How to make the most of your R&D claim automation software
The big question is - having made the choice to invest in R&D claim software - how do you get the most out of it?
R&D claim software is becoming increasingly common. While there are many different vendors, it generally promises to make it more convenient to work with R&D clients and easier to prepare R&D claims.
That's fantastic in theory, but how does it actually play out in practice?
How not to use your R&D claim software
What doesn’t work particularly well is simply lobbing it into your firm and expecting people to pick it up and run with it. Most people aren’t great with change, particularly when they’re busy and used to doing things a certain way.
If most of your people are brand new to preparing R&D claims, the chances are they’ll be a bit unsure about which clients to ‘point the system at’. They’ll feel like they’ve got a new tool, but one that comes without a comprehensive manual on how to use it.
Also, if your team are already used to preparing claims using templates, it can sometimes be hard to persuade them that software gives any better results or is any easier than what they know.
In short, introducing R&D claim software into your firm is often a significant change – and like any other change needs to be carefully managed.
Integrating R&D software into your accountancy practice
When running an R&D service, there’s a whole suite of tasks and processes you need a handle on. Most claim software will do a few of these things well, but they also tend to fall short in the same places.
You might find that the gaps are things like:
- Working out which clients in your portfolio to approach about R&D
- Explaining the scheme to your clients in a really clear way
- Teasing relevant detail about eligible work from your clients
- Making subjective assessments about whether work and costs qualify
- Prepping clients for conversations with HMRC
- Resolving HMRC enquiries
All the above form part of a solid R&D claim service. If you don’t get these things right, your clients won’t get the best experience, and your team will feel stressed and under pressure.
Take a look at the processes and skills your team already have and see where there are problems that the software isn’t solving. Once you’ve identified these gaps, there are a few things you can do to address them.
How to use your R&D claim software as an accountant
First, appoint an ‘R&D Champion’ within your firm. You want someone who is tech-savvy, enthusiastic, and able to help others around them. Your R&D Champion is the person who’s accountable to you and your clients for the quality of your service and how it’s delivered.
Secondly, you’ll want to make sure that team is following a standardised process for preparing claims. You might have this already – if not, your R&D Champion is probably the best person to create it. Ideally, you’d include things like peer-reviews and quality control checks, so that claims are not prepared by only one person. Key stages in the claim process should be logged so that you have an audit trail showing how the claim was prepared, by whom, and the date that your client approved it.
Thirdly, you’ll want to make sure that your team have the training they need to do maximise the value of the software. We wrote an article earlier this week on why we believe it’s essential to invest in training alongside your R&D software, and what can happen if you don’t.
Again, if you’re already doing this in-house, that’s great. If not, your R&D Champion could take on the role of training new staff in the nuances of the scheme. Many senior staff don’t have time for this, however, so it could be that outsourcing training and support makes more sense for your team.
In summary, R&D claim software can be a very powerful tool for your firm. But getting the best out of it requires some time and effort. Make sure you have the right change management process and invest in specialist training and support for your whole team.
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