Turn Risk into Opportunity:
Focusing on Value and Supporting Profitability
Most businesses accept that they have “customers”, people who pay for the products and/or services that the business provides. However, the customer many businesses fail to recognize is the “internal” customer – the consumer of services delivered internally to the organization. These customers, most frequently recognized as co-workers and team members, depend upon the services delivered to them in order to do their jobs for the company. This dependency represents the value of the service, and every organization has a need to get as much value as possible for the cost they expend for these services. When the business approaches these internally delivered services as profit centers rather than pure cost centers, the impact to the business could highly beneficial as the application of resources gets focused on building strategic benefit for the company and not simply on supporting status quo.
Calling a part of the business a profit center doesn’t mean it’s going to sell services externally for money. Rather, it means that the activities of the department can have a direct and meaningful impact to business profitability, and are participants in the development and facilitation of business strategy. Profit centers can come in many flavors in a business, and may be identified as managers and owners reflect on areas of the business where changing conditions may introduce business risk. Risk often translates to opportunity at some level.
A fairly obvious example of this is in the placement of IT departments and services within an organization. If information technology is viewed purely as a cost-center and a “necessary evil” of doing business, it is more likely that IT services will have a perceived higher cost and lower level of value, as the technology is not considered a player in business strategy. When technology is leveraged more directly to realize the strategic vision of the business, and is applied in ways which assist in delivering higher levels of service at a reduced cost while providing a means for market differentiation, the positive impacts in efficiency and profitability can be great.
A not-so-obvious example of a cost center which could be re-oriented towards increasing strategic positioning while making a positive improvement in internal service delivery (resulting in increases in performance and profitability) is the area of sales tax compliance. Particularly with the emerging complexities introduced with cloud and Internet services, and with the lack of standards being the only consistency across the country, sales tax compliance is becoming a significant consideration and risk factor for businesses seeking to adopt cloud services and SaaS application solutions.
“Don’t just think of the tax department as a compliance shop,” says Waterfield. “It should also be considered a profit center. If given the proper resources, and access to information, it can provide the company the ability to become competitive in the marketplace either from assistance in calculating the proper price point or reducing overall tax expense on purchases.”
Unless the tax compliance department is a direct participant in the consideration and adoption of cloud IT and other services, the business could end up with a significant liability and risk exposure that was not expected or allowed for. Rather than finding this out after the fact, reviewing these types of potential impacts should be part of that same process which considered the adoption of the solution in the first place.
Accounting and tax professionals can find additional value to deliver to their existing and prospective clients by placing focus on these very important aspects of operating and managing a business. As technology and globalization introduce more, and more complicated, issues relating to sales taxes and reporting compliance (which even the smallest of businesses must address) accounting and tax professionals should help their clients meet these changing requirements by offering proactive consultative guidance and support.
Read more about Should you be paying sales tax on your cloud solution?
Read more about Cloud FAQs for CFOs: CFO.com