Virtual Team

Cloud Accounting – The New Competencies

It is now widely accepted that the Accounting and Bookkeeping industry has been irrevocably altered after taking digital impact. The days are not far when manual coding will be taken out, as Rod Drury announced at the Xerocon 2016. Cloud platforms like Xero HQ and their collaborators – more than 500 apps for the accounting industry are laying down the new rules of the game for professional practices. How does this impact the composition of the team that practices need to have for remaining competitive and driving growth?

 Three competencies that would be key drivers of performance in the Cloud Accounting industry:
1. Tech Savvy:
This does not come naturally to most people trained in accounting. Most accountants would prefer to stay within the technology environment they got familiar with. This is why in every geography there has been a dominant accounting application with over 80% share of the small business market. This is of course changing.

2. Resourceful:
Having a collaboration mindset and willing to learn and use new apps and approaches with people in a connected network. This also means being aware of the app landscape and continual skilling up in a few at a time.

3. Workflow and Process competency:
This one is more engineering than accounting. For making full use of the tool, you need to set it up right. In an ecosystem of tools, you need to have your workflow set up right. To do all this, you need good workflow and process competency.
Do you have the right mix of these important competencies in your team today? How easy is it to acquire these competencies? If you are struggling in this area, the good news is that the collaborative economy gives you [...]

Getting Ready for the Hollow Out of Work

According to London Business School Professor Lynda Gratton, 47% of the current jobs will be automated in a decade and by 2025, 5 Billion people will have access to the Internet.

“Work is becoming more complex and it’s becoming more complex because work is now hollowing out. There is highly skilled work on one end and low skilled work on the other, but the mid-skilled work has almost completely disappeared,” she says. Gratton says this disappearance of mid-level skill jobs has occurred because more processes have become automated and everything else has been outsourced to countries with a lower labour cost.

How should business leaders get prepared for this new global reality? Here are a two important responses that can make a big difference.

Digitize workflows. Digitizing is fundamentally about seeing things in terms of discrete discontinuous values. You can break down work to discrete components making it easier to identify those which are high skilled, complex and low skilled. Complex work here refers to work that has the constraint of physical availability on location – eg: care giver, cleaner or server.The power of digitization is that it allows you to lay out the workflow in the cloud for maximum cost efficiency.

Deploy Virtual Talent. As we transition from an industrial era to an intelligence era and the rules of the game evolve, the biggest efficiencies are often connected with the placement of talent in the workflow. Low skilled work gets outsourced to countries with a lower labour cost and only complex work gets done on site.  Higher skilled work can be performed by deploying the right talent virtually. A key driver for this is a digitized workflow, where each component is discrete.

StylusFMS helps small and medium sized [...]

Seizing Virtual Advantage from Digital Impact

Professional Services in Australia have taken Digital Impact. Although it has been a reality since 2012, the ripples of the impact are still at play. The playing field has been re-adjusted with new expectations from traditional roles and emerging models like value-based pricing and it continues to evolve. Finance and Accounts divisions, accounting and bookkeeping firms who are readjusting their own strategies in this context have the opportunity to seize substantial advantage. Here is why.

Workflows are getting digitized. In other words, professional services like accounting and bookkeeping can be  broken down into process and task level components. Discrete components mean a high level of control and lower cost of processing, through automation and outsourcing. The professional Accountant or BAS agent is freed up to play an advisory role to clients. Bandwidth is released to  take on new clients and grow the business faster.
Virtual workflows are the new reality. As most applications are going to be residing in the cloud, workflows will also find their home there. Data residency may be insisted on geographically limited  server farms. Australian data could reside in Australia although the workflow itself is truly virtual.
Virtual workflows drive virtual talent engagement. Digitized virtual workflow is truly a great advantage when it comes to application of talent. Job descriptions and deliverables are much more easier on digitized workflows. Talent can be applied globally for improved effectiveness and higher cost efficiency.
Good Project Management makes a big difference. In a virtual workflow and virtual team ecosystem, project management is an important success factor. Tools such as Xero, Workflowmax and Kanbanfow are proving useful in making sure that the virtual advantage from digitized environments are real

If you are interested in discussing specific [...]

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    5 Reasons why Accounting and Bookkeeping professionals avoid Digitization and Virtualization

5 Reasons why Accounting and Bookkeeping professionals avoid Digitization and Virtualization

“Our survey tells us that 60% of the 77% of accountants who are not using cloud systems today will probably do so within the next two to three years. We are rapidly approaching a point where the use of cloud software to perform accounting services is ubiquitous – that’s a big shift in a few years. ” – CEO of Wolters Kluwer Asia Pacific, Russell Evans
We live in the age on Network Intelligence, thanks to the Internet. From its early days of sharing information globally, the internet is today a global computing system in which global talent can collaborate on virtualized workflows. This is the digital age where we are welcoming the first generation of digital natives – our children who take to this reality quite naturally, when many of us adults have moved in as digital immigrants. The Accounting profession could very well be on a burning platform and strongly persuaded to consider digitization and virtualization. Here are five reasons why the inertia is significant for some.

Lack of Awareness and a lack of time: There is enough work to keep everyone busy at present. There is so much noise about that need to change but how much is believable? Is it really worth the time?
Why tinker with an already working system? My sales team reports that a frequent response when they present the value proposition of virtual teams is “I have a system that works and am not looking to change it” (Read more about Virtual Teams)
Nervous about Security: A physical environment for infrastructure and teams is definitely reassuring and gives a greater sense of security. Mike Chisholm, CEO of CCH Collaborative Solutions says “Five or six [...]

Challenge the Conventional! Digitize and Dare to Virtualize

As Cloud applications and technology continue to advance in 2014, here are four steps to consider for growing your professional service. These could be unconventional to the way you are doing things right now.

List the things you want to see improved. Describe how the outcome of each improvement would look. While doing this take care to ensure that each outcome is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound. When you are done, you have ‘SMART’ Goals to pursue.

Organize work into discrete components. If you are already comfortable with viewing everything that qualifies as work in terms of end to end processes, you will find this step easier. For others, you simply need to get down to listing every component of work that goes on in your business until it is MECE (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive). Associate each component with its context – the application, the data repository and the talent engaged. Yes, this part is painful detailing but important. If you need professional support to achieve this, we have an offering that you may like to consider. Once you have these ready, you can sketch your workflows and look at your current reality. This is the best position to understand where you are and where you need to go.

Consider your options. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of options that you generate. Be prepared to push boundaries and go where you have never been before. Going virtual for talent engagement could provide a breakthrough for lowering costs and achieving your ‘SMART’ goals. Please click here if you wish to read more on virtualization.

Implement without delay. Execution is everything from now on. What are the top three options that you would like to implement?

If you would [...]

Talent as A Service: Lessons learnt

Some people say ‘talent as a service’ is a fancy name for outsourcing. However, I wasn’t going to outsource the construction of my business website. Instead, I wanted to recruit the best talent available for the budget I had in mind and was going to work with them as a team. With regards to expectations from such a team, it was going to be no different than recruiting talent into the company. But unlike staff, this was going to be a project based and outcome based. Having completed some time on this, here is what I learnt:

1. Communication:
The project platform (WordPress in my case), progress trackers and version control all being in the cloud meant that team location was irrelevant. However, communication systems had the potential for becoming bottlenecks. Judicious use of email, chat and voice became very important. Email threads for clarifications beyond a certain length made no sense. In such cases, get on to voice calls and sort it out.

2. Workflow systems and trackers:
These are a great idea, except that each stakeholder has to own it. If not, it can be quite a pain. When such a system fails, workflow management falls back on the communication systems, mostly email. I learnt that time spent on understanding and fully owning up workflow systems upfront, gives it the best chance to sustain the efficiencies it is expected to provide.

3. Virtual does not need to be impersonal:
Virtual talent is not about faceless productivity and efficient outcomes alone. Time spent (video conferences recommended) especially in the early stages of engagement helps inter personal relationships between stakeholders, which enhances the quality of communications and leads to better performance. Great ideas are not only sparked [...]

Do you have a Moneyball Team?

Last week, Rahul Dravid,  captain of the Rajasthan Royals IPL franchise, veritable underdogs as they vie for the IPL trophy, referred to his team as a ‘moneyball team’. Five years ago, Shane Warne who was at the helm of the same franchise had demonstrated that a group of fairly unheard of players can indeed go all the way.
It was the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game and a movie inspired by this book and starring Brad Pitt that popularised the idea of a ‘moneyball team’. In 2002, General Manager Billy Beane who was in charge of the Oakland A’s was up against rival giants that could pay three times as much his budget could afford to enlist the best talent and boost the prospect of winning the game. Beane defied the odds stacked up against him by turning the tables on every prevailing tool, mindset and ingrained assumption regarding talent at that time. He employed a data-driven strategy to knit together a team that had all the essential components required for a winning team. Instead of going after the stars, Beane carefully located these essential talent components in players that did not have a brand and therefore were not expensive.
There is an important lesson here for business leaders. For Finance and Accounting as well as bookkeeping processes, cloud based platforms and applications like Netsuite, Xero and the like have opened a global dimension to the talent pool from which you can construct the moneyball team for your business.

The process of identifying the discrete components that can be woven together to achieve a desired outcome may be termed as ‘digitizing’. Author Ronald Tocci formally defined a digital system as “a [...]

Digital Innovation and Virtual Teams

Digital innovation today allows business processes to engage the best talent globally. Offshore outsourcing is giving way to virtual teams

How should SMEs measure Team and Function Productivity ?

In my previous post , I had asked the question – when are you happiest with someone you hire into your team. The four options were as follows:

a. They demonstrate diligence and punctuality
b. They demonstrate skill and productivity
c. They ensure that the desired outcomes are met
d. They are proactive and sincere

Most people answered “they demonstrate skill and productivity”

In small and medium size businesses, demonstration of skill and productivity is most often subjectively judged.
Last year, my client, a CFO of a retail chain in Australia and I attempted to measure the productivity of the team across the Finance and Accounting processes. We had defined outcomes which had processes and tasks mapped to them. So, cycle times for achieving the outcomes was what we went after.

I thought it worked well for a couple of months within the F&A function. However, over the year, what proved to be significant was how perceived problems were solved for different departments through direct interfacing with the F&A department and not necessarily the key outcomes defined for the F&A department. Perception seemed to rule over the process. Those who got maximum visibility in problem solving got high value ratings compared to those who were more remote. The organizational growth was impressive making it all the more difficult for those ignored to state their case for achieving objective outcomes.

I have no doubt that F&A exists to enable business. The question really is whether enabling is all about shoulder to shoulder intense collaboration and whether there is a significant place for clear objective outcomes and workflows that achieve them. What do you think?

As for me, I will be in Australia during the first half of February, getting [...]

Can Virtual Teams increase effective hourly rates for Bookkeepers?

Thomas Parackal

Bookkeeping today has to contend with technology, systems, processes and methodologies in unprecedented ways thanks to its rapid evolution in Australia. Firms that are able to deal with this effectively are going to emerge with a competitive advantage. Fundamentally what this means is a wider pool of skills demanded from the bookkeeping firm. In other words, the market demands  skills in the following areas: data processing and data migration, application management and integration, process and workflow mapping and project management.

Can virtual talent engagement  increase profitability and strengthen the capability as well as capacity of bookkeeping practices in Australia?

There are three ways that this is possible, from our experience

Bookkeeping business owners are freed up to focus more on customer acquisition, relationship building, business analysis and advisory functions while virtual resources from lower cost talent pools perform the bookkeeping. Only make sure that the team you engage is trained and experienced in bookkeeping and accounting for Australia and can also undertake BAS, PAYG, GST preparation under the supervision of a registered BAS agent.
Virtual teams can provide the missing talent that can complement your existing team to achieve improved workflow continuity and build scale. Skills across data processing and data migration, application management, customization and integration , process and workflow mapping and project management are now available from a much more wider talent pool at a lower cost than you could ever imagine achieving through recruitment.
As virtual bookkeepers take on most of the transactional work as well as move into areas of management reporting and efficiently manage accounting cycles for their clients, the effective billing rates of the business (Australian Bookkeeping firms) keep improving. Breaking the $100/hour barrier is easily achievable.

In fact we have [...]