Like so many other businesses and verticals, professional service providers are just beginning to understand the complexities of 2020 and what long-term impact is going to look like. In the face of such an unfamiliar and constantly-changing landscape, it can be difficult to know how to proceed, let alone plan for the rest of the year and beyond.
At Connor, we’re taking this as an opportunity to share a vision that we’ve spent the past number of years working on. It’s one that’s proven to be incredibly successful, efficient, and future-proof.
Why Neither the Traditional Nor the Remote Models Work
Let’s consider the Big Four: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PwC. A look under the hood reveals several similarities in their business strategies, including team structure. These organizations have all built out the highest tier of their talent pool in the U.S., setting the standard for how professional service providers engage with their clients, as well as the complexities to expect when it comes to scheduling and planning processes.
As auditors, we rely on in-person conversations and observations in order to make accurate assessments, which, for followers of the old model, translates to extensive traveling. These firms spend exorbitant amounts of time and money flying their top talent out to do field work, and any change to the project can rack up expensive rescheduling fees and extensive cycle times. For the field workers themselves, it translates to significant time away from their home and loved ones.
During the course of the coronavirus pandemic, those who’ve consolidated their most experienced employees have had no choice but to resort to phone and video calls. Unfortunately, these remote efforts haven’t seen much success. While auditors may experience more discussions than usual, the increase in communication doesn’t make up for the challenges associated with digging into complex, technical issues from afar, or missing potential red flags as a result. Substituting local untrained resources to do field work is no better, as they often lack the experience needed to have the right conversations with licensees.
At the end of the day, engagements in our field are very forensic in nature, and there’s just one shot to get it right. If you can’t ask the right questions at the right time, which is so often during informal, in-person conversations, you’re going to miss the mark.
Enabling Flexibility in License Compliance with a Remote-Hybrid Approach
Long before lockdowns brought the world to a halt, supporting our customers from their home-base was extremely important to us. But we wanted to do it more consistently than we were, and we didn’t want that shift to take time away from our employees’ personal lives. That’s why, four years ago, we decided to start employing top talent in all of our key geographic locations, rather than simply comprising local teams of translators and data analysts.
Today, each of these regions are built to stand alone, and have the experience and expertise needed to initiate, execute, and audit — even in the most demanding engagements. Disseminating talent in this way has allowed us to break up the work we do with clients into blocks that work for them. We can accommodate as many touch points, time zones, and schedules as needed, as well as last minute changes in any of those categories.
By eliminating the need for long-distance travel, Connor’s been able to offer a level of flexibility rarely seen in our field. And because of this flexibility, the process is less disruptive to our employees, clients, and licensees who no longer need to feel the pressure of committing to a rigid timeline. Together, we figure out what’s best for everyone and set up as much or as little on-site time as needed.
Strategizing Beyond a Time of Crisis
Connor has been extremely fortunate. Because we started implementing this remote-hybrid model several years ago, we’ve not skipped a beat during the time of COVID-19: our teams have executed at the same pace, if not faster, since the SIP mandates were issued. And because air travel isn’t something we have to consider, the safety of our employees and clients isn’t being put at risk. We now often hold two-day field work sessions and reserve the rest of communications for video calls, with timelines of going back onsite based on each audit need, but in short increments.
Beyond COVID-19, though, there’s a need for firms in our space to adopt this approach if they want to maintain success in the future. Travel bans aside, our world is trending in the direction of more sustainability, and more efficiency in every aspect of life. People are less willing to spend their professional lives on planes, and organizations are becoming much more strategic when it comes to their spend.
The remote-hybrid model speaks directly to both present and future needs. While it might initially seem more costly to hire the same level of expertise in every region, in the end it’s more efficient because of the reduction in T&E and the efficacy of the audits themselves. Our teams aren’t having to extend their timelines or worry about logistical challenges that occur so commonly in the traditional approach, and the result is an end-to-end cost that’s lower for all parties involved.
I’ve seen a lot of hesitancy to change in both the Big Four and boutique agencies alike, mostly because no one is asking anyone to be better. Here at Connor we’re changing that, and aim to lead the charge of smarter, safer work across the entire industry. If you’d like to join us in this movement by learning more about how we can help you continue to move your business forward, even during a time of crisis, visit our website at www.connor-consulting.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary consultation.