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automation

Preparing for Automation

For tax professionals with many years of experience in the field, automation can seem like technological overreach. Any change or disruption to a workflow developed over many years of practice is going to be met with resistance. However, automation is important for any firm looking to improve efficiency and generate more revenue.  

Why automation?

Automation’s main purpose is to save your firm time by completing repetitive, tedious tasks without human intervention or error. Automation creates efficiencies that free up staff for more meaningful work and reduces errors. For any firm looking to grow, scale their business, or expand their offerings to services such as advisory, automation can be your best friend. 

Any automation is better than none, but for firms looking to truly transform the way they do business, the following advantages of automation have the biggest impact on day-to-day operations. 

Automation helps firms: 

  • Stay current with recent tax law changes 
  • Recruit/Retain top employees 
  • Increase productivity 
  • Prepare your firm for growth and future technology 
  • Increase collaboration between staff and clients 

Stay current with recent tax law changes

The tax and accounting world is moved by the laws and regulations put in place by governing bodies. During the past couple of years these changes have come at unprecedented rates, with COVID relief bills, never-ending extensions, and a change in administrations. Staying current with tax laws is as important and as difficult as ever.  Adding a research platform like Checkpoint Edge to your automation tech stack improves efficiency and helps your firm stay up to date with the latest regulatory changes by offering one place to research multiple trusted sources. 

Recruit/Retain top employees

Top employees expect to use modern tools to perform their work duties, collaborate with others, conduct research, and complete administrative tasks, especially those new to the profession. They expect a world beyond Excel spreadsheets. They want to engage in more meaningful work rather than manual tasks like inputting data in multiple worksheets or retrieving data for analysis.  

Today’s employees want to be able to:  

Work remotely and recent events like COVID-19 have demonstrated the importance of this flexibility. Working remotely can take the sting out of the long hours required, especially seasonally, to move their career forward, creating the work-life balance that is important to today’s professionals.  

  • Work across devices and connections. Staff expect to stay connected when they’re not in the office. This might mean completing work at their kitchen table or sending an important message from the gym.  
  • Have digital paths to research that bring the same simplicity of search engines like Google to complex tax and accounting issues. Your staff and clients expect digital experiences to simply work and increase access to accounts. Are you meeting those expectations? 
  • Use tools that are intuitive. While they don’t have to match consumer apps’ sleekness and simplicity, the look, feel, and flow must be modern.  
  • Do all of this while their client data remains secure.  

Without these modern conveniences, tax and accounting firms run into problems recruiting and retaining key talent, who will likely look for employment with firms that can offer these technological advantages.  

Increase productivity

Automating tedious tasks allows accountants to free up time to go beyond simple compliance and provide clients with the best possible service. 

Prepare your firm for growth and future technology

Developing a technological roadmap that allows your technology to grow alongside your firm is important for the scalability of your business.  

Increase collaboration between staff and clients

Today’s consumers expect the conveniences of technology. Clients are losing patience with entering the same information multiple times, downloading applications, and navigating complexity. Now they expect instant access to their data and the accompanying analysis. They expect simple, easy-to-use online engagement. They expect to transact business, such as submitting information, completing forms, and signing documents, on digital platforms. They expect intuitive and secure digital experiences. When a firm can’t meet these expectations, it risks losing clients to a competitor that can.  

An immense benefit to any technology-based solution is increased flexibility. With cloud-based systems, your firm will be able to collaborate in real time with your clients from anywhere in the world, only restricted by access to internet. The increased touchpoints can be essential for expanding and scaling your business.  

Starting down your path to modernization

Once a firm has embraced the idea of digital transformation, what’s next? Surprisingly, the transformation doesn’t start with the solutions — it begins with people and processes. Shifting to a new technology requires a firm to look internally at how it does things and reimagine business model processes to fit the new technologies. When deploying technology, firms shouldn’t be afraid to change the way they work. Firms of all sizes should also initially focus on their clients and their staff. Are employees currently doing work that has value to clients, or is it just busywork? Are employees fulfilled in their work? Are they happy with their work-life balance? Can clients easily access their account data on their own? Are they getting value from your services?  

Once these questions have been answered, firms should start plotting their roadmap to align new services and technology solutions. Start simple by asking:  

  • How do you move from basic modernization to advanced technology?
  • How do you ensure employee learning and development includes technology?
  • How do you keep pace with competitors?
  • How can technology help to evolve your employee culture continuously?
  • Where are you on that continuum, and what are the next steps you need to take to get to the next level?

How to get everyone on board

With any change, there may be some resistance. Getting your team to understand the benefits of new technology should not be difficult, but having a clear plan is important. It is also important to get input from staff and be transparent in the planning process to maintain employee morale and limit fear. 

Conclusion

Firms that want to transform their business, diversify offerings, and grow their practice & bottom line must first streamline their tax workflows and create efficiencies, freeing up time to focus on change.  

Enter automation. Through automating manual aspects of your tax workflows, you can unleash your talent’s real potential on what matters most: analyzing data, advising clients, and uncovering new opportunities. At Thomson Reuters, we are leading the way in digital transformation, through AI, automation and cloud-based tax solutions. If you’re ready to transform your firm, now is the time to join us on this journey.

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