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The Risks and Expectations of Millennial Clients

Jun 10th 2016
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In 2013, my company almost failed from epic service delivery failures that escalated into a lot of finger pointing across functions and organizations. The main problem was we didn’t realize until later that a major contributing factor was that millennials were increasingly becoming our clients and employees.

This growing sector of the workforce simply have different expectations around accounting service delivery, specifically around data availability and access; moreover, they expect immediate access, 24/7 with real-time updates. It was not acceptable that their payroll data was held hostage in a mainframe in Rochester behind an unfamiliar human gatekeeper.  

They were incredulous that standard practice was to transmit payroll reports in paper form (save the trees!) via overnight courier (I know I’m paying for this somehow).  

Since then, however, we’ve standardized on functional applications that are 100 percent in the cloud through partners such as Expensify,, Gusto, TSheets, QBO, and Xero.

Lack of Permission Controls

While this instant client access to real-time information solved the problem of immediacy and visibility, it introduced a host of other problems. For one, some cloud apps don’t offer Read-Only access. Who’s to blame when employee payroll data is changed by the client erroneously or accidentally?

Even if the payroll system generated an audit trail of changes, the cost of proving that it was a client-side error were enormous, both in terms of unbillable time and downstream impact of the negative experience. Clients only remembered the negative experience, not that it was their fault.

Lack of a Unified System of Record

The blame game escalated in complexity and cost when the workflow spanned across apps, functional teams, and even companies. What happens when a client changes the benefits deduction data in the payroll system without realizing that the integration between the payroll and benefits systems is not bi-directional?  

In other words, the benefits deduction data in the payroll system is an output (from the benefits system) without a write-back to the benefits system. Whose fault is it when the erroneous benefits data flows through the payroll data which flows through the general ledger into the financial statements? Whose fault is it when based on these erroneous benefits data, the accountant makes an overpayment to a former employee or an insurance carrier that is unrecoverable?  

My company almost died from the cost of trying to prove that others were complicit in causing the errors that generated massive service delivery failures. Moreover, clients didn’t care whose fault it was at the end, they only cared that they were hurt by the failures and rightly so.

Activity Audit Trail Across Apps, Teams, and Organizations

After trying seven task/project management systems to solve this problem, we made the difficult decision to pause our growth to build the software we needed but couldn’t find. For survival, we had to build from the ground up, a workflow engine known as Scalus, which enabled us to track activity across apps, teams, and organizations. Moreover, we needed this activity audit trail to self-generate – think Facebook feed for accountants – without our staff inputting minute ops data into a CRM or practice management system.  

Thankfully, the service delivery failures are now the exception rather than the rule here.  

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