Sam Cicogna, VP of Professional Services and author of the new whitepaper, “Tax Software Implementations- What Your Department Needs to Know” shares his thoughts on best practices for tax departments taking the next step of implementing a software.
Q: Why was it important for you to write this whitepaper?
A: Over the years, I’ve worked on many different software implementations both as a Thomson Reuters employee and in my prior tax department roles. During this time I have seen what works and what doesn’t. It’s meant as a thought provoking model for tax departments either going through the process now or considering software to improve their current process.
Q: Why are software implementations such a relevant topic right now?
A: Studies show that more and more corporations are turning to tax provision software both domestically and globally. In addition companies are investing heavily in their solutions at a time where every dollar spent needs to count. It’s important to show the return on that investment. A critical aspect of that ROI is the way the software is implemented. If it’s done in a less than ideal way, it can lead to inefficient processes and frustrations that may not be necessary.
Q: Generally speaking, when is the best time for companies to implement new tax accounting software?
A: Every tax department is different so that’s a difficult question to answer. In my opinion the approach is just as important as the time. When can you assign resources? How will those resources handle both implementation and day to day activities? Are you able to bring in short term help to achieve the total tax department workload? Is there some outside factor that is pushing you towards an end goal? These are all critical questions to answer in determining the best timing.
Q: In your whitepaper, you emphasize three main stages of a successful implementation. Can you summarize them?
A: Stage One: Analysis & Design– In this stage, it’s important to examine the current process and identify bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement. It’s also important to determine as much of the plan up front as possible to avoid re-work.
Stage Two: Configuration & Implementation– This is the part of the project that is most familiar to people. It’s the system setup and replication process. The end game of this phase is to get the software ready to be used.
Stage Three: Testing & Rollout – This is the stage that involves user testing, training and transition to those who will be administering and using the system in the future.
Q: How long should people feel unsettled in the new process before it doesn’t feel “new” anymore?
A: While this is different for everyone, the new processes, tools and outputs will take some time and effort to establish comfort. In many cases, it may take a full cycle (or a year) before the end users really feel like they are experts. Over the course of that time, there will be some who learn quicker than others and there will definitely be efficiencies gained, however just like any new process the second time around is always easier than the first.
Q: What’s the one piece of advice you would give someone when choosing a service provider?
A: Take a step back to look at what you are trying to achieve and if you are evaluating costs make sure you evaluate them all. Often companies will look to someone internally who’s been the keeper of the excel templates or and admin for another product to implement with little to no experience. While this can work, often times it doesn’t. This can put a valuable resource into a difficult situation. They do not want to disappoint superiors but may not know how get the job done. There is also a cost of the time and effort of not only that resource but others in the department spending time on a less than ideal process that could have been better.
Also, make sure you are spending your consulting dollars wisely. It’s very important to know who you are working with and what their background is. Do they really know the software you are paying them to implement? How long have they used it? Do they know the best practices? How much training have they had? When was that training? These are all important things to understand in making your decision.