Conspicuously Absent from Tax Transformation is … Transformation

Instead, the delusion of transformation is rife!

Acknowledgement Simon Butler and his book of the same name

Tax Transformation efforts have become almost ubiquitous, at least in name. Yet, when measured against recognized references such CXO Transform, Digital Transformation People, or the teachings of taxology, they frequently have little or no transformation in them.

This is a shame because it is now a prerequisite for genuine success in the digital realm.

So, why is it missing? Well, for two main reasons. Firstly, it is challenging and hard; and secondly, it is the polar opposite of all that’s familiar (hint: the clue is in the name, “transformation”, that is the end state bears little or no resemblance to the start state).

Surely, it cannot be that different“, the people cry, “It’s still just a project, right!?”.

No, not really – it’s more of a journey than a project, and there are some outlandish aspects to deal with. For example, the more than you learn about it, the more you realize you must take into account that under true digital transformation:

  1. Automation is not the main objective;
  2. A meaningful project plan is all but impossible;
  3. It cannot be mandated or controlled;
  4. The tax SMEs no longer know the requirements; and,
  5. A direct ROI cannot be determined.

These are radical reveals to say the least. Some of the points can be argued but they do demonstrate the depth of the discussion around transformation. However, the following are far less disputed:

  1. It starts with a vision, not a plan;
  2. It is driven entirely by people, process, technology, and ‘data’;
  3. Pre-digital cultural imprints must be broken;
  4. Outcomes are uncertain; and,
  5. It requires leaders and leadership, not managers.

So, what does your current tax transformation effort look like? Is it driven by requirements, process maps, MS Project Plan, KPIs, RACIs and slideware? If so, then discovery, digital learning, effective explore workshops, tolerance for failure, and above all, ‘data’, are all being suppressed, and real transformation cannot take place. It is a delusion and your project should be renamed “incremental improvement”.

In a way this is fine, but it offers no response to digital disruption in tax. That requires new thinking, stout souls, and “unfriending” some old faithful ways that are quashing innovation. Otherwise, you are sure to overspend, underachieve, miss expectations, and probably end up with more problems than you started with. You also avoid creating the new future that the digitalization of tax demands.

In truth, you probably need both for a while, but for the sake your initiative, your organization, your colleagues, your career, and the tax industry as a whole, please take a step back and look again at the true nature of digital transformation. It is no longer an option.

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