I would be willing to bet that the headline above means something to a whole bunch of you where a month ago, before we published a couple of blogs on the topic it probably didn’t. Wait…there is more. The bad news is that cloud accounting software has matured to the point that businesses can rely on it. The expansion of broadband is just about there, and inexpensive, skilled offshore labor is ramping up like a tidal wave. Ideas that were “fringe” a year ago are very close to becoming mainstream consider:
The consequence of virtual bookkeeping becoming fungible is that is that as a commodity, for $4-$15 an hour, a firm that has clients and needs labor has more labor than it can use. However, the labor needs to be channeled and supervised. There are high quality operators in the Philippines, India, Viet Nam, etc that can effective supervise the labor with proper guidance. There is also a rule of thumb that say once one reaches 20 full-time equivalents [“FTE’s’] then the US service provider needs “boots on the ground” for eyes and ears. Not hugely complex, but for moving a person to a third-world venue. Hence, domestic bookkeepers earning $25-50/hour are in real trouble. The high-end of the range enters the territory of “controller work” which requires a CPA or an MBA and complex financial skills [we will probe that segment in a future post]
There is a HUGE opportunity emerging at the same time. It’s for experienced bookkeepers that can transition to the Client Service Manager [“CSM”] [almost a concierge role] whom would be tasked with:
- Direct interface between a firm’s clients and the offshore accounting teams to insure the use of portals, timely flow of information to keep the offshore teams working.
- Interface with firm management to keep them apprised of client activity, problems and workflow. This where skills with products like box.com, workflowMAX.com and Practice Ignition become critical. They help the firm’s management keep the offshore machine well oiled and functioning.
- Client needs assessment and advocacy starts to become important. The CSM needs to understand the technology stack that firm supports and offers to clients….when to use it, why to use it, and be able to explain it to clients. They effectively take on a marketing and sales role in the mix.
A competent CSM is work at minimum what a skilled bookkeeper is paid, and if they learn to sell technology perhaps double the bookkeeper compensation. We are going to expand the discussion on the role of the CSM in the near term. At the same time, aBIZinaBOX is starting to look for individuals that have the skills that might become a skilled CSM on our team. An experienced CSM is an executive position, and we recognize that we need to add a track distinct from practice associates to service the needs of our clients.