Welcome! I’m Tricia Schafer-Petrecz, Public Relations and Social Media Lead at Vertex… You’re listening to Tax Matters, a Vertex podcast.
In this episode, business writer Eric Krell speaks with Vertex Senior, Director Program Management - Commercial Software Robin Allen. Robin has two decades of IT experience across multiple industries, including time as a CIO. She’s a sought-after speaker, and her presentations sometimes link her experience as a coach and an artist to her passion for technology.
Here, Robin speaks to the growing interest in the cloud and offers tips for tax professionals who are learning -- and making decisions about -- cloud-based tax technology. She also draws an interesting parallel between cloud customer centricity and personal customer centricity.
After hitting on the IT expectations tax leaders should keep in mind when pursing new technology investments, Robin wraps up the discussion by looking at the key components of an effective business case for new cloud tax technology.
Now, I’ll turn it over to Eric and Robin…
Eric Krell: Robin, as a technology leader with deep cloud experience, help me understand the most notable factors driving interest in cloud-based technology, and especially cloud software.
Robin Allen: Technology plays a very important role in our lives, and it’s changing quickly. Many drivers today are pushing organizations to think about cloud-based technology. COVID, digital transformation, and remote work combined with the heightened desire for efficiency make cloud-based technology top of mind in organizations. Buying it and doing it yourself is a balance. It’s important to ask questions like: What makes sense as an organization? Do we really need to do it ourselves? What is the value? Is this the best app value I can offer my customers? These are just a few things you should think about when contemplating cloud-based technology.
Eric Krell: Tax leaders who haven’t yet implemented cloud-based tax technology are likely to consider doing so soon. Tax functions with some cloud-based capabilities may want to expand their usage. What features and benefits tax leaders should look at when assessing cloud-based tax technology investments?
Robin Allen: First, have a strategy or an approach. And that doesn’t have to be “big bang.” Instead, your approach can be very iterative. Look at new vs. existing systems. If you’re looking at something new, then think cloud-first. If you’re considering an existing system, you have the control when you move or migrate. It can be paced in a way that is not upsetting to your business.
Think about cloud-based technology in the following ways…It’s zero cost upfront. You’re not making any huge investments that you have to worry about when you’re making the decision. Get more when you need it. It scales when you scale. It also scales up, and it will scale down. You pay for what you consume. You can give some of your resources relief and work on more strategic work. Last, as I said earlier, avoid the big bang. That way, you can do it when you want to, when you’re most comfortable.
Eric Krell: Can you share suggestions for tax leaders and professionals who are currently trying to learn as much as they can about cloud capabilities?
Robin Allen: Don’t feel overwhelmed, and ask questions. There’s a lot of information on the Internet, vendors are coming at you from all different places. So, do your due diligence. Gather information, understand the environment and your culture. Partner with information technology to help you understand needs related to architecture and processes that you may not feel comfortable with. Find a buddy, in other words -- and technology is your buddy. You may need to shift perception as an organization, so it helps to have a plan, one that addresses change management. Not everyone will buy into this concept of cloud-based technology. Understand your options -- primarily public vs. private -- and continue to learn. Ultimately, if you can find a vendor that can partner with you, they will help you along this journey.
Eric Krell: I like that you’ve talked about the parallel between personal customer-centricity and cloud customer-centricity. Tell me why each of those pieces are important to you and how they can help tax leaders manage cloud-technology investments.
Robin Allen: I’ll start with the personal piece. I believe that if things start with you, you as an individual, and then how you show up is then how the world goes from there. I see myself as my own customer. As a customer to myself, I want to know who I am, I want to know who my stakeholders are in my world. I want to listen carefully. I want to understand the economics of decisions that I’m making in my personal life. And then I pilot -- I try things and I partner. So there’s a willingness on my behalf to explore. When I think of that from a cloud customer-centricity standpoint, there some keywords are very much the same. In your personal life, you generally don’t call your family stakeholders, even though they are stakeholders. Again, it’s about knowing who your customer is, know who your stakeholders are, and listening carefully to them. Economics are a part of everything. I don’t want to spend too much money. I have a certain budget, but within our own organizations, we also have a spending capacity that we need to be thoughtful about. Communicate the new vision with branded visuals and words, don’t assume everyone gets it. You need to find ways to create connection points, so people get the big picture. And again, pilot and partner.
Eric Krell: As someone who thrives in both domains, what IT expectations should tax leaders consider when collaborating with their IT colleagues?
Robin Allen: Understand that there are apps related to IT strategy for cloud-based technology. Don’t be that silo that goes off and does it on its own. It’s a partnership, so leverage the skills that each area brings to the table. There are tax experts, and there are technologists. Bring that together. Everyone plays a role. Ask for a pilot, work together, volunteer at trying something new. The last thing I’ll share, because I often heard this in my past, this: Do not say that the vendor said, “I do not need IT.” That’s just not true.
Eric Krell: Finally, what are the primary components of an effective business case for cloud-based tax technologies?
Robin Allen: There are the finances -- there’s always a cost to this. I mentioned that there is zero upfront cost. Over a period of time, depending on what you’re doing, it will cost something. Understand the different types of models. I mentioned private vs. public, and I mentioned scaling. Those activities will all come into play as they relate to the type of model that you select. That model also has a direct implication on what your costs ultimately will be. Be flexible in adopting new ways of thinking, find a balance and start with something smaller. That approach gives you the ability to pivot quickly, and it also helps you partner more effectively. Also, be open to new functionality. And keep in mind several “don’ts: Don’t pick the biggest thing, don’t move the biggest thing, and don’t force the issue. Lastly, be open and ask for feedback, because it is going to help inform your next steps.
Eric Krell: Robin, thanks very much. I appreciate you taking time today, and look forward to connecting with you again in the future.
Robin Allen: Thank you.
Tricia Schafer-Petrecz: Thank you for listening to Tax Matters, a Vertex podcast…Check back here for more episodes soon.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.