Crowdsourced accounting

During a post-dinner conversation, the following was posed:

“Is there something we can build to help accounting students gain valuable industry experience either during their course, or right after graduating?”

A company’s books is one of those things isn’t taken lightly, and people generally aren’t too keen to experiment or take risks with them. So the idea of setting up an accounting firm and charging money for volunteer accounting quickly fell over.

“How about making a bit of a game out of it?”

One could set up a little accounting operation, gather a group of eager accountants-to-be, set before each of them identical copies of a client’s accounting data, and make a competition out of who, for example, is able to save the client more money on the year’s tax return.

A few things would have to be put in place. Firstly, this will not replace the structures that the client has in place prior. Secondly, the client does not pay a cent unless they decide to use a proposal put forward by one of the student participants. Thirdly, the data will be anonymized, just because for confidentiality reasons.

The client has very little to lose (the bulk of it will be time spent answering questions that the students may have in a rountable interview, perhaps). They gain extra sets of eyes and brains churning over their books, and possibly unearth previously untapped savings.

For the student, this is an opportunity to practice their craft on live data, engage in a bit of friendly competition, and stand a chance of taking home a prize – all in the name of “industry experience”.

So there, crowd-sourced accounting. And I’m putting it out there is because ideas need to be aired. I don’t claim to know anything about the profession or the industry, so this could be the dumbest idea ever, or someone could run with it, and create the next awesome.

If it happens that you read this and decided to give it a shot, do drop me a line to let me know how it go. Any takers?

p.s. I welcome your thoughts on this, especially if you’re a professional in the field. Is this something that’s feasible at all? 

7 Replies to “Crowdsourced accounting”

  1. Great idea. One main challenge: Accounting information is confidential until announced, and market sensitive. Thats one of the reasons companies take this very seriously. This info makes or breaks media headlines.
    Data only available for not for profit organisations as they are not equity markets sensitive.

    1. Ah… confidentiality. That was probably what I was trying to get at with the third point about anonymizing the data.
      Secondly, I agree that large corporates (market movers/shakers) aren’t going to touch this, but what about small/medium outfits? Do you think this would be feasible for them?

  2. For enterprises that do not borrow from the debt market and have shares on the stock market (generally small/medium), this may be feasible.
    I think it’s a great idea for small business because, generally, they are quite under-resourced in this area (accounting) and their books are messy. So, I think they’ll appreciate the help.
    Costs to the client’s business would be another consideration, in that, if the client is expected to pay for this volunteer thingy, they may not agree to participate. As I said, these companies are under-resourced in this area because they are reluctant to spend on backoffice activities that do not generate sales (e.g. reporting).
    But, I still think its a great idea, Zak. And definitely something that students would benefit from. You will need “accounting mentors” in the industry to guide these student groups too.

  3. Agreed. Having accounting mentors involved would bring a lot to the table for the client company as well as the students involved.

  4. The accounting “profession” would be all over it….. and not in a good way. This would no doubt be strongly against the ethical guidelines of at least CPA I would imagine….. If you are talking bookkeeping, then this is another story……. but I like the way you think regardless 😉

    1. Lee: Curious as to why you’ve got “profession” in quotes 😉 Secondly, thanks for the clarification – it is probably most telling of my utter ignorance with regards to the difference between accounting and bookkeeping.
      Either way, appreciate you dropping by and sharing your thoughts.

  5. I like the idea. Sounds like an info/educational exchange. Accounting students get to learn with real data and real unaccounted for business variables; I get to learn more basic-accounting and data finagling. However… I’m in the United States. Looks like you’re in Australia. I imagine our tax laws are different to the point where it wouldn’t really help each other out. I like the crowd-sourcing idea though. The payment method sounds like the crowd sourced digital design site I’ve crossed paths with before.


Comments are closed.