The paperless office: Four years on
Back in 2006 Kevin Salter shared his ‘paperless pointers for accountants in business’ outlining how his practice had reduced wastage and begun to embrace a ‘less paper’ approach. Four years on, he reflects on the progress made.
When we first introduced a document management system the real purpose was to improve efficiency and productivity by storing and retrieving documents electronically. This objective has been met and all correspondence both in and out is now readily to hand at all times. The initial ‘shock’ of not having paper quickly wore off for some, whilst a few still occasionally hanker after the old ways. Importantly, all supplier invoices are now scanned and readily available.
The accounts working papers are now in many cases totally paperless with the use of standardised excel based templates. Any paper based information relating to these (e.g. vehicle additions etc.) is scanned and either embedded into the Excel file or saved as a PDF file. As much as possible is now put into PDF format (e.g. reports from clients’ accounting packages) and software can be used to annotate these electronic files in the same way as if we were writing on paper versions. Where there are still paper based workings, these are scanned at the end of the job. Filing cabinets which were originally bursting at the seams are gradually becoming redundant.
Use of the client portal is become increasingly common. This is a secure area accessible from the firm’s website where electronic files such as tax returns and accounts are uploaded and the client accesses them via the website after logging in with a user name and password.