Tax & AccountingSeptember 09, 2020

Technology moves from a growth enabler to business continuity facilitator

Technology played a critical role in mitigating the impact of the virus. Whether helping employees to perform their jobs or providing a platform to enable new ways of working. However, looking to the future building resilience through digital transformation requires balancing short-term necessity with realising the long-term opportunity. 

Few businesses can be in doubt that technology, digital transformation, and innovation are essential enablers of operational resilience. Now is a critical time to assess how far into the future your current tax technology programme can take you. 

Reassess IT systems for capacity and security 

Following rapid adoption of technology in the first phases of the crisis, it now pays to review what measures and systems were put in place and assess whether they are sustainable on a new scale and for new ways of working that allow secure and efficient operations. 

A lot of businesses have found their technology to be inadequate. So, going back to revisit the basics of how good your systems are is vital. Consider performing a remote hardware and software audit to ensure that your work force have the necessary tools to perform their jobs over an indefinite period. It’s also vital to stay on top of your IT security and continually assess any vulnerabilities the business might be exposed to through remote working. 

Take time to make the right technology investments 

Pre-COVID some businesses may have needed convincing that certain technologies and digital upgrades were necessary. Digital transformation has now moved from a desirable aspiration to an essential across the board. But in coming to that conclusion, businesses need to make investment decisions wisely. 

When it comes to the long-term impact of decisions, people want to know what is coming down the road. If you put a particular system in place today – such as digitising your entire indirect tax compliance – will it be contemporaneous two years down the line. Will it be compatible with the tax authority’s  interface? 

Businesses need to deliberate, but there is a lot of support and benchmarking available about what is best suited for you, for the price point of the investment that you want to make. It is interesting that while businesses are deliberating, they are not holding back on the investment. It is not a mindless embracing of technology; there is a lot of questioning and discussion and desire to know and understand things. But the hesitation that there was earlier on about whether a business should go down the tech route or not has gone, itis now a no-brainer. 

Use technology to provide you with actionable data 

Once transformed into usable information, data is a valuable asset in building resilience and retuning your business when matched with your scenario planning. Ensure that you have the right analytics, dashboards, report sets and data structures to help with decision-making. 

Data has always been critical to business success and keeping up to date with the changing environment. Regardless of the scenario you face, getting accurate reports of what is happening in your business is critical and will continue to be so well after this pandemic has passed. 

Leaders need access to a range of indicators outside their business that will help them find and realise new opportunities, such as a rival facing financial difficulties that may be open to selling. Use sources such as customer insights, employee surveys, information from trade bodies or market analysts to help shape your understanding. 

Stay vigilant around cybersecurity risks 

The large number of employees likely to be working remotely in the future will increase cyber-criminals’ opportunities to hack into businesses systems, as well as compromise individual employees. Cyber risks are continually evolving and businesses face unprecedented security and compliance risks through data leaks as a result of remote working. Businesses must now ensure their cloud systems and infrastructure are secure and that there is clarity as to who is responsible for securing and monitoring them. 

Businesses should also implement privacy-by-design and data segmentation policies, so they have insight and control over who has access to data in both first and third-party environments. They must also ensure suppliers of technology services meet basic security standards and they have an understanding of the risks through the supply chain. 

Be the leader for technology change  

The future opportunities associated with technology involve training, upskilling and acquiring the right talent, but that also requires a certain level of understanding and knowledge at board level. 

There is a skills gap in technology at the executive level. Many companies are still working in Excel; but tax technology platforms are not a new phenomenon. However, when we look at why it hasn’t been embraced or utilised to its full capacity, it’s because there’s been a lack of understanding at the top as to what to do. 

Those companies that can embrace technology and use it will strengthen their competitive advantage and will build resilience back into their balance sheets once more. But organisations that copy and paste what they’ve always done and leave IT to the IT team without putting it on the leadership agenda will fall behind. 

The emerging winners will be businesses that have adapted their technology capacity and vision most quickly in this period. Those with a clear sense of future opportunities as well as the risks technology mitigates are well-positioned to prosper in the new operating environment. 

To start your teams technology transformation, download our complimentary Corporate Tax Technology Buying Guide.

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