Navigating Third-Party Approaches to Meet Finance Team Needs

Jay Thompson, Managing Director Business Performance Improvement
Melissa Shipman, Managing Vice President Managed Business Services, Robert Half

Compliance deadlines, system upgrades and implementations, spikes in workload. Rapid growth, mergers and acquisitions, shifting business models, industry disruption. And on top of all of those business changes, many finance leaders are running lean organizations, as well.

In a dynamic business environment, the leader of any business function will recognize that it’s difficult – if not impossible – to operate without third-party assistance and deliver world-class services to the firm. Leaders of finance organizations in particular recognize that they’ll need to work with third parties to staff their functions in periods of rapid growth and change, as well as to address peaks in routine activity. In earlier posts, we detailed ways to bring in third parties using the shamrock model of organization, and various ways third parties can support the peaks in work demand. It’s important to acknowledge the variety of ways a finance leader can use third parties to achieve those staffing goals, and to explore the pitfalls and advantages of each. These various models, and their applications to the finance function in particular, are explored further in our white paper, The Labor Model for Finance in the Digital Age.

On-Demand Talent. Gig economy, human cloud, crowdsourcing, freelance: Under the umbrella of these terms, finance leaders can locate, recruit, evaluate, select and train resources to get the work done. Managers fully own the process of ensuring these resources are effective, and with that, they maintain full control. That advantage is offset by the overhead of onboarding and the delay that goes along with it, as well as any risk related to quality of delivery.

Competitive Bid. Somewhere in the mix of third-party staffing models is the fixed-term, fixed-scope agreement. In this model, the finance leader responds to a business change by sending a request for proposals, and selecting a provider in reaction to a short-term requirement. The downside to identifying, evaluating and selecting a provider is that a long road of due diligence and negotiation must be navigated before the real work can begin.

The Trusted Partner. A completely different third-party model can be likened to the way accounting firms perform financial attestation. That relationship would include an audit partner and perhaps a senior manager or two. These partners typically have been acquainted with the organization for several years. As a result, the accounting firm knows the firm’s business and culture, and has established relationships with key people. And while the accounting firm’s team composition might shift over the years, there would be an assured continuity to the relationship overall, with all the efficiencies deriving from that.

Finance leaders, whether they are merely short on staff to address peaks of work or facing a sudden business change calling for specialized expertise, will want exactly such a partner – one with the flexibility to be not only a strategic advisor, but also able to find tactical resources on a short notice. How that may be done is the topic of an On Demand Protiviti webinar, The Finance Labor Model in the Digital Age.

Managed services that align to the external audit model become a continual source of support to finance leaders. Within the managed services model, a finance leader finds an ideal strategic partner who can function as a trusted consultant to bring in specialized finance expertise to address business disruptions. This partner stays well-acquainted with the client’s business and has access to a large, diverse and vetted pool of resources to support needs that change over time. While the other models offer efficiencies of their own, mostly in the form of lower upfront cost, only the managed business services model delivers benefits reliably and long-term, without the time demands otherwise required from an already constrained finance function.

Learn about Protiviti’s Finance Transformation services and explore related blog posts on The Protiviti View.

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