Properly managing your scope and engagements through crisis can mitigate your risk
As NSW enters its fifth week of lockdown and Victoria and South Australia look to exit their shorter period of restrictions, we must face the stark reality of our current landscape in Australia. Until our leaders find a better way to deal with Covid19, our immediate future will be one of snap lockdowns and business interruptions.
So what does that mean for us, the accountants and bookkeepers that heroed our clients and saved the economy in 2020? It means that we will continue to face a constant stream of scope interruptions and the accompanying exposure this causes if we are not properly engaged to help our clients through difficult times.
Effectively managing scope creep keeps us protected
When we consider the grant work many of us have done, and lots of us are doing right now in NSW, we need to acknowledge that it is all scope creep. We don't know in advance when these lockdowns will occur and can’t possibly include managing the grants that follow them in our annual engagements. This means that providing these services requires us to do one of two things:
- Send out an updated engagement that includes the additional work and get sign off from clients before starting, or
- Just jump in and do the work, taking on all responsibilities without any protection.
As you can imagine, I am not a fan of the second option, that's not to say I haven't been guilty of this in the past - which is why I know it's not what we should be doing. Every time I followed option 2 in the past, I regretted it.
> To efficiently manage your engagements and mitigate your risk, try Practice Ignition for free.
Why is a new engagement especially important for grant work
This grant work is unique and usually has no precedent, and the detail is something that clients are unlikely to be across. The work we are doing right now with NSW business grants and the JobSaver scheme is full of detailed terms and conditions that have real implications that need to be brought to our clients’ attention and signed off.
These items include eligibility criteria, grant payment details and risk of audit. But most importantly, if you undertake the actual lodgement of these grant applications for your clients, you are signing a declaration that you agree with the terms and conditions of the grant. Shouldn't you also ensure your clients take on this responsibility and confirm that they understand their obligations and provide true and accurate information?
A new or updated engagement is the perfect opportunity to protect yourself when providing these services to your clients by:
- Getting sign off on terms and conditions
- Getting authority to prepare/lodge the grant application
- Pricing the services and get agreement on the cost (if you choose to charge)
Using tech to make it happen quickly
Don't get me wrong, I know how daunting that all sounds, especially when we have clients in desperate need of the funds who are looking to us to help them quickly. This is where your technology becomes important, and the ability to use a tool to swiftly send out a templated engagement to clients with everything they need and to have it electronically signed off and returned so you can start the job quickly.
Even better, if that tool talks to your workflow solution so that when an engagement is accepted, a job is created in your workflow tool, and no clients fall through the cracks. It's all about a better way to help your clients and safeguard your own business.
How can Practice Ignition help you
As an existing Practice Ignition user—to help you stay compliant and protected—you can now access 9 new service items and 3 new engagement templates for:
- Covid19 NSW Business Grant
- Covid19 NSW Micro-Business Grant
- JobSaver Scheme
If you are not a Practice Ignition user yet, you can try it for free and gain exclusive access to our templates to better manage your scope and engagement, protect your practice, and mitigate risk.
Rebecca Mihalic is an Australian Registered Tax Agent, a Chartered Accountants Australian & New Zealand member, and has been working in public practice since 2003. Rebecca is a founding partner of Aptus Accounting & Advisory—a cloud-based accounting firm launched in Sydney in 2015, focusing on leveraging technology to support client growth & services and rapidly grow an efficient & successful accounting firm. This focus on tech advisory and efficient business services saw Aptus Accounting & Advisory winning Innovator of the year at the 2018 Australian Accounting Awards.
In 2019 Aptus joined businessDEPOT to expand the firm's service offerings to their clients. In addition to leading the businessDEPOT Sydney based operations, Rebecca is the Head of Accounting (APAC) for Practice Ignition, where she helps define product and content strategy. Rebecca has earned a reputation for her leadership, passion and commitment to the accounting industry and recently won 'Thought leader of the year' in the prestigious 2021 Australian Accounting Awards.