Making Tax Digital (MTD) will put many practices under pressure when it comes into effect for all VAT registered companies in April 2019. For those who haven’t started the transition, there are only nine months to go until the deadline. Moving hundreds of VAT clients to online software in under a year is an enormous task that requires a solid action plan.
To ensure a successful MTD transition, getting your team ready is vital. With some careful planning and communication, it’s not too late to support your clients through their transition to online ahead of HMRC’s April deadline. Here are four ways you can get your team and your practice in shape.
Understand the scope of the project
Segment your VAT clients to understand how much work awaits your team. Based on our experience, we think you’ll need to allocate three hours per client when converting data from desktop software to Xero. You’ll then need to think about who’ll be responsible for onboarding and training clients, as well as providing them with ongoing support. It’s important that you consider how this process will affect your team’s current responsibilities and working practices.
Involve your team from the get-go
Introducing new technology into a business is often a challenge. Change can be hard for some employees who are more comfortable doing business ‘the way it’s always been done’. Staff reluctance is nothing unusual – but it does need to be preempted so as not to delay implementation.
Your team is your biggest asset in this process, so help them understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Communication is vital from the get-go. Guide your team through your thought process – a back-story and some context can be helpful for your team to understand the reasons behind the transition.
Support your team through the process
Once they know the why and the what, they’ll want to hear the how. Provide a realistic view of how the transition will be made and how it’ll impact people’s current roles. The good news is that how your team currently operates will not change dramatically. But, how they actually do their job will change – make that distinction clear.
For example, in many firms, client managers don’t go near the ledger. Typically, that’s the responsibility of associates. Xero doesn’t change that, but it does streamline the flow between these two roles. Associates focus on keeping the data clean and up-to-date, while your client managers interpret that data for client communication. It’s a bit different than before, but ultimately the job of each employee hasn’t changed. The benefit is that Xero helps you focus on the jobs your team already does to maximise value
Get your team on board
There are two key concepts to consider when getting your team on board. The first is transparency and communication – which we’ve discussed above. The second is showcasing the benefits of the new technology for both the business and your employees. Your team will get on-board faster if they can see how the new software enhances their day-to-day work.
For example, bringing your practice and your clients on to Xero means your team can access client or practice information anytime, anywhere, across any device. It also takes care of a lot of manual work, which frees up your team to focus on existing clients or new business. Essentially, staff can do more in less time which is a major boost for productivity.
Outline who is doing what
The transition is going to require certain employees to go above and beyond their normal duties. You need to appoint trusted team members with appropriate experience and aptitude into these key roles:
- The executive sponsor: A decision maker in the firm who can influence the firm’s migration to Xero. This role has final approval of any decision or change to be implemented. Their role is to manage any employee concerns and keep communication channels open. They work closely with the Xero account manager as well as attending Xerocon, Xero Roadshows and other relevant partner events. They are also responsible for appointing and managing the project leads and champions.
- The project lead: Works closely with the firm’s executive sponsor and Xero to manage the implementation. They need to ensure that the migration delivers against your firm’s vision, tracks progress, identifies any issues, oversees the client migration and sees to it that your team has all the necessary Xero knowledge and skills.
- The champion: An expert in new workflows and supporting technology. Think of the champion as the go-to for all things Xero who can help the project manager with technical product support and best practices.
Depending on the size of your firm, a role could be performed by the same person or shared among the team.
It’s important to identify which staff are going to be affected by a sudden surge of clients moving online and how this will impact their work. For example, staff who are used to processing clients’ data at year end, may all of a sudden have a lot less to do. With the data now sitting in the software, automated functionalities such as find and recode, and cash-coding will take care of a lot of tasks.
As a result, we’ve seen a huge increase in firms utilising qualified accountants to check their clients’ Xero accounts on a quarterly basis. It means the accountant can engage in real-time with a client and advise them on their growth objectives during the year, not just at year-end. It also means the data at year end is a lot cleaner as mistakes are spotted sooner.
The people approach
Managing change is about making sure your people are ok at every step of the way. Preparing your business for Making Tax Digital with Xero is no different. Communication, transparency and an ability to deal with issues effectively as they arise are key. And with Xero on-side, you’ll have access to our partner program which provides a wealth of resources and support. There really is no time to delay, get your practice – and people – ready for MTD today.