of the clicks were as a result of an error, the purchasing power of the people who were interested and the downfall spiral generated from the concept of ‘ogling’.

The first two are very simple and require almost no explanation. As regards to the issue relating to the purchasing power of the people; it can be broadly classified into two conjectures. As Facebook is an online social community which is free for all and has placed no discriminations regarding the social standing of its members, it is the perfect idea of a democracy. However this same democracy proves to be more of a bane than a boon for organizations which advertise their products online; especially regarding those whose product line involves an ‘aspirational product’.

A case in point would be the launch of the new product which ranks high on the factor of desirability. With a price point tagged at the outside spectrum, it would be outside the reach of most of the working-class people today. However it would still generate a lot of interest; especially amongst the youngsters. These youngsters would not be having any purchasing power of their own and their clicks would result into the company’s hard earned money going to waste. Sure as a means of Promotion and Brand Building, it would have its perks. But if the company is aiming to convert ‘interest/inquiries into sales’, it should not expect a lot from the online platform of Facebook.

The other related problem lies in ‘ogling’. Especially with aspirations products, people (mostly those who do not have the purchasing power to buy the product) will keep coming back to ogle the product. As soon as they see the Facebook Advertisement on the right hand side of their profile, they will quintessentially click on it and view the same pictures all over again. This has a typical cascading effect of expenditures and does not promote any financial viability.

It is for this, the concept of ‘Facebook for Business’ has been recently launched. I have been made aware of its finer points and its flashy attributes which basically reveal how connecting your brand with Facebook for Business can give you some extra leverage. This dedicated platform is basically a full fledged portal that will cater to the requirements of SME’s and Startups. It will come with many benefits which will help a brand incur less expenditure, while still being able to garner higher visibility. In essence, ‘Facebook for Business’ tries to overcome the shortcomings of the ‘bread and butter Facebook’ which I had pointed out above.

With a sizable chunk of Corporate Space operations in the online domain, the companies and brands will be in a position to tap fresh markets and acquire new customers. The ‘Worldwide’ network of ‘Facebook for Business’ ensures that especially for companies which are offering services (say outsourcing, advertising, agency), the connection with a potential client will be quick, intense and highly driven by competitive marketing dynamics. While a product may or may not have the capability of being sold in a foreign country, a service most usually will be able to.
 
It now depends on how fast you can latch onto the Bandwagon and how quick you can acclimatize and comprehend the changing scenario of online Social Presence. ‘Facebook for Business’ surely is one of the most elite marketing/branding tools available online and it is up to the companies and organizations out there to use it in a way which is most effective. The rule of the Jungle still prevails; Eat or be Eaten. I see the bona-fide advantages of this new portal and its integration with other social media platforms to be highly effective and it will surely revolutionize the way Virtual Branding and Corporate Social Presence online is perceived to be.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

When Outsourcing Goes Wrong - Top 3 Reasons!

In the land of QX, there is a continuous hum about Quality. After all, it is one of the words that makes the bricks it stands upon: Quality and Excellence. Since its inception, the in-house recruitment team is constantly compelled to churn out top-notch employees. Every day, the overseer: Gaurav Jain, QX’s Recruitment Manager, is prescribed to lineup a trail of distinct candidates - the standouts. Once he filters the wheat from the chaff, these potential candidates are chosen to go through an array of tests to earn the eminent tag of a ‘QX employee’.

As soon as they clear the initial assessments they are presented to the managers they will be working with in the future. These hard-boiled managers have had their immunity shots for any kind of emotion (which fortunately only lasts for the recruitment process). In fact, for the interview period, their feelings for the candidates are driven by the need of quality and excellence.  When a manager meets a budding candidate, they are generally presented with some in-depth questions to judge their aptitude and skillfulness. Only after the candidates survive the offensive do they make it to the extended team.

Chris Robinson, the Managing Director of the company loves this stringent procedure. This 42-year old is very upbeat about things like ISO certifications and can talk incessantly about Quality and the philosophy of it. “Quality is what separates us from the rest; it is in our DNA; this is what QX has gained its reputation for and is the cornerstone of our business”, he says. Chris believes that the quality of any organisation is made up of the quality of the minds that work in it.

You must be wondering why I am talking about Quality when the entire business world is seemingly besotted by it.  Well the answer is simple: a lapse in Quality is one of the top 3 reasons for a bad Outsourcing experience.

Please allow me to veer you from the tale to the truth. The following are the top 3 reasons for a bad outsourcing experience, and the secret lies in blanketing the pitfalls:

1- Language & Cultural Differences

Many an outsourcing deal has been marred by poor communication. There is research based evidence which says that 38% of outsourcing deals fail because of a lack of cultural congruity between the vendor and client. Now, by culture I am not referring to the arts, manners, beliefs and scholarly pursuits of a particular country. What I am hinting at is Corporate Culture: the ethos and shared values of an organisation, the way they get a job done.

Our managing director, Chris, suggests you spend at least a fortnight with your outsourcing vendor to get a first-hand experience of their work ethos and culture.  He says, “Get involved with them; attend the staff meetings; interact with your extended team; this is the best way to experience their work culture.”

As far as the argument about the language barrier goes, I believe it is necessary you think out your options before choosing your outsourcing partner. Today, approximately 6000 languages are spoken in the world even as countries become more inter-dependent. After the United States, India is the 2nd largest English-speaking nation in the world - a huge contributor for the business world turning to India as its favourite outsourcing destination. With the language barrier taken care of, it becomes easy for a company to decide where to turn to. Unquestionably, many outsourcing vendors chalk out communication programs for its employees, but please ensure they have an internal staff training department which includes but isn’t limited to English Classes and Soft Skills.

2 - Quality of Delivery/Quality Issues

Cost is no longer the primary driver for an outsourcing trend. Today, quality has become a highly decisive factor when it comes to choosing an outsourcing partner. What initially seems like a cost-saving strategy can turn into a nightmare when the quality of output turns poor.

Firstly, problems with quality arise when then outsourcing vendor doesn’t have proper processes in place. I perfectly understand that Quality compliances are a good general measure and the best outsourcing vendors should have Quality built into their genetic codes. But it doesn’t hurt to find outsourcing partners that follow a standard model like ISO. Find companies who are certified by the latest, revised ISO standards as these adopt a process oriented approach and emphasize on measuring process performance and effectiveness. Other than helping measure and improve quality standards, it also ensures that a company is following defined processes and abides by quality parameters set by the regulating body.

Chris says, “Look for a company with a proven track record, companies which provide reports on a daily, weekly or bi-weekly basis. These reports help you monitor performances of people who work on your process and take action as the work happens. The only thing that should change when you outsource is the location the work is being processed at. In terms of quality, ensure that your outsourcing vendor delivers similar or better output than your own internal resources. Don’t settle for anything less.”

Lastly, see to it that your outsourcing vendor specializes in a limited number of areas. Consider a specialist company who isn’t a jack-of-all-trades. Some vendors will also lure you with low prices and the last thing you want is a company who claims a know-it-all approach. Ask for references, check how long their clients have been with them, know their attrition rates, see how many contracts they are able to renew at the end of the contract period, and ask if they have UK-based support staff.

3 - Uninvolved Clients

We have often heard stories of outsourcing going bad due to low quality of processed work, unmet SLA’s, differences in language and culture, productivity declines, etc. However, there are a couple of client-centric reasons why an outsourcing deal can fail. I have often witnessed a short-term focus of those involved in the decision to outsource. Many businesses look for outsourcing as a path to quickly cut costs and improve their financial status.

Since clients are looking for a quick fix to their woes they sometimes fail to involve themselves in the relationship. Also, most of the time while trying an offshore service, clients seem unprepared for it. This is further riddled with the non-participation of clients during the trial/pilot phase. I believe, for a successful outsourcing relationship, clients needs to involve themselves wholeheartedly. When you make that informed decision to outsource an activity overseas, don’t adopt the “They will do it” attitude. You must take it seriously at your end and work with the vendors just the way you’d work with people you employ directly.

If you have comments, questions or arguments please leave them in the comment section below. To know more about QX please click here