Making Tax Digital: An 8-Step Process for Leading Change

This week Finance Monthly hears from Nick Williams, Head of Business Development at UK Accountants, Intuit, who discusses change management methodologies and outlines an 8-step process for accountancy firms to apply Dr John P. Kotter of Harvard Business School’s methodology to ensure a smooth transition to Making Tax Digital. These are changing times in the […]

This week Finance Monthly hears from Nick Williams, Head of Business Development at UK Accountants, Intuit, who discusses change management methodologies and outlines an 8-step process for accountancy firms to apply Dr John P. Kotter of Harvard Business School’s methodology to ensure a smooth transition to Making Tax Digital.

These are changing times in the UK’s accounting industry. Making Tax Digital (MTD) is the biggest overhaul to the taxation system in decades, and firms are not only adopting new ways of working, but they are completely re-thinking business models to meet the evolving needs of their small business clients.

The shift to digital accounting introduces new opportunities for accountants to take on more of a financial advisory role, providing real-time insights and strategic guidance to grow their clients’ businesses. However, while the shift to digital accounting is part of a wider push to digital in nearly all aspects of both our business and personal lives, the enormity of it cannot be underestimated. To ensure a smooth transition for their practice and their clients, accountants would do well to approach it in the same way as any other change management programme.

One of the most well-known change management methodologies is by Dr John P. Kotter of Harvard Business School, who observed countless leaders and businesses as they were trying to transform and execute their strategies, and developed the 8-Step Process for leading change. Here’s how accountancy firms can apply the same methodology to ensure a smooth transition:

  1. Establish a Sense of Urgency: For months – years perhaps – we’ve been saying “it’s not too late to be early” to prepare for MTD. Communicate the message internally and externally that now it is in fact is a bit too late to be early. It really is time to move forward with cloud-based accounting to avoid a last-minute panic when deadlines approach.
  2. Create the Guiding Coalition: Having dedicated “experts” flying the flag for digital accounting will help to ensure broader education among all employees on the forthcoming regulations. Start a process to train fee earners on your preferred cloud software and have “champions” trained as soon as possible.
  3. Develop a Vision and Strategy: Think about how you can use MTD to seize new market segments or opportunities. For example, there are an estimated 1.75 million landlords in the UK, and all those earning more than £10,000 from property income will be liable for Making Tax Digital. For some, recording transactions online will be a first, and they will likely seek counsel from dedicated experts. Be one step ahead by positioning yourself as a future-ready firm.
  4. Communicate the Change Vision: Once employees are up to speed on the changes, running a Making Tax Digital marketing campaign with clients is critical. Telephone calls, emails, client letters and even social media marketing will help to communicate these changes, and position your practice as a firm that is there for its clients every step of the way.
  5. Empower Employees for Broad-Based Action: Some firms and their clients will be new to digital accounting; however, employees should be given freedom to experiment with different ways of working. Periods of change are frequently followed by periods of innovation, so try not to hamper any enthusiasm as employees “test and learn” to drive better outcomes for their clients.
  6. Generate Short-Term Wins: Employees and clients will be more receptive to digital accounting if they see immediate benefits. Highlighting the time saved from less manual entry and the benefits gained from automation, for example, can help staff members see the potential of their roles to evolve from keeper of historical records to real-time financial advisor.
  7. Consolidate Gains and Produce More Change: Use data to establish what changes have driven the best rewards for clients and share best practices across the business.
  8. Anchor New Approaches in the Culture: Reward employees who share examples of how they have used digital accounting to achieve a better outcome, and encourage sharing, feedback and open discussion as you adopt new technologies to take your practice to the future.

By adopting a change management mindset, firms can ensure they stay ahead of the curve and have a business set up for long-term success.

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