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Tips for Successful Small Business Finance and Accounting (F&A) Offshoring

A new article helping small businesses owners and accounting firms to learn how they can successfully outsource their financial and accounting business processes like bookkeeping, account payables, account receivables, Tax returns, etc to offshore vendors.

Unlike big corporations who offshore Financial & Accounting business processes, for a small business it is an arduous task. Big corporations have both technical and management resources to manage one or more offshore service providers, and they typically identify which part of the Financial & Accounting functions to offshore, and they will use a selection process to choose a right offshore service providers to fulfill their needs. Small businesses may not have the right resources to find suitable service providers to outsource their accounting business processes. Nevertheless just like big corporations, small businesses can successfully offshore the financial and accounting functions, and can achieve all the benefits of offshoring.

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Step 1: Identifying What Finance and Accounting Functions to Offshore
Once you made the decision to offshore your first step is to find out if you are going to offshore the complete F&A business process or some specific functions within the F&A. If you’re offshoring for the first time it is better to offshore some specific functions within your complete F&A process and then incrementally offshore the complete F&A process. The best way to discover what F&A functions to offshore is to ask the following questions and find answers to them:
1. What are the non-critical F&A functions that can be offshored with minimal guidelines to the offshore vendor by your employees?
The answer to this question will be, repetitive tasks that are non core to your accounting process but needs to be finished for your complete F&A process. Since these F&A functions require minimal guidelines, the offshore vendor can certainly complete it without much help from your employees.
2. How the finished work from the offshore service provider will be integrated into your complete F&A process? The answer to this question will make you to think about the bigger picture of your company’s complete F&A process, and you will start planning how the finished work can be integrated to the complete F&A process with minimal internal changes.
3. How the offshoring process will affect your employees who are performing those functions now?
This is a crucial question, which needs to be answered, so as to make your entire offshore process a success and it varies from industry to industry. Often times several offshore accounting projects fail since the internal staff has not been properly explained the changes they need to go through due to some or all of their responsibilities being offshored, and what new responsibilities they will have in the company.
4. How the instructions for performing the F&A functions will be communicated to the offshore provider?
The answer to this question will determine if you need to invest in any new software (Accounting software license, Secure FTP, etc) and hardware technologies to transfer the work and instructions to the offshore provider.
5. How the finished F&A function from the offshore vendor can be measured for quality?
You need to come up with a qualitative and quantitative benchmark for the tasks you are planning to offshore. Using the benchmark metrics you can compare the work performed by your employees and can compare it with the work completed by offshore vendor. Without proper offshore benchmark measurement it will be tough for you to justify the cost associated with offshore outsourcing.

At the end of this step you should be in a position to clearly identify F&A functions that can be transferred to the offshore provider.

Step 2: Selection of Finance and Accounting Offshore Provider
Based on your findings in step 1, you need to identify a suitable offshore accounting service provider. The simple way to find offshore accounting providers is to perform search on Google and locate different players in the offshore market. The difficult challenge is how do you know who will be appropriate for your needs? Visit their web site and find more pertinent information about the offshore service provider. From the web site you may find answers to most of the following questions:
1. Do they have existing customers that you can do a reference check?
If the offshore vendor has existing customers then you can get valuable feedback from them about the offshore vendor.
2. How long they are in business?
Often times the relationship you establish with an offshore vendor will be a long-term, so it is crucial that you find out how long the offshore vendor has been in business and how well they’re doing in the market place. 3. What are the offshore provider’s F&A service offerings?
Not all offshore accounting vendors are same, find out what the offshore vendor’s specialization is and see if they can be a good fit for your work. From the offshore vendor’s web site you can find out if they have F&A offshoring as their core competency or it is one among their many services offerings. It is not that a company can offer a range of services and be good in all of them, but often times it is a not the rule but an exception.
4. How the company has been setup in handling privacy, security, and confidentiality of data?
This is very critical element in choosing a right offshore vendor, you will be sending vital data to offshore provider, and you need to make sure that the security infrastructure at the offshore location adequately meets your needs. You may not travel to offshore location physically to do an audit of their infrastructure. But from their web site you can get a general idea of an offshore provider’s security infrastructure.
5. Does the company have a regional presence in the country where you are located?
It is good if the company has a regional presence but not necessary requirement. With the high level Internet and Telecommunication technologies available, it is possible to establish a relationship with the offshore vendor without them having any regional presence.

Step 3: Pilot Project with Offshore Vendors
Based on the results in Step 2, you can narrow down to one or two offshore vendors for the pilot project. The main purpose of the pilot is to find answers to following questions:
1. How well they have completed your work based on the instructions you provided to them?
You need to evaluate their quality of the service based on the benchmarks you developed in the former step.
2. Does the offshore vendor have a cultural fit to operate with your own internal employees?
Often times there will be a cultural mismatch between your employees and the offshore team. Find out how both the groups work in solving the problems that arises during the course of the pilot project. Particularly you need to focus on how the offshore vendor communicates with your team, problem escalation, offshore employee’s work schedule etc.
3. What pricing models do the offshore vendors can work?
Pricing is another key factor for companies to offshore there accounting processes, but it shouldn’t be the only criterion for you to consider. Generally there are two pricing models offshore vendors can work, hourly rate or a monthly rate for an offshore employee. Based on your individual requirements you need to find out which will be most beneficial for you.

Step 4: Finalizing and Contract negotiation with the Offshore Provider
Based on your findings in Step 2, identify one offshore vendor to outsource your accounting work. In this step you need to start the contract negotiation with the offshore vendor. There are several legal and contractual issues that must be identified in this step, and it is good to have an attorney look into to the legal issues. But there are several non-legal issues you need to identify before the contract negotiation with the offshore vendor.
1. How long the contract needs to be signed?
Based on your finding in step 1 and 2, you need to determine how long you need to create a contract with the offshore provider. Some times it makes sense to have a month-to-month contract and in some conditions it is good to have a long-term contract with the offshore provider.
2. What type of pricing model will be most cost effective?
You also need to choose the best pricing model that is suitable for your work, the period of the contract and the price will go together. So you need to determine an optimal contract length and price for your accounting work.
3. How long the offshore vendor needs to provide the service after the end of the contract?
This is a substantial element that you need to identify before writing the contract. At the end of the contract you need to renegotiate the fee and other elements, during this period you and the offshore provider may not agree the terms and conditions of the contract and you or the offshore provider may decide not to renew the contract. In this scenario it will take time for you to find a new offshore vendor or to have your own employees to do the work, so you need to cautiously plan and write the contingency in the contract.
4. How the offshore vendors will maintain the quality of their work?
It is a good idea to explicitly specify how you will measure the quality of work delivered by the offshore vendor and what course of actions the offshore vendor will take in case if it does not meet your expectations.
5. How the security risks will be addressed in the contract?
As mentioned earlier security is a paramount in financial and account offshoring, to safeguard your data, you need to assess the points of potential risk in sending the work to the offshore vendor and to structure the issues in the contract. This might be as simple as having a clause in the contract that tells the offshore vendor to use secure software to transfer all the critical data or it could be complex like regular visit to offshore service provider to perform audit check of their security infrastructure.

The offshoring of Finance and Accounting functions is a growing phenomenon and mostly big corporations are gaining advantage of it. By meticulous planning, small businesses can also take part in this phenomenon by following the appropriate steps reported in this article. The steps mentioned in the article do not represent a complete list but it addresses most of the significant issues faced by the big companies and explains how they solved it. By following these steps small business can also successfully offshore their Accounting and Finance work and increase their productivity in a cost effective way.

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