Hardly an exciting point of discussion, document management is often overlooked in discussions around efficiency in accounting firms. Yet, partners who realise how much time and energy is being lost simply from poor document filing and searching are looking for better ways to operate. An effective document management system will bring the following benefits to your firm:
- Saving time
The right document management system means you no longer have to search for documents. This means you can retrieve documents in a fraction of the time that it takes using paper files, Windows Explorer, or any other cloud-based document storage system (think Dropbox, Google Drive, Sharepoint). Studies have shown that this can easily save 30 minutes per employee per day.
The right system will allow employees to quickly and easily create merge documents such as letters, checklists and reports with client data automatically inserted.
Using templates and precedents makes jobs quicker to complete and quicker to review, and having a ‘My Procedures’ manual for each employee will help train new staff in a fraction of the time it typically takes.
- Saving money
Saving 30 minutes per person per day (which is absolutely possible with the right document management system) quickly adds up to improved productivity and profitability (and gives each employee an extra 16 days capacity per year).
- Reducing risk
The comprehensive and systematic record-keeping that a proper document management system is capable of dramatically reduces risk in your firm. With consistent centralised filing of all emails and file notes across the firm, you will be able to see all communications sent to and from clients. The audit trail function within a document management system provides automated record of quality assurance process for each document, and templates and precedents ensure standardisation, consistency and quality of work.
- Improving communication
A proper document management system intelligently stores client files, so staff can quickly and easily see all documents, emails, files notes, etc. relating to a client. Staff no longer need to CC work colleagues regarding the progress of client work, which dramatically improves—and essentially automates—knowledge sharing about clients and jobs.
- Increasing management control
Improve your workflow management by giving management the ability to quickly view the available capacity of staff members as well as a list of all work-in-progress documents across the firm and filter based on:
- who is working on it
- who is to review it
- who is managing it;
- the status of the document (draft, review, approved, out for signature, final)
- Reducing key person dependence
When people are away or leave the company, other staff can easily view all the documents, emails and file notes they have filed and have been working on. Processes can also be standardised with procedures, templates and precedents.
- Increasing business value
A systemised business with thorough Knowledge Management and document management systems attracts a higher valuation because these systems make succession easier for the new owner.
With all these benefits, it’s little wonder more and more firms are making the switch. The time and money saved when your office is run by a true document management system easily covers the investment of the specialist software. If you haven’t already, when are you going to take action?
Why is document management particularly important for accounting firms?
An accounting firm is a document-intensive organisation. Each year a firm creates and receives (and therefore needs to store and manage) thousands of documents—we’re talking workpapers, ATO correspondence, financial statements, tax returns, checklists, forms, letters, emails, file notes, accounting data files, and so on.
The only way to manage this volume (without wasting many hours and a lot of energy) is with a proper document management system.
Another critical reason many firms are getting serious about document management is the increasingly litigious business environment that accountants are operating in. Such an environment makes thorough record keeping not just ‘best practice’ but essential practice. With a sophisticated document management system, these documents can be retrieved in seconds, along with ‘audit trail’ information regarding the history of the document’s creation, editing and approvals processes. Plus, all email communications between staff members and clients will be right there. This puts a firm in an excellent position from a risk management perspective.
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