In 2019, BKD CPAs & Advisors’ National Office (N.O.) tax department launched a firmwide Lean Six Sigma (LSS) training program as part of the Next Generation Tax (NGT) initiative. NGT’s goal is to strategically create consistent processes, use technology automation, and grow capabilities to continue to provide unmatched client service in a changing world.
As part of the NGT initiative, the LSS program focused on bringing firmwide consistency to the preparation process of Form 1040 (individual federal income tax return), with the goal of creating a more efficient process that reduced preparation costs.
1. LSS Workshop
In spring 2019, the LSS program launched with a workshop to educate tax leaders on LSS concepts and benefits. Before launch, BKD’s 40 offices used varying individual tax preparation processes, which made building efficiencies a daunting task.
The project team aimed to address this inconsistency by adopting a consistent approach to better leverage existing firm technologies and stay ahead of the curve on new developments. The project team collaborated with a black belt six sigma-certified trainer from Boomer Consulting to build quality into every step of the process while increasing value for BKD clients.
The project team met first to outline objectives, create a project charter, and map the current state of the Form 1040 compliance process. In the next meeting, the team identified BKD’s biggest areas of opportunity within process. Each issue was assigned to a team of project members who researched potential solutions that would work for the majority of affected clients.
After completing individual homework assigned at the first two meetings, team members came together again to review and approve the “Future State Report,” which served as a detailed summary of process steps and key changes. In the final meeting, the team developed the plan to introduce the LSS program firmwide in fall 2019, with official implementation slated for January 2020.
2. Firmwide Implementation
In September and October 2019, BKD’s L&D and N.O. tax departments collaborated to deliver a firmwide training Webinar introducing the LSS program. Tax professionals explained LSS principles and previewed new TaxCaddy software as part of the launch.
The N.O. tax department and LSS project team members spearheaded the firmwide LSS program training and implementation. The tax department hosted virtual LSS training sessions for BKD regional practice unit leaders, followed by full-day, in-person trainings. Learning and Development (L&D) scheduled calendar appointments, oversaw the logistics, and sent out training materials to L&D assistants in local BKD offices.
In October 2019, L&D published two on-demand TaxCaddy videos for administrative and tax professionals in BKD University. Long-term reinforcement continued through October 2020 with a “Continuous Improvement Team” comprising the original LSS workshop participants and additional tax administrative professionals. The tax department held a four-hour project day in September 2020 to discuss ongoing results and explore improvement suggestions.
The streamlined Form 1040 preparation process significantly increased efficiency and consistency by reducing the number of steps from 103 to 40 (61 percent reduction). An additional 15 percent of BKD clients chose to do business with BKD using TaxCaddy rather than the traditional paper method.
The LSS methodology was introduced just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed delegation of more routine tasks to less experienced tax associates. This freed up engagement executives (with a higher billable rate) to share valuable, first-to-market advice with clients regarding the rapidly developing COVID-19 tax legislation and new Paycheck Protection Program. By increasing billable time, some BKD engagement executives improved their business unit profitability in fiscal year 2020.