For many firms, the sudden onset of COVID-19 and its effects on day-to-day operations was a sudden and expensive shock. Mandatory remote work, scores of clients lost overnight, and the economy faltering are things you simply cannot anticipate.
Despite this, firms that were in the midst of – or had already completed – their digital transformation were able to use the sudden disruption as an opportunity for growth. We sat down with Adam Irwin, Chief Operating Officer at Pitcher Partners Sydney, about his firm’s preparedness level, how software from APS has helped his team transition to remote work, and what steps other organisations can take to navigate our changing industry.
Don’t wait for change to affect you – prepare for it
Pitcher Partners has a solid reputation as a full-service firm – and for good reason. They’ve spent years carving out their place in the market, and that is in part down to good planning. While it would have been impossible to prepare for a pandemic on such a global scale, what Adam and his team did do was ensure business-continuity plans were in place and thoroughly understood in the case of major disruption.
That meant when COVID-19 struck and the state government required businesses to allow their employees to work from home wherever possible, Pitcher Partners Sydney was able to make a streamlined transition.
“We already had our business-continuity plans in place, and those strategies were very well tested,” Adam says.
“When the federal government announced restrictions applicable to the workplace, we were in a position to tell our people to not come into the firm the following day. All our staff were equipped to start working from home with very little notice, and all of that functioned without issues.”
“We started setting up our people for flexible working arrangements two years ago, so the transition for everyone to work from home, it happened without any great trauma. We didn’t need to find any additional resources or provide our people with backup computers.”
Read the pulse of your team
Adam believes this smooth transition would not have been possible if not for buy-in from the entire Pitcher Partners Sydney workforce. Before mandatory remote work was even a possibility, staff were encouraged to give their opinions on what working from home could look like, what challenges they might encounter, and what Pitcher Partners leadership could provide to help make remote work more viable over the long term.
“Prior to COVID-19, one of the steps we took was to send our people, whom were already working from home, pulse surveys. The results gave us insight into how engaged those staff were, as well as the implications of production, of getting work out the door and a range of other factors.
“When we were forced to deploy remote work across our largest service line, we had six months’ worth of data to draw from. We saw what good engagement looked like for our people, and we were able to pivot relatively quickly to meet those needs.”
Ensure the office-to-home transition is smooth
For any modern firm in the accountancy and finance space, technology is one of the most critical elements to success – not to mention a firm’s ability to adapt to industry changes in real-time.
One of the reasons why Pitcher Partners Sydney was able to enjoy such a smooth transition was because their APS software was easily accessible for their people while working from home.
“Since we’d already set up the firm to work from home, we knew that when we left the office things would run smoothly. We knew from delivering APS and using APS functionality, that it was a tried-and-true solution ideal for a working-from-home environment.
We had no issues. Our bills were paid on time and our timesheets were completed. To the average user, they had the same experience at home as they were accustomed to having in the office.
What’s been useful is that we are now more focused on the reporting and analytics that we get from the data in APS. We’re able to keep an eye on production, which APS delivers for us.”
Accept that there will be roadblocks along the way
Every business disruption comes with its own unique set of challenges. And despite how well Pitcher Partners prepared itself prior to the pandemic, many firms haven’t been able to avoid certain hurdles along the way – whether that’s set-up costs for home offices, a lack of funds to invest in young staff, or slowed career progression over the long term.
“Some will be able to cover the set-up costs to create a home office for their staff, and that will likely become a differentiator for firms moving forward,” Adam says.
“I also believe one of the key issues we all faced on the back of the Global Financial Crisis was that firms pulled back on investing in their junior staff, as well as bringing cadets and graduates through.
“That manifested itself three or four years later with a real skill shortage in particular levels across the accounting profession. So, we may face a similar issue in a couple of years’ time in terms of getting quality staff.”
For firms trying to navigate these changing times, it’s not necessarily about avoiding these hurdles, but rather equipping yourself with the right tools and talent to overcome them. By embracing tools like APS’s software suite that includes APS Workflow you can leverage the opportunities of disruption as well as have the resources to pivot and adapt when necessary.
Pitcher Partners is just one of many happy APS customers. If you want to embrace these changing times and use it as an opportunity for digital growth, speak to the experts at APS
APS is a division of Reckon, an ASX listed company. We develop the software used by the best Accounting firms in Australia and New Zealand to run their business’ and advise their clients.