Last month, accountingTODAY in the US ran an article about paperless offices.
The article was aimed at accounting firms but it applies equally to law firms too. It said that today, offices are often overwhelmed with incoming paper and electronic documents. Clients send e-mails with tons of disorganised attachments. Small business clients come in to their accountants before the 31 January tax return filing deadline armed with disorderly stacks of paper, often in carrier bags, hoping that their accountant can make sense of it all and file their accounts and tax return information with HMRC.
It’s a challenge for professional firms to keep up with it all, and every minute you spend searching through stacks of paper or files filled with electronic documents for the right receipt or invoice is time you can’t spend in generating income.
Document management software can make your firm’s operations less taxing by putting important documents at your fingertips and helping you stay organized all through tax season and beyond. Accounting firms that go paperless are more productive and effective.
The accountingTODAY article emphasised that selecting the right document management solution for your office is critical. They provided three tips to help you understand how document management software can help your office run more efficiently and which features are most important to your success.
- Easy scanning.
The scanning process has been the chief obstacle to a paperless firm because many accountants are convinced that it’s time-consuming and cumbersome. But scanning technology has evolved since the early days of paperless, so it’s easier to scan and store client files than ever before. You can scan documents in just seconds, and with the right technology package, you can also create keyword-searchable files that you can edit in a universal format like PDF. A quality scanning solution can even make volume scanning easy, recognizing where one document begins and another ends in a stack and sending them to the right client folder.
- Simple organisation.
Another reason some accountants are less enthusiastic about going paperless is that they worry about the way their clients’ files will be organized online. Some document management systems have a complex interface, and since most of the smaller accounting firms don’t have onsite tech support, using a complicated system isn’t feasible. A system built around a simple, intuitive structure that anyone in your network can access is a better alternative. If you find a solution with integrated search features, you can conduct a keyword search to pull up client documents.
- Editable documents.
Accountants need to be able to make changes to electronic documents and convert printed pages into editable electronic files. You’ll want to choose a paperless office solution that uses a universal format such as PDF.
Efficiency with the right technology
If you’re serious about efficiency, but are relying on old-fashioned systems to store your records and information, you’re wasting money, hand over fist – that’s my firm view.
When Paul Dunn and Rick Payne launched their Boot Camp concept more than 20 years ago, accountants everywhere started to hear about a man called Michael E Gerber, the author of a series of books prefixed “The E-Myth”.
Boot Camp Accountants who converted from traditional “bill by the hour” services to delivering “business improvement” to their clients were quoting the wisdom of Michael Gerber and his 4 Ways to Grow a Business. It’s old hat now, but to remind readers, the first 3 Ways to Grow a Business are (1) to increase the number of customers/clients (of the sort you want), (2) to increase the frequency that customers/clients buy from you, and (3) to increase the services that you sell to those customers/clients.
Some accountants remembered this and have improved the performance of their own practices (and their bottom line). However, most accountants seems to have forgotten the 4th Way to Grow a Business: to increase the efficiency of the business.
One important tool that increases efficiency is an Intranet.
An Intranet is a private website where authorised members – you, your staff (and clients, if you wish) – can easily find and share information. With an internet connection and web browser, you can access your Intranet from anywhere in the world at any time of the day or night. After my company developed DeskSmart, John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB’s technology editor looked at it and said: “Bizezia points the way to a new way of sourcing your practice technology”.
What’s the difference between an Intranet and a website?
An Intranet is just like a website, with two differences:
- It has a different voice. It speaks only to those people who have been assigned rights to view and use all of it, or only specific sections; and
- It includes internal information about the firm. For example, human resources information, office and work policies and procedures, standard forms people use every day and templates that avoid re-inventing the wheel every time something needs to be done.
But, employees want to know the same things about a company that outsiders want to know, too, such as.
- How is the business performing?
- Who is who and what is their background; what projects are in the works; and who is working on them? What new clients have come to the firm?
- What services does the firm provide?
- What is the strategy for next quarter? Next year? And so on.
DeskSmart, the Intranet product from Bizezia can also be used as a client-facing ‘extranet’, so you can add value to your offering by allowing selected clients to access certain areas via a secure login (you have complete control over who accesses what).
Today, Accountants and Lawyers are faced with an ever-increasing demand to evidence best practice and comply with regulations. An Intranet supports this by allowing firms to manage internal documents and information sources more efficiently from one easy-to-access, secure area.
DeskSmart is an Intranet specifically designed to help professional firms improve their business efficiencies and aid compliance. It can be set up in next to no time and is totally secure. It requires no capital outlay and is paid for by a monthly licence fee.
- Do you want an effective information management system?
- Do you want to improve the internal communications of your business?
- Do any of your employees ever work from home?
- Do any of your employees need access to information in meetings held away from the office?
- Do any of your employees ever travel abroad on business?
- Are you trying to take steps in becoming a paperless office?
If the answers to any of these are yes, you could benefit from having an Intranet
What are the benefits?
The main benefits on an Intranet include:
- Improved communication: communicate with specific or all Intranet users easily and with the minimum of effort;
- A centralised communications method for all users;
- Reducing day-to-day informational emails to users – this can mean a significant reduction in the number of internal emails sent within the business;
- Improved decision-making – employees have access to more time-sensitive information faster, enhancing the decision-making process;
- Increased productivity – there is faster, easier access to information, with less time spent searching for documents/information, so employees become more productive;
- Improved information and knowledge management – Intranets enable information to be easily available, and users know where to find what they want. This, in turn, creates a culture of sharing and collaboration where users build and share knowledge, and it facilitates organisational learning
- Saving money – Intranets facilitate a reduction in paper-based systems leading to a decrease in operating costs, as well as a reduction in telephone costs. There is also a reduction in time wasted searching for information – valuable time which could be spent on more important tasks;
- Increased employee satisfaction – there are a number of different reasons employees satisfaction increases when Intranets are introduced into a business, such as the decrease in bureaucracy, the feeling of empowerment, and also the fact they spend less time with the frustration of tracking down documents, all of which improve the quality of life at work.
Hosted in the Cloud
And perhaps the biggest selling point about an Intranet is that you can say goodbye to geography – employees can access information from anywhere in the world and at any time… and can work from home and on the move much more effectively than ever before.
Want to know more?
The Bizezia e-Library has two particular publications touching on Intranets. Contact me if you’d like one of them.
He was a Council member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales from 1988 to 1996.
Martin Pollins ran his own firm based in Sussex and was the first Accountancy firm in the UK to advertise on television and Martin went on to create and launch the CharterGroup Partnership (the UK's first Accountancy network) and then LawGroup UK (one of the largest networks of lawyers in the country).
Martin started work on the Bizezia concept in 1996, developing the broad range of information resources and products over the past 18 years.
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