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Tax & Accounting14 January, 2019

A strategy for digital change

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is a major catalyst for change for the accountancy industry. It is a massive opportunity for accountants to change the services they provide, update their relationship with their clients and use the digitalisation of the accountancy industry to their advantage.

There’s no stopping the tide of digital change, it is what after all what clients are demanding: more cost effective, efficient and accurate services that go beyond the traditional compliance services. Focusing purely on compliance will not grow your practice. Many businesses are now looking for more consultancy advice from their accountants in addition to fulfilling compliance requirements. Transitioning over to digital technology will make your practice more efficient, freeing up valuable time for your team to help grow your client’s businesses.

For many, the transition into a truly digitised workforce will mean significant means change. When considering a process change like this, planning how to implement said change with minimal business interruption is important. Here are four steps to consider when transitioning over to digital technologies and successfully implementing change.

Step 1: Develop a strategy for change

While many practices are taking digitalisation seriously, many businesses underestimate the length of time it takes to implement change and the business culture changes required to succeed. Complying with the MTD requirements next year will be far easier if you update your processes now. However, without a proper strategy, technology investments can increase the complexity of it all.

The first step to managing change is to develop a strategic plan and list of actions regarding communication, people, process, ideas, information, websites, tools, systems, metadata and more. At its core, this strategy must be aimed at boosting employee engagement and agility with the goal of improving business performance.

Start by clearly defining what your clients want. What service do they need? Take time to understand the changing demographics and future trends. Developments in AI, machine learning and technology will continue to evolve the accountancy industry. Innovating for today’s needs, while also keeping a watchful eye on evolving trends will stand your practice in good stead. Next understand what change is needed internally and secure the mandate for that change with a clear ‘white paper’-style discussion document or proposal.

Your strategy must also create a culture of acceptance of change by gaining the trust of senior management and employees. Offer training and support when staff ask, “How will this change affect me?” Consider creating a list of key processes and staff that will be affected by the change. This will act as a roadmap for your teams.

Step 2: Analyse your systems and technology requirements

Your technology investment must fit your strategic direction. Start by understanding your end-to-end processes to determine the level, depth and type of change that is needed. You could ask, “what inefficiencies exist with the current software”, “where are the bottle necks” as well as “are teams are using tools optimally for the business needs”.

The next step is set clear KPIs and project goals. This includes improved client sentiment, cost savings and process efficiencies. Present this on a process map to provide a visual and physical document enabling everyone to understand how current systems will be changed once the restructured process is in place.

Step 3: Create an implementation plan

Many IT changes fail at implementation stages if they are not tracked correctly. Put measures in place to mitigate problems with an implementation plan. Rather than going cold turkey on the old system, try running the new system in parallel with the old as a protective measure.

Hiring a project manager who runs the implementation is also an ideal protective measure. Support from within management and other departments is integral at this stage. Whether or not a project manager is brought on board, big tasks should be broken up and delegated across the team, enabling different team members to be involved and responsible for driving change.

Appoint key advocates to help drive implementation who have been extensively trained on the new system and the requirements.

Step 4: Post-implementation, the work isn’t over yet

Appointing these key advocates or super-users is more economical than hiring multiple consultancies during post-implementation. They will be responsible and able to report issues with the system and collate feedback from the teams. Once live, monitoring and constant feedback is important. Set a structure for this and encourage the team to AB test the software as much as possible. When milestones have been met, remember to communicate them to the wider team. Celebrating each milestone will reinforce the benefit of implementing the change.

The next step is to ensure tracking KPIs and metrics should be carefully completed. Measuring the cost-efficiencies, cost-savings and improved customer satisfaction is important to the success of the change and the ROI in the software.

It is important to remember that positive outcomes will not follow immediately after the live push. Training should be on going and undertaken in bite-sized chunks. To ensure that the transition over to the new software is successful it is important to celebrate the benefits of the new technology and champion the optimisation of its tools.

Partner with experts

With the speed and complexity of regulatory and technological changes today, consider a partner with deep industry knowledge. As a leading global information services company, Wolters Kluwer helps businesses navigate change and improve efficiency with this change.

We’re experts in providing information, software and services to tax executives who work in complex, compliance-driven environments.  Our innovative and mobile technology provides the information that tax, accounting and audit professionals need to make accurate decisions, comply with legislation and to increase the efficiency of their operations. We support our customers by offering expertise from our in-house team of finance professionals, ex-accountants and developers.
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