Is your Tax and Accounting firm future ready?

Anil Kumar - Senior Director - RPA Practice

October 29, 2020

Overview

The growth of automation is a part of technological disruption and transformation of tax practices' and departments' internal processes, client services, and interactions with regulatory agencies. Organizations of all sizes can use RPA to streamline operations, increase efficiency, and improve quality as part of their automation strategy.

A digital revolution is underway globally and is characterized by converging technologies that are blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and industry sector spheres, while at the same time transforming an organization's expectations and experiences with its customers.

Automation in the tax arena liberates the bandwidth of tax teams to focus on strategic activities instead of mundane data crunching, while, eliminating the scope of human errors. It cuts down compliance risk by improving efficiency, turnaround time, and accuracy.

Challenges in Tax Industry

Automation has become a C-suite priority across the industry and tax firms are no different. The biggest challenge that the C-suite of the tax firms is facing is that they are running short of time in adopting automation.

Challenges faced industry-wide which forces the organization to start adapting to automation immediately is,

  1. Stay relevant and compete with top leaders
  2. Add more clients with no impact to cost
  3. Improve their customer experience
  4. Efficient management of tax data
  5. Adhering to constant changes in tax reforms

Emerging technologies are changing the way how the tax and audit processes will be handled. Being customer-centric and delivering things on time is imperative and to keep up the pace organizations have to optimize the process, make it touchless as much as possible which would enable them to respond to their customers faster thus strengthening the relationship with the customer.

In one of the global survey of over 350 decision-makers, more than 60% either have completed proof of concept or plan to adopt automation. But the challenge seems to be to scale up as less than 10% were only able to scale automation.

It is important that you choose the right process for automation and also have a long term plan for scaling the automation for which it is advisable to reach out to services companies who specialize in identifying the opportunities, implement and provide a roadmap for scaling automation.

Our webinar “Power up your Tax, Auditing and Accounting Processes with Digital Intelligence” will showcase how organizations today are adopting/scaling intelligent automation and simultaneously establishing an Automation Center of Excellence for attaining business objectives.

How Changepond helps your automation journey

At Changepond Technologies we are helping Tax and Audit firms to embrace automation and are helping them in their transformation approach. For one of the leading Tax and Accounting company in the US, the approach we took was to first conduct a detailed opportunity assessment.

Opportunity Assessment

As part of the Opportunity assessment, the first step was to identify the challenges the company was facing and the business benefits that they were planning to achieve by implementing automation. It’s very important to know the business benefits they are looking for because it allows us to knock off processes that would not give them the benefits. Opportunity assessment provides the best platform for both Changepond and its customers to understand how automation benefits (for Customers) and the pulse of customer processes for automation (for Changepond).

The outcome of the assessment is basically the list of process that suits the automation requirement. To arrive at the list of possible candidates the service providers consider quite a few parameters like the number of times the process is executed, time is taken to execute, the number of people performing this process, any dependency involved, any judgemental decision involved, etc.

Based on the responses received, we put together the information and try to map each process with Business priorities and Complexity. Business priorities can be anything starting from Repurposing employee time, Improve quality through error reduction, Streamlining the mission-critical process, Saving manual hours, Improve Customer and Employee experience, Adhering to regulatory compliance, etc.

Higher weightage is assigned to the process based on business priorities and finally, arrive at the list of candidates that are suitable for automation. Usually, these processes would have shorter ROI as well.

Automation Implementation

Implementation can seem intimidating since it must address many moving parts and issues. We at Changepond fully understand current processes to assess the scope of needed change and develop effective deployment and change-management strategies. Important aspects of this work plan include securing organization buy-in, identifying software and its vendors, and developing the knowledge and skills of tax professionals.

Implementation work can commence once we have created an opportunity bucket i.e. the list of processes eligible for automation. It’s always good to start small so that customers can see the benefits quickly and gain confidence. Shortlisted processes are set with priority and taken up for implementation accordingly.

Implementation duration varies depending on the complexities involved in the processes chosen. Right approach and decisions are taken before implementation like usage of tools, reusable components, integration to third party application via API, etc. which enables achieving development goals.

Customers are appraised with progress status and demos ensuring the approach is on right track and give customers a feel of what automation does for their processes which once done manually.

Other critical success factors followed for a complete automation solution includes,

  • Change management; Drive awareness and support in disrupting the status quo.
  • Personal identification; Understand the end-user to support different levels in the robotics journey.
  • Process optimization; Review processes constantly and identify opportunities for improvement and standardization.
  • Governance and controls; Embed policies and procedures to ensure quality and mitigate risk.
  • Training and enablement; prioritize providing protected time to train and enable personnel at all levels.
  • Continuously monitor for return on investment; Assess results against goals and adjust the approach accordingly.

Benefits of Automation

Challenges faced by each organization are addressed by embarking on a reliable and efficient automation solution and translates into benefits which are,

  • Transformative Change to re-engineer core processes while automating the function.
  • Flexibility in rapidly scaling up or down depending on the nature of the business issue.
  • Cost Reduction by 15-90 percent depending upon the characteristics of the activities selected for automation.
  • Improved efficiency by streamlining, standardizing, and optimizing the processes for tax. 25% to 40% increase in operational efficiency.
  • The high degree of accuracy and operate 24x7 leading to high-throughput.
  • Reduced risk of human error and therefore reduced financial, reputational and regulatory risk.
  • Easy and Faster deployment and management.

Conclusion

Progressively, corporate transactions and operations strategies are being considered to manage costs and address regulatory requirements. Customers, tax authorities, and other key stakeholders continue to stress digitization as a mandate for conducting business and collaborating across enterprise functions. Tax functions are being forced to rapidly go digital.

It is important to note that automation is one tool within a suite of technology tools that companies should consider implementing together. In this context, rapid evolution of advanced automation capabilities is emerging, including the integration with cognitive analytics, AI, machine learning, and virtual agents. In this disruptive and transformative context, emerging technologies can address organizations' business and tax objectives.