Tax Transformation is Getting Faster and Easier (Really)

  • February 11, 2016

“Time is the measure of business.”
— Francis Bacon

Bacon’s wise observation from nearly 400 years ago is complemented by some modern wisdom from MIT Sloan Research Scientist George Westerman that Gartner’s Paul Stokes recently tweeted (and I retweeted): CIO[s] must allocate their time not to where the budget is but to where the org is meant to be by shaping it to where it can be.

As a CIO, I wholeheartedly agree. As a Vertex executive dedicated to helping corporate tax functions around the world unleash their strategic potential, I’m struck by this insight’s applicability to tax.

Business technology advancements in recent years enable IT functions and their companies to deploy current-period budget and activities to shape longer-term growth and value while driving transformation. In the not-so-distant past, this just wasn’t the case.

Back then, technology transformation took the form of massive, costly, multi-year information system implementations. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) projects routinely consumed tens of millions of dollars and two to three years of precious time.

Today, projects are viewed through a very strict lens of how soon they will produce value and create a return on the investment. Expectations in our rapidly-moving world are set by App stores that deliver solutions immediately. Sure, real systems in companies cannot be installed in a simple App Store download, but the days of taking years to realize value are fading fast, if not gone already.

Fortunately, tax leaders no longer need to make such a request. Instead, they can allocate portions of their current budgets to achieve more iterative and cost-efficient strides toward transformation. In IT, we historically tended to segment technology spending into run-the-business, grow-the-business and transform-the-business investment. Advancements in cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology allows companies to efficiently pursue “grow” and “transform” investments while also making their “run” investments less capital intensive and thus open to more rapid evolution and improvement.

The first step to doing so is recognizing that the opportunity exists. The next steps include finding supporting tax technology that is:

  • Flexible: You want a tax technology platform that can meet your needs in a step-wise fashion; deploy it to address a specific business problem, see how it works, and then pivot to another area that the platform can help transform.
  • Fast: Cloud and SaaS solutions should require hours, days or, at most, weeks to deploy – not months or years.

Bacon’s pre-Twitter insights on time and business, show that he was not only a world-class philosopher, statesman and artist, but also something of a futurist. Technology and tax professionals ought to keep his words—and Westerman’s related observations – top of mind today as they figure out the quickest and most cost-efficient ways to get their functions future-ready.

Please remember that the Tax Matters provides information for educational purposes, not specific tax or legal advice. Always consult a qualified tax or legal advisor before taking any action based on this information.

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