The Covid-19 crisis could not have come at a worse time for corporate tax professionals. As if grappling with the quarter close and looming tax season weren’t enough, working remotely presents its own unique challenges. Besides interruptions from kids, relatives, spouses, and pets, office workflows and communication channels aren’t always easy to replicate online.
To help ONESOURCE customers reduce the stress of working remotely under deadline pressure, Thomson Reuters has put together a webinar called “Close the Quarter from Home: Tips and Tricks,” which includes several useful ideas and best practices that tax teams can immediately implement to help simplify their remote work processes and improve both individual and team communication. Even better, most of the tools and capabilities discussed in the webinar are functions already included in the platform, and can be used for both tax preparation and compliance.
“A sensitive task like a tax provision quarter close really requires an intricate ballet, and now you have to do that on a completely different stage at home,” says ONESOURCE Solution Consultant Warren Jagger, who runs the webinar along with Thomson Reuters Professional Services consultant Steve Simi.
File Management and Doc Sharing
Managing the quarter close from the kitchen table certainly isn’t ideal, Jagger admits, but in the webinar he demonstrates a number of powerful but often overlooked ONESOURCE organizational tools that can help ease the burden, particularly in the area of file management and document sharing.
For example, one of the main challenges of a quarter close is keeping track of all the moving parts, especially when data from preparers starts pouring in and it gets more difficult to keep track of who has done what and when. In the office, a system of checklists and notes that everyone could see may have worked, but cultivating that general team awareness is more difficult online.
An easy solution is to use Workpapers as a central repository and document organizer. When data starts pouring into Tax Provision, for instance, customized folders in Workpapers can be used to organize data and documents however one chooses. The advantage of using Workpapers for this purpose is that it can automatically consume data in almost any file format, including Excel, PDF, Word, text files, CSV, and many others. Used in this way, Workpapers becomes a file-format-agnostic repository that can be accessed by the entire team, and everyone can know what has and hasn’t been done at any given time, 24/7.
“Workpapers is an extremely flexible tool that can be especially helpful now, when we are all working at home and collecting information from everyone is more difficult,” Jagger explains.
Once folders are set up in Workpapers, it’s also extremely easy to add or attach other documents to them, either individually or en masse, using a simple drop-down checklist.
Organization and Workflow
Another area where Workpapers can help is in basic organization. Thomson Reuters has much more robust workflow management tools, of course, but if all you need is a simple “to-do” list, that capability already exists in ONESOURCE. It’s included so that users don’t have to keep a separate checklist outside the platform.
Workpapers is also set up to allow for various types of annotation. For example, the “notes” function allows users to quickly add or leave notes to track progress or alerts for other team members. Once a task has been completed, folders can also be locked down to prevent further access.
If your organizational challenge requires a more dynamic to-do list, Workflow Manager can easily pick up the slack. Workflow is designed to help tax professionals gain control over their entire tax workflow by allowing users to manage, track, and analyze data at every step in the process. Built-in document management and collaboration tools also allow teams working remotely to share data and communicate progress (or problems) that the entire team should be aware of. Either way, Workflow allows remote users to maintain control over even the most complex tax processes by providing a smarter, more intuitive digital workspace.
Another helpful organizational tool is FileRoom, which is a file-organization tool that allows users to search for documents using metadata. This capability is especially helpful with large, unwieldy data sets that defy easy searches, saving a great deal of time, money, and frustration. And if more data oversight is necessary, there’s always DataFlow, which is a sophisticated data-management platform that can pull data from both Workflow and FileRoom into a centralized workspace, where it can be analyzed or used for any other purpose, including provisions and compliance.
Native Tools and Extra Support
When working remotely, communication is often the biggest roadblock, because the spontaneous interactions that occur in an office don’t happen naturally online.
To help create smoother, more organic team interactions, Tax Provision users have several options to add notes, attachments, and other communications to source data natively within the platform. If a question arises, it’s also helpful to know that all data changes are tracked in the background, including where the data came from, what type of change was made (addition or update), and when the change took place. This information is easily searchable, and is available anywhere within a click or two.
Several other tips and best practices are addressed in the webinar as well, including how to conduct effective online meetings and take maximum advantage of the Thomson Reuters support network, which has been expanded during Covid-19 to include direct access to subject-matter experts and additional help navigating an all-digital close process.
A Less Stressful Quarter Close
No one knows when office life will return to normal, but ONESOURCE users can take some comfort in knowing that they have at their fingertips a multitude of tools to help ease the stress and inconvenience of executing a quarter close from home.
In fact, learning how to use the platform’s full capabilities makes it possible for tax teams to work just as efficiently from home as they do in the office. Furthermore, developing this kind of online, team-based competence helps create resilience and flexibility for the future. With the right tools and processes in place, tax teams can be confident in their ability to get the job done, no matter what the circumstances.
Unless of course a five-year-old decides to squeeze Go-Gurt on your keyboard, in which case a temporary work stoppage is, alas, unavoidable.
To learn more about how ONESOURCE can take the stress out of working from home, watch “Close the Quarter from Home: ONESOURCE Tips and Tricks.”