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Unraveling the Threads: A Dive into Tax Project Management Pitfalls

Unraveling the Threads: A Dive into Tax Project Management Pitfalls

Navigating the Complexities of Tax Data and Technology Projects through the Lens of a Battle-Tested PMP and CISM

In the labyrinthine world of tax, project management is more than a set of principles; it’s the lifeline ensuring seamless operations amid regulatory intricacies. Drawing from over a decade-long journey as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) entrenched in the tax domain, I unravel the challenges, pitfalls, and triumphs of tax-related projects.

The Fallout of Hasty Project Approaches

In the trenches of tax project management, I’ve witnessed the aftermath of hastily executed projects—ones initiated without the depth of analysis needed for optimal solutions.

Example 1: Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Fallout

Imagine having invested hundreds of hours across your team with a service provider to outline requirements/perform user acceptance testing, diverting attention from you and your teams’ regulatory commitments and you eventually get to the deliverable and have a smooth go-live with the service providers’ support. There’s a huge relief about the close and a feeling that it was all worth it. The relief, however, was short-lived. The subsequent close cycle unravels a cascade of errors that appear throughout the workflow due to oversight in the initial project phase. A change in location, altered file formats, or a subtle software interface modification—each a tear in the fabric of the project’s success.

Amid the sea of errors, one could almost hear the collective sighs of the project team – “If only tears had debugging capabilities!” Jokes aside, the reality of overlooking crucial project management techniques often manifests in moments like these, where tears of frustration replace the anticipated sighs of relief.

Navigating the Tears: A Symphony of Tax and Technology

Example 2: The Hammer and Nail Syndrome

There’s a saying: ‘To the person with a hammer, everything is a nail.’ This adage captures the perilous path of approaching every problem with a predetermined solution. In my journey, this mindset has often been the root cause of project failures. Leadership, at times unaware of the intricacies, may become complicit, perpetuating this risky and ineffective approach which lead to growing challenges that increase the likelihood of project failures. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), organizations that undervalue project management as a strategic competency have an average of 67% more of their projects fail.

To lighten the mood, I would often jest that in the world of tax project management, (internal or outward) crying might be a debugging process. As the tears flow, it becomes a metaphorical cleansing—a recognition of the need to reassess, reevaluate, and recalibrate our project management strategies. The frustration and potential tears are avoidable.

Tax and Technology Tango: A Delicate Partnership

Example 3: Tech and Project Management Pushback

Tax departments, historically, exhibit resistance to technology and an even more pronounced aversion to project management. The journey involves overcoming skepticism and debunking misconceptions, like the notion that technology and project management are interchangeable. Progress has been made, but the road is rife with challenges.

In the spirit of overcoming challenges, humor becomes a valuable ally. I often quip that convincing a tax department to embrace technology is akin to convincing a cat to take a swim – it requires patience, persuasion, and perhaps a touch of humor.

Leveraging technology and streamlining processes has now become an organizational imperative as taxing jurisdictions demand more transparency, require more details, and tax departments must act. The risk of not acting is too high, however, the examples above also highlight the risk of insufficient understanding of the multi-disciplinary approach required to significantly increase the likelihood of project success.

The Intersection: IT Project Management in Tax

Example 4: The Tax System Upgrade

Consider a tax system upgrade—a microcosm where IT project management meets the intricacies of tax regulations. Unlike generic business projects, tax IT projects demand a heightened focus on regulatory adherence, data security, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

The Tax Project Manager’s Toolkit:

  1. Regulatory Jugglery: It’s not just about managing tasks; it’s about juggling tax codes and regulations. The tax project manager is the virtuoso, ensuring each element stays aloft.
  2. Data Security Choreography: In the dance of IT project management, data security is the choreography. Every move must be precise to protect sensitive information from the spotlight of cyber threats.
  3. Collaboration Symphony: Tax IT projects aren’t solo performances. They are symphonies where tax experts, project managers, IT professionals, and cybersecurity specialists all with an understanding of typical Tax department challenges harmonize to create a seamless composition.

Conclusion: Crafting Success in Tax Project Management

In navigating the tax project management landscape, my dual expertise as a PMP and CISM has been pivotal. The tale of triumphs and pitfalls serves as a beacon, urging project managers and tax executives to embrace a holistic approach. As tax departments evolve, recognizing the symbiosis between technology and project management becomes not just a strategy but a necessity.

As we navigate the tax project management journey, let’s not forget that in the face of challenges, a sprinkle of humor can be the secret ingredient to turn tears into laughter and setbacks into stepping stones toward success. In the end, it’s not just about managing projects; it’s about leading a symphony of tax, data, technology, and triumph.

Connect with Me on LinkedIn!

If you’re a tax executive looking for advice or seeking consulting services related to data, process improvement, or technology implementations, I’m here to help. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn for insightful discussions and tailored guidance.

Byron Mwango, PMP, CISM



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6 Responses

  1. Great insights! As a tax professional, I’ve faced similar challenges in project management. The analogies about tears and debugging hit close to home. Looking forward to more articles like this.

    1. Glad you found the post interesting. As tax departments embrace the project management discipline, you will see many of those challenges erase themselves. You may have other challenges :), but the rate of project success will increase.

  2. Your article emphasizes the importance of data security in tax projects. Can you share specific examples of cybersecurity measures you’ve found effective in safeguarding sensitive tax information?

    1. Great question Kenny G100,
      Awareness is key. Understanding what sensitive data you have is a first step, then working with your infosec team to ensure data is appropriately secured. For example, PII data needs to be encrypted at storage and in-transit – your information security team will be able to work with you.

  3. Your article hit close to home. How can tax professionals ensure they stay abreast of project management strategies?

    1. I hear you Rinchu. Continuous learning is important. I suggest checking out the PMI site ( There are many other sources and groups focused on project management online.
      Let me add that flexibility is vital in project management as well. Without flexibility, you can easily waste time/money overdoing what’s required. No need to kill a fly with a shotgun.

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