There's much discussion on AccountingWEB about the paperless office. I have largely worked that way for about three years and would hate to go back to a conventional system. So I thought it might be worth sharing some of my experience.
Creating the paperless office is not particularly difficult, nor does it necessarily involve massive investment. You just need to adopt the right state of mind.
However, a paperless office does not suit everyone. If you:
- won't use a keyboard;
- still think nothing is real unless it's been printed;
- persist in hand writing all your working papers so no one can read them;
- hate email
- believe typing is something someone else does;
- have no clue how to search a PC, let alone the web;
- won't read things on screen, but insist on them being in a well-ordered physical file;
then the paperless office is not for you.
It will also be a problem if you and your partners don't share similar views. You can't be 'half paperless' - at least not without a major review of the profit sharing ratio, which sees those who refuse to take part taking a substantially lower share of profit to compensate for the extra filing, research and physical storage costs they will impose upon the firm. I make this point deliberately. For everyone except a sole trader, going paperless is likely to take people outside of their comfort zones. Therefore, it will involve considerable negotiation over what is, and is not, acceptable to those involved
In my opinion, there is only one way to deal with this - and that is to make sure that any new system feels like the one that it has replaced. In other words, the replacement system must be quickly and easily accessible. In my old partnership, in the days before email and the web, secretaries produced paper documents which were filed according to who typed the work and when. That worked then because fee-earners could physically flick through the paperwork. Such a system would be hopeless in the case of a paperless system. The time spent searching for an individual client's records would be far too great.