Outsourcing or offshoring can tend to be one of the most contentious within the profession. There seems to be three schools of thought in respect of this method of work completion. Firstly, there are the firms who have tried it and love it, many originally getting into it due to its cost benefits. These firms who have really embraced the approach still sing its praises. Then there are those that have tried it and don’t feel it was successful for a number of reasons, some of which include quality of the work, time zone differences, communication difficulties, provision of data issues, and so on. Perhaps a couple of questions here – did the trial extend long enough and was the best group selected to partner with? Interestingly, we have also had reported to us that the cost savings are not as significant as they used to be. Then there is the last group of practitioners who wouldn’t try it under any circumstances, often the more senior members of the profession, who have concerns about communicating this approach to their clients, what their clients may think, or perhaps more admirably, want jobs to stay in Australia.

More recently when presenting at a discussion group, one attendee questioned how the approach of outsourcing was really that different to the past couple of years when we’ve all been working from home. One of the perceived concerns from a client may be around data security and integrity, so many would wonder whether work being completed at home in the study or on the dining room table with whoever around is more secure than the current methods of offshoring or similar, especially where these staff are logging into the firm’s systems as opposed to data leaving the firm.

But there is one factor that did come to light over the past couple of years and that was the impact that local lockdowns and restrictions had on outsourcing services. Many firms were impacted by significant restrictions with these overseas personnel unable to meet the requirements or needs of Australian firms causing a real run on the market, so to speak, here with hefty staff poaching activities underway in late 2021 and into 2022, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney.

However, the question may be, how much longer can we go without outsourcing? There are a couple of factors here. More recently we have been lacking migrant personnel, with some firms still reporting difficulties in getting staff back into the country. As a profession, we are missing a whole mid seniority level of personnel, in part due to outsourcing, but also because of declining numbers of university students and graduates in the area of accounting and aligned fields.

So, for some firms, particularly those regionally, there is simply no other choice. They have to use outsourced personnel simply to continue to complete the work they already have in their systems, let alone be able to take on new clients. Many firms I now speak with regularly report an inability to source personnel, and whilst they may have the best intentions in the world, they are simply getting to the point of no return. There is simply no other choice. Thus, if we as a profession wish to keep work onshore, we are going to need to find the solution to get ‘more bums on seats’ and address the current skills and experience hole that we have with a proportion of currently available staff.

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