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SWOT for Tax: Six Steps to Plan your Attack

SWOT for Tax: Six Steps to Plan your Attack

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  • 2 min.First, I’d like to thank RedMoon Solutions, an ACT 2010 and 2011 Pearl Sponsor, on behalf of ACT for hosting and sponsoring today’s webcast entitled “SWOT for Tax – Six Steps to Plan Your Attack”.For those of you who are new to ACT, I am Paul Mattiola, Director - Income Taxes at Verizon Communications. I am also the current Vice-President of ACT. ACT or the Association for Computers and Taxation is a non-profit educational organization that has been centered around education relating to tax and technology for corporate tax and technology professionals for the past 29 years. ACT is also considered to be the preeminent association for corporate tax professionals who are interested in advancing operational effectiveness through the broad use of technology. A national nonprofit educational organization, ACT is designed to provide a forum for tax professionals to stay abreast of trends in technology and to learn best practices that will help today's tax departments reach new levels of operational excellence. The educational opportunities we offer our members include bi-monthly webinars, such as this one, bi-monthly electronic newsletters, conferences, publications, such as survey results, and much more.
  • 2 minBefore we begin today’s webinar, there are a few ground rules we’d like to cover. We are going to keep the lines muted. If you have a question or concern during the session, you can use the Question feature being monitored by a Red Moon representative. At the end, we will answer as many questions as possible.Additionally, we ask that you exit out of all other applications that are currently running on your computer to optimize today’s viewing of the webcast. Today’s replay will be available after the webinar and can be found by clicking through the link on the ACT website. Please allow a few days for the presentation to be posted.Now, I’d like to introduce our presenter for today’s webinar – Kelley Lear. Kelley is the Managing Director for Red Moon Solutions, a company founded by the former CIO and head of Tax Technology Enterprises for Arthur Andersen LLP, as well as the H.O.T.D. for the Milwaukee Tax Practice of Arthur Andersen.Kelley Lear came over to Red Moon Solutions from Vertex, where she was the Director for Vertex Consulting and Tax Intelligence Solutions Leader. Kelley was on a leadership team that provided total solutions for Vertex customers, across all major tax types: income, sales & use, payroll, telecommunications, and VAT. These solutions included process re-engineering and design, products, integration/ETL tools, data collection and tax data warehousing. I would now like to turn it over to Kelley.
  • 4 min. - What are we going to do during this webinar is to give you a bit of grounding in terms of what a SWOT analysis or methodology really is, and how it could be useful in your tax department. Then, we are going to go through six steps you can use to “plan your attack”, meaning how you could put together a work shop or series of workshops that will help you to analyze a problem…a challenging process…or perhaps as a starting point to plan for a new tax regulation coming up that might actually require changing your internal processes and/or may even require systems analysis or implementing an entirely new solution. We will go over some real life examples of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats with the intent to make it a bit more real to you and practical. Last, we will discuss some next steps that you may want to consider after your SWOT. And as Paul mentioned, we will have some Q&A time at the very end of the webinar.
  • 1min. - So, what in the world is a SWOT? If the term SWOT immediately brought to mind the image of a highly trained team of folks who can come in tactically to and take down criminals, or immobilize a situation in a matter of minutes…then, you would be completely incorrect.
  • 3 min - SWOT is an acronymn for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is a planning tool that is used to understand strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a business or on a particular project or program. There is much debate in the “hallowed halls” of academia (Stanford, Harvard and other Ivy League schools) on the origins of SWOT. Most of the credit is given to Albert Humphrey who led a research project at Stanford University in the 1960’s and 70’s. Others give credit back to Harvard researchers and the Havard Policy Model as early as the 1920’s. Regardless of the origins, basically, some smart folks came up with some easy to use frameworks for analyzing your internal capabilities so that you can maximize and use your strengths to your advantage, create action plans to minimize your weaknesses or work around them, understand how you can better align these internal capabilities with external opportunities and lastly how you can mitigate against risks and/or threats to your project, program, department or organization. For those of you who took a lot of business courses and took any marketing or policy model type classes, and/or who went through your MBA like me, you may be very familiar with this type of analysis. We used it a lot during school to analyze organizational strategy in relation to competition, etc., however, I contend that it can be a very quick, easy and useful component to your tax department planning and special projects. And…I hope to show you a bit of this during the webinar with some practical examples.
  • 2 min - So, SWOT for tax is a process or analysis methodology that can be done in a workshop or series of workshops whereby you can get your team and/or a small group together who are stakeholders in a project or process, to brainstorm in a loosely structured way to achieve the most effective results. This could be used to analyze one piece of the tax lifecycle, such as data collection or audit through appeals, or the scope might include the entire tax lifecycle. Why I think these are great and so useful, is because it allows you to take time, get the team together and to open up a free flow of ideas…without fear of reprisal, and/or without leaving things unsaid. I can’t tell you how many times I have conducted these type of sessions, in addition to process mapping sessions and team members who told me that everyone thought things were working a certain way, but once we got underway in the session, things were revealed that were very different from common perception. And this is good. Knowledge is power. So, if you know what your strengths and weaknesses are for example, you can actually do something about them.
  • 3 min. - So, SWOT analysis can offer helpful perspectives at any stage of an effort. It really is an important and great tool to get communication started in your organization. I often use them as a starting point for analysis, and then I can put together an action plan with some details behind it to align with the results of the SWOT. Many times a component of that action plan would include process mapping and/or further research into a particular area. For example, in doing a SWOT to prepare for IFRS one element might end up being system capabilities with respect to IFRS compliance and therefore, one or more folks might be getting with IT and/or the ERP vendor or consultants to review what system capabilities will be in place to run multiple books, run analysis reports across books, etc. Some practical examples for what you might analyse in your tax department, might be to :look at the communication and data hand offs between Finance/Accounting and Tax. Maybe to look at re-engineering the FIN 48 process you have currently, or to see what types of new solutions you might want to implement with respect to FIN 48 or provision in general. Perhaps lifting up areas that are truly manual in nature such as apportionment, and fixed assets management, reconciling from book to tax, etc.
  • 2 min. - You might use it to: - Identify best practice procedures and to create “checklists” that you can use to standardize processes across your tax team and/or to capture intellectual capital from those in your tax department that have been doing and honing these processes for years and may be looking to retire soon.- Or to analyze the need for a workflow, document management or collaboration infrastructure for tax. Perhaps to identify ways that you can standardize and improve audit through appeals processes. And/or to simply determine where change might be needed or is even possible.I have used these workshops as a “plus/delta” type of exercise as well in which you can “debrief” with your tax team after year-end to see what type of plans for improvement in the process can be made for the coming year.
  • 1 min - So, SWOT analysis generates information that is helpful in matching an organization’s or in this case a tax department’s goals, programs, and capabilities and capacities to the social, business and in our case, regulatory environment in which it operates.
  • 3 min - OK, now we are going to roll up our sleeves- I am going to define, and then walk you through the six action steps with examples.There are four elements to a SWOT. Two internal and two external. The two internal elements are Strengths and Weaknesses. These are typically under your control already. Strengths of your program would be looking at what you really do well with respect to that lifecycle, tax process or within your department as a whole. What distinct advantages do you have due to the way you do things or due to decisions you have made, your structure, etc. These are things you want to continue to do, and perhaps leverage. And things you do not want to lose if you are re-engineering a particular process or implementing a new system. Weaknesses – Where can we improve, in the process, skillset, education, current resource mix, system failures or where they are falling short, etc. Perhaps manual processes, data integrity, reconciliation problems, etc. These are the things you want to fix or mitigate against.
  • 2 min - The two external factors are Opportunities and Threats. These are usually outside the realm of what you may control today.Opportunities – What can we do better in our tax department? Are there new corporate initiatives that we could piggy back on? New regulation that might be something we would want to take advantage of in some way? Resources that may be of assistance to us? Business and/or structural changes that might prove an opportunity for change in a good way?Threats – Would be obstacles or risks that we face. These could be audit related, regulatory, business structural changes, internal reorgs that are happening and/or system limitations that are currently in place. These are the things we want to make sure we have risk mitigation plans for.
  • 4 min. - Now we are embarking our our core mission…Step 1 – Plan your attack!The very first thing you need to decide is the “scope” of what you want to analyze. As I mentioned earlier, this could be a new tax law or pending regulatory issue, or it might be your entire tax department as a whole. In an example I was going to share, the tax department actually identified that they were most concerned about the interplay between tax and finance because as you know most of the data that tax consumes is sourced from accounting and finance. Therefore, they wanted to define their scope to include the very start of the process for provision and compliance with the data and information sharing between finance and tax. Once you determine the scope, you need to define the process for the workshop or series of workshops. How they will be set up (how many), what the ground rules for those sessions will be, what will be happening during those sessions and what the expected outcomes will be. I actually have a toolset that I will make available to participants that provides a structured way to document and setup the workshop as well as to share with your team members and participants to conduct the sessions effectively. For example, the ground rules are respecting each other and no personal attacks, free flow of ideas, no shooting down people’s thoughts, they actually get captured as they are offered up, staying on task, etc. Make sure you set up your room either on-site or off-site for the workshop. There needs to be no work interruptions and a white board and/or a series of flip charts. I always find it helpful to use a white board and several flip charts. I also would make sure that as you fill out the flip chart papers you post them up on the wall in plain view. Make a “parking lot” section on either the white board or one of the flip charts to capture arguable or controversial ideas, things that need additional discussion and/or research. That will help to keep you on track. One person will need to facilitate and one will need to be a scribe in order to capture the outcomes and discussion. We sometimes will record the session as well. Make sure that the facilitator and/or scribe is not actively participating in the discussion otherwise it will be difficult for them to do an effective job at either role.
  • 2 min. - OK, for the next couple of action steps, I will be outlining the parts of your workshop that will be focused on the internal factors under your control. So, brainstorming your strengths and weaknesses. The facilitator will be writing these up on the board and/or flip charts (which are labelled as such – either strengths or weaknesses). If you have a team that is a bit risk averse or afraid to speak their mind in a group, you can even have them fill out stickies from a sticky pad, anonymously and then stick them up on the board for review with the team. This might help with teams that find this kind of sharing challenging, or not their favorite thing to do. Let’s talk strengths – You need to identify what creates value in this process, or within your tax department and things you think you/your team do really well that you do not want to lose, and/or that you want to know so that you can leverage in the future. I will go through some examples on the next slide.Just make sure you divide the strengths into categories to make it easier for you to do your resulting analysis. Some categories would be assets, resources, specialized skills, systems, etc. It’s OK to pat yourselves on the back here. Let’s just make sure it is meaningful.
  • 1 min. Here are some examples:You may have a team of very senior tax professionals with exceptional skillsYou may have a group that already is able to communicate effectively and has built relationships with finance. You may already have a tax data warehouse or were lucky enough to be brought in on the ERP system implementation and have tax sensitized data that you can already leverage. You may have a dedicated tax technology resource that can help you navigate a system upgrade or selection process and/or determine how you can get the reconcilation reports or data you need, in the format you need it in?You may have a team member or members with certain technical skillsYou may have a pretty streamlined part of the tax or provision process already Or you may have some folks with excellent relationships with other groups that affect your process, such as finance, IT, etc. OR your team may just be a finely tuned machine that works very well together, no politics, communication issues, etc.
  • 1 min – when you brainstorm weaknesses you will need to make sure that folks don’t get defensive and feel free and comfortable sharing where they think things need to be changed, or where things are manual, inefficient or risky due to data integrity and other issues.Be sure to include staff issues, whether it is lack of training, lack of succession planning, lack of a certain skillset…or other issues such as missing or incorrect data, tax and technology resources, etc. The facilitator will need to be very interactive and supportive here of people’s feedback. That will be key to getting great brainstorming on weaknesses. I usually explain to people that I completely understand that we are working so heads down often times we haven’t as an organization allowed for continuous improvement, that we know they have had to work without the data, tools and resources they need to really get things done right, so don’t be afraid to speak up, it is no reflection on them at all….
  • 2 min - So, here are some examples of weaknesses. In the example of the company I provided to you earlier on, where their scope was to get to the heart of the finance/accounting and tax relationship, information and data exchange…they found their weaknesses to include a lack of accounting knowledge in their team, and a lack of tax knowledge in the accounting and finance group. Communication was a definite issue, and due to the fact that their data was not sensitized, they really needed good data from the ERP system, which they did not know how to pull on their own, and there were disparate thinking on how various accounts were even getting booked to – what was included and not included in certain account totals. There were lots of manual processes, reconciliations, and back and forth emails for simple data elements to support the provision process. Others are too quick a turn around time, no time to analyze the data at all. And even tough team dynamics.
  • 1 min - Step 4 – is the beginning of the external factors that you will be analyzing. These are things that could positively effect your project or processes. It could include IT initiatives within the organization as a whole, finance initiatives, and regulatory reform….even though those are not what you usually think of as opportunities, in some cases they may very well be.
  • 3 min - Here, some example opportunities might actually be IFRS or UTP (Uncertain Tax Positions this year)…as these might provide you a seat at the budget table for resources, process changes and technology solutions that will make your life easier and assist you in preparing and complying with these new initiatives.Also, I have many clients that have used business structure changes and large transactions as a great reason for the need of additional systems, training, etc. Others have been able to use an ERP Upgrade or a consolidated management tool upgrade such as HFM to facilitate the discussion on further tax sensitizing the GL. You already have a large project on the table and will be changing chart of accounts and other elements of the system, why not look at what will be effective for tax?An opportunity that was discovered in the client example I shared, was that the accounting/finance group had a team member very savvy in the ERP system as well as how things were getting booked, and was looking for a new and challenging position. Therefore, the tax group, transferred that person to their team and was able to get that person to assist in extracting data, running reports and communicating better with finance and accounting. Their relationships were well established and therefore very valuable to both teams.
  • 1 min. - Step 5 will be to brainstorm Threats. Again, these are external to your team typically, such as regulatory reform. You may also want to divide threats into categories and list them as current or future. This will help you to be clear and to make sure you are prioritizing effectively and thinking ahead.Threats could also include outdated technology, which could be threatening your staff and how you work? You may want to ask yourselves if your organization kept up with technological changes to accommodate this next generation of regulatory environment and transparency…etc.
  • 2 min. - Some example threats might be regulatory issues or changes pending that would require you to obtain additional data that you do not get today, to change processes or to do additional calculations that you do not have to do today. It probably also requires some learning and/or training to understand the implications and compliance.Structural changes either internally or through such transactions as acquiring or disposing of companies can mean tax process changes across all tax types, data needs, and system changes or disparate systems that need to be worked with or migrated.Audit activities such as the heightened cross border activity we are seeing for global companies or in the states that are hungry for cash, that are going after every bit of data you can provide.
  • So, in sum: A SWOT analysis identifies your S, W, O and T to assist you in making strategic plans and decisions. And is a simple way to assess the positive and negative factors within and outside of your organization, so you are better positioned to put a plan of action together.When you conduct this workshop you will find that some things will become very clear and key priorities will be easy to identify. You will want to come away with the details documented, but really end up with only a handful of each category. The ones that are the most pertinent or that hold the most weight per the scope of your analysis.You can decide if the team needs to help you as a group to end up with a handful of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, or if you can prioritize and summarize on your own. If you do have the team assist you during the session. You can do this by giving each person a pen or a sticky and allowing them to vote on the top five from each category, so pick their top five strengths from the session…and so on. The facilitator can then determine the “winners” and the final list for each. After this, you will be able to analyze the data and determine if any areas need further research, discussion or process mapping, or if you are able to put together some quick action items in place per the outcome. For example, in the scenario that I described earlier, the company transferred the finance employee over to tax. They trained that person internally and through formal training sessions on provision. And had that person take over the role of getting the data they needed from finance/accounting. They also had that person set up training sessions to regularly work with finance and accounting to help them to better understand the repercussions of account bookings and transactions that occur that affect tax. So, in sum, these sessions can be used to quickly come to a common understanding of how your current strengths and weaknesses can be used, leveraged or mitigated in the environment you are dealing with as well as how you can put together and prioritize a plan of action for change!
  • 5 minOK – now I’d like to turn it over to Paul.
  • 1 min.
  • 2 min.Thank you, Kelley. As I mentioned earlier, slides or replay from today’s webcast, can be found on the ACT website www.taxact.org , available in about a week.Also, before we conclude, I would like to mention our next webinar. Upcoming we have “Utilizing Technology to Drive Tax Business Processes” hosted by Deloitte on February 15, 2011 at 2:00EST. Registration for the next webinar will open soon. Additionally, we offer our webinars every other month, so be sure to check our website or watch your email for more information.Also, our next conference will be June 20-22, 2011 in San Diego, CA and will feature presentations by tax, technology, and tax technology professionals. This will be the only opportunity next year to network with your peers and tax technology industry leaders, so you won’t want to miss this event! The conference and hotel registration will open in December of this year. And, in the meantime, make sure you check out our website to find relevant materials to help you achieve operational excellence within your tax department, such as our bi-monthly eNews, previous webinars, and much more!
  • 1 minWe would like to thank everyone for attending, as well as RedMoon Solutions for hosting and sponsoring this webcast. If you would like to join ACT or would like more information about ACT, please visit our website at www.taxACT.org.Thank you again for attending. This webcast has now ended.

Transcript

  • 1. Presented by: Kelley Lear
    SWOT for Tax – Six Steps to Help Plan Your Attack!
    (1 hour)
    To access audio, use the GoToMeetingMic & Speakers feature when prompted
    OR
    Dial 484-589-1011 and enter Access Code #: 561-465-326#
    Audio PIN: 45
  • 2. Paul Mattiola
    Verizon Communications
    ACT Vice President
    Introduction
  • 3. Before we get started
    • You can use your computer Mic & Speakers if desired
    • 4. OR – you can call in to 484-589-1011 and enter Access Code #: 561-465-326#
    • 5. How to ask a question:
    • 6. Attendee lines are muted
    • 7. Please use the Questions feature to ask a question
    • 8. We will monitor and answer as many Qs as possible and have Q&A session at the end of the presentation
    • 9. Session is being recorded
    • 10. ACT website: www.taxACT.org
    • 11. RedMoon website: www.redmoonsolutions.com
  • Embark on a mission with us…
    • SWOT Overview
    • 12. Six Steps to Plan
    your Attack!
  • What is SWOT?? NOT SWAT…SWOT!
  • 18. What is a SWOT
    SWOT is an extremely useful tool for understanding and decision-making for all sorts of situations in business. SWOT is an acronym for Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.
  • 19. NOT just for Marketing!!
    • SWOT is a “process” and/or analysis methodology that can help you to easily get your team to analyze a piece of your tax lifecycle or the entire process
    • 20. It opens up team member thoughts and allows them to brainstorm freely and without fear!
    • 21. Brings good ideas to the table and lifts up areas for change and opportunities to excel.
  • How is a SWOT Helpful?
    A SWOT analysis can offer helpful perspectives at anystage of an effort.
    You might use it to:
    Explore possibilities for new ways to communicate with Finance and Accounting to get the data you need
    Make decisions about the process and solutions with respect to FIN 48 and provision
    Lift up manual processes associated with apportionment
    Identify manual processes and risks associated with fixed asset management data and processes
  • 22. How is a SWOT Helpful?
    You might use it to:
    Identify best practice procedures and create checklists
    Lift up the need for using a tax portal for collaboration and workflow in tax
    Identify the need to improve your audit through appeals processes
    Simply to determine where change is possible…
  • 23. How is a SWOT Helpful?
    • A SWOT analysis generates information that is helpful in matching an organization’s goals, programs and capacities to the social and business environment in which it operates.
    “Instead of worrying about the future, let us labor to create it.”
    Hubert Humphrey
  • 24. Four Key Elements…
    INTERNAL FACTORS
    What you as a tax professional can control
    • Strengths – What do we do well? List the strengths of your lifecycle (or slice of the process) and staff. What distinct advantages does your methodology or process offer?
    • 25. Weaknesses – Where can we improve? List the weaknesses of your process and staff? What are the challenges/risks that you may have? Are there manual tasks and room for error?
  • Four Key Elements…
    EXTERNAL FACTORS
    Currently outside your realm or what you control
    • Opportunities –What can we do better? What opportunities exist in the environment or other departments in the organization which will propel the organization? Identify them by their “time frames”.
    • 26. Threats – What obstacles do we face? Regulations, audit, structure changes, system limitations? Classify by seriousness, risk and probability of occurrence.
  • Step 1: Define your Attack!
    Define scope
    Define process
    Workshop process
    Ground rules
    Expected outcomes
    Setup room for workshop
    Flip charts
    White boards
    Scribe/recorder
  • 27. Step 2: Brainstorm STRENGTHS
    • Identify what creates value. A strength is something that makes your process valuable, what sets it apart from other processes.
    • 28. Divide the strengths into categories. They can be listed as assets, resources and specialized skills that your process or staff have available.
    • 29. Assess the specialized skills within your staff.
  • Step 2: Strengths
    Skill and/or knowledge of tax department resources
    Communication with finance
    Tax sensitized data
    Tax technology resource
    Excel or database skills
    Part of process – FAS 109/FIN 48
    Relationships within the company
  • 30. Step 3: Brainstorm WEAKNESSES
    • Analyze weak points of your process from an internal perspective. Where can you improve data quality or acquire the expertise that creates value?
    • 31. Identify weak points from a manual process, data integrity or knowledge point of view. Reasons why you might end up with an answer that has not had much review or analysis.
    • 32. Be sure to include things related to
    staff, missing or incorrect data,
    lacking skills, tax and technology
    resources.
  • 33. Step 3: Weaknesses
    • Turnover or retiring employees
    • 34. No knowledgeabletax accounting resource
    • 35. Communication with finance and IT
    • 36. No tax sensitized data
    • 37. Manual processes
    • 38. Poor teamwork
    • 39. Lack of time
  • Step 4: Brainstorm OPPORTUNITIES
    • Identify external factors that may positively effect the programs. These could be IT initiatives, Finance Initiatives, Tax Incentive Programs, Regulatory Reform, Staff Training…
    • 40. Identify realistic concepts that may stimulate growth or efficiencies in your process
    • 41. Identify new technologies to
    improve processes
  • 42. Step 4: Opportunities
    IFRS or UTP may provide a valid “argument” or ROI for budget
    Business restructuring
    ERP upgrade
    Industry organizations
    Enterprise systems used in other departments
  • 43. Step 5: Brainstorm THREATS
    • Identify external obstacles that
    may negatively impact the
    programs such as regulatory
    reform.
    • Identify weaknesses that
    threaten your program?
    • Divide the threats into categories.
    They can be listed as current
    or future.
  • 44. Step 5: Threats
    IFRS, UTP or other regulatory changes
    Business restructuring
    Heightened cross border
    audit activity
    Retiring employees
    States hungry for $$$
  • 45. Step 6: AFTER THE SWOT…Priorities and Planning
    Knowledge is indeed power, and knowing what the positives and negatives of your processputs you in a more powerful position for action.
    While a SWOT analysis is not in itself action, it can be a "support team" to help you:
    • Identify the issues or problems you intend to change
    • 46. Set or reaffirm goals
    • 47. Conduct a more in-depth
    process map
    • Create an action plan based
    on findings!!
  • 48. Thanks!
    Kelley Lear Kelley.Lear@RedMoonSolutions.com
    941-379-7108
    A
    Q
  • 49. Upcoming ACT Events
    Paul MattiolaACT Vice PresidentVerizon Communications
  • 50. Upcoming ACT Events
    • Bi – Monthly Webinar Series – Next Webinar
    • 51. February 15, 2011 2:00p.m. EST
    • 52. Utilizing Technology to Drive Business Processes
    • 53. Hosted by Deloitte.
    • 54. 2011 Annual Conference
    • 55. June 20-22, 2011
    • 56. Loews Coronado Bay Resort, San Diego, CA
    • 57. Registration will open later this month
  • Thank you for attending!
    The Association for Computers & Taxation and Red Moon Solutions appreciate the opportunity to spend time with you today and hope you found the presentation interesting and informative.
    If you desire more information about Red Moon Solutions, please call Kelley Lear @941-379-7108 or visit www.redmoonsolutions.com.
    OR
    If you are interested in joining ACT or finding out more information about the organization, please visitwww.taxACT.org or contact Brenda Jameson at: bjameson@taxact.org
    Thanks again for joining us!