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Onboard your team to make MTD work for youby
In the third instalment of our Taking control of Making Tax Digital series in association with Dext, we’ll explore how you can make your digital transition work for you and your team.
This sequence of five practical articles is aimed at giving practitioners the confidence and skills to ensure that their practice and clients are ready for the opportunities and challenges that MTD presents.
Unlocking your team’s potential
A purposeful approach to Making Tax Digital for income tax self assessment (MTD ITSA) starts with a clear vision for the value you want to provide to your clients. There are two main routes for implementing this vision: a targeted tech stack that delivers the capabilities you need and, even more importantly, your team.
When it comes to taking your business forward, your team can be your greatest enabler or your greatest challenge. We all have a natural attachment to the way we’ve always done things and managing change can be difficult, especially when externally dictated, as in the case of MTD ITSA.
However, it’s your responsibility to create a framework within the business that provides the motivation, structure and incentive for your team to come with you into your practice’s new digital future. In our experience, managing this change comes down to three things: accountability, measurability and visibility.
When thinking about who should be in charge of implementing new processes and technology, it’s natural to want to run everything yourself, however, this raises two big issues.
Firstly, if you are already a leader of the team you cannot do everything. If you’re already working at full capacity, something will have to give as the project may never get done. Secondly, by giving more of a stake in the change management process to your team members, you can give them a greater sense of control and engagement.
Responsibility vs accountability
A responsible team member can be defined as an individual who has been assigned a task and responsibility can be shared. Meanwhile, an accountable team member is ultimately answerable for the activity or decision. Only one accountable person can be assigned to an action.
People with the responsibility to complete tasks are quite often not the ones accountable for the overall success of the project. By splitting your project into separate tasks and actions you can ensure that every element of your MTD transition has a person attached who is responsible for that task being completed by the relevant deadline.
Delegating and empowering your team isn’t just about increasing capacity in your firm to manage change – it can also be a direct route into evolving the team itself. Moving to a primarily digitised workflow and system will require new skills and competencies in your business, which can either come from new hires or from your existing team.
Giving your team members specific responsibilities is an ideal way for them to acquire new skills and become internal experts in the new tools and processes you are implementing, helping them grow into what could become a more fulfilling role.
Targeting measurable success
Once you have people attached to areas of your project, you need to set measures for their success, and the success of your overall digital accounting transition. After all, if you can’t measure progress on your project, you can’t establish whether it has succeeded or not.
To be effective, it’s good to base your targets around the SMART model:
- Specific: Well-defined, clear, and unambiguous
- Measurable: With specific criteria that measure your progress toward the accomplishment of the goal
- Achievable: Attainable and not impossible to achieve
- Realistic: Within reach, realistic, and relevant to the purpose of your project
- Timely: With a clearly defined timeline, including a starting date and a target date, to create urgency.
The more detailed your targets, the more you can make each of these elements specific to the context around them. For example, you may have “Move all our MTD ITSA relevant clients onto cloud-enabled accounting software” as an overall goal. However, within this lies a range of challenges: some clients will be more inclined to use technology than others; some may have simpler tax affairs; and some may need to be moved to a new billing structure to absorb the software costs.
In this scenario, you need to make your targets more specific. By segmenting your clients into target groups, you can then approach them strategically. For clients with complicated tax affairs and an aversion to technology, you will need to leave a longer timeline in order for the target to be achievable and realistic.
In this scenario a SMART target might be approached like this: say you have 50 clients with simple tax affairs who need to move to compliant tax software.
- A specific goal would be to have all of them using compliant software by a target date
- To make it measurable, you need to clarify what that means, with “using compliant software” defined as having been trained on using it and logging in at least once a week
- To make it attainable you need to consider your available capacity and how many you can onboard per week/month/quarter
- The goal is realistic as it’s directly relevant to your overall project
- To make it timely, you set a reasonable time for achieving this, and then make sure you can check in on it regularly over the course of the project.
Connecting with visibility
Even the best-laid plans need motivation and regular reviewing after they are created. Your MTD ITSA transition needs to be managed alongside your existing workload and responsibilities, meaning client emergencies, personal issues or process challenges could well crop up.
It’s essential to create visibility over your project to ensure that it is moving forward correctly, that you can catch issues and revise plans where necessary to keep everything on track. There are multiple ways to create visibility of your progress, and most firms will need to employ a combination of these:
- Regular, brief “standup” style meetings that check-in on key goals to ensure progress
- Having key numbers visible in the office or on an easily accessed digital dashboard to motivate your team, such as percentage of clients migrated or ITSA submissions done digitally
- Responsible team members proactively reporting on their progress at regular intervals.
You may even want to choose a team member to be accountable for creating visibility over the project, gathering progress reports from team members and presenting them to the rest of the business. However you choose to do it, the more your team can see what they’ve achieved and how far there is to go, the more agile, dedicated and engaged they will be.
Take control of your future
At Dext, we’re helping thousands of firms create future-ready processes that benefit clients, owners and the bottom line. No matter where you are on the journey towards compliance, time-saving technology, support and advice are always available from our expert team.
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I joined Dext as a Product Domain Expert in January 2021 having spent the previous 21 years in practice where I was a partner heading up the firm’s cloud accounting offering. ACCA qualified since 2003 I led the firms MTD and digital strategy, submitted the first-ever VAT return under MTD in the UK with QuickBooks, and provided support on...