The importance of streamlining your accounting processes with an efficient digital system is becoming ever clearer for accountants, as discussed in part one of this blog series.
A paperless solution can deliver a vast range of benefits and, provided you choose the right solution from the right provider, any risks associated with these systems can be avoided. Yet there are a number of points to take into consideration with regards to hardware, logistics, client confidentiality and employee advocacy, if you want to truly maximise the benefits of going paperless.
This blog provides an informative checklist for anyone considering a paperless accounting system.1. Inputting accounting documents and data
Personal and mobile scanners that can be synced to a central network are essential for implementing a truly paperless system. Auditors can scan documents on a client’s site with a handheld device and upload the data when they return to the office. There are benefits too for in-house accountants who wish to embrace the technology, as a network scanner can instantly transfer files to a central digital system.
While the immediate benefits are eliminating the burden of manual filing and storage, the ability to import data straight away removes the risk of human error, which can have disastrous consequences if undetected. Rather than typing in data, accounting software can directly interface with other systems, such as SageLine50, and import the information required.
The digitisation and upload of paper documents to a document management system can result in several files of documents. If a file can’t be found immediately, the time wasted searching for the right folder can be almost as bad as hunting around a traditional file room. With an indexed searching tool, every word in a data file can be scanned to swiftly locate files containing a particular keyword. Files can also be shared securely and locked, granting permissions to open and edit by authorised personnel.3. Destruction of confidential data
One of the key points to address when transferring to a paperless system is how to securely dispose of redundant hard copies of confidential client documents. Traditional accounting firms may need to destroy several boxes of client files, using secure shredding services to remove them to a safe destruction facility. In the daily management of destroying paper documents it is recommended that companies use shredders to discard scans.4. In-house day to day management
With the government moving to digital tax accounts and the plethora of cloud based bookkeeping systems, there are lots systems meshed together to streamline and automate services.
Accountancy practices can also take advantage of systems that can take scanned in client receipts and produce a spreadsheet where a client can view each receipt digitally, no manual work required. Other systems can authorise accountants to go and collect bank statements from the bank directly, without having to wait for the accounts to be sent to them by the client, who may be busy focusing on running their business.5. Digital notebooks & signatures
Notetaking has also gone digital, with the rise of Microsoft OneNote and Evernote as useful tools to capture information from the web and keep client contact notes in one place. Available across devices, the apps can be accessed anywhere and notes can be shared with colleagues to update them on account progress or meeting outcomes.
To remove the need to print off and manually sign documents to send back and forth to clients, software is available that allows partners and clients to add a legally binding signature to an electronic document to speed up the sign off process and meet deadlines.6. Collaborating with team and clients
A paperless system really comes into its own when used in teams that are working together from separate locations. Some of the team may elect to work from home or may be based at a different office altogether, but a paperless system allows the whole team to have real-time visibility of a client’s accounts.
For example, when an audit is being completed, the final relevant documents can be sent straight to a Partner’s mobile device for sign off. Whether sign off is achieved, or whether there are any supplementary questions or tasks, queries and comments can then be updated within the main audit file.
A paperless system also improves the overall client experience, as dealing with paper documents can be a slow and laborious task, drawing out the process of completing annual accounts. Secure account portals have replaced insecure email accounts as a way of communicating with clients in confidence.
While these fundamentals of implementing an effective paperless system are helpful, you should keep your clients and employees as a central focus. It’s key to ensure your files are digitally encrypted, securely stored and paper files are effectively destroyed to maintain client confidentiality. But you should also bear in mind that employee training will also be needed to increase advocacy to the new system and guarantee success with a paperless strategy.