Paperless practice: The second wave

John Stokdyk introduces a series of articles that will draw on the advice of accountants who have forged ahead with successful paperless practice techniques.

 
Over the next month, AccountingWEB will be publishing a series of articles looking at what we’re calling the "second wave" of paperless practice: tasks and activities that may not have triggered a firm’s move into document management, but which emerged as they developed more experience and confidence in the technology.
 
Many of the observations will draw on first-hand accounts and experiences of accountants and practice managers, including members of our Document Management discussion group. Group leader Charles Verrier is helping with this project and will compile a whitepaper that distils our research into some practical recommendations.
“The accountancy profession is going through a transition from a pure paper world to a purely online one,” says Verrier, who draws parallels between paperless practice and the evolution of efiling using iXBRL. “The process is gradual, and it's always the border between the two that causes the pain.” But with the advent of electronic P60s and 64-8s, and HMRC’s Real Time Information project on the way, “the direction is clear”, he adds.
 
The Paperless Practice series is about moving the profession out of the “early adopter” phase of document management into a practical productivity phase. For the purposes of this series, the basic cost, efficiency and storage benefits of paperless admin are taken as a given. Instead, the articles will focus on functions that are more specific to accountancy practice, including:

If you would like to add your thoughts and observations on any of the topics to be covered in this Paperless Practice series, please log in to AccountingWEB to post your comments on this article and we’ll include the most useful suggestions in the relevant articles.

 

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Comments

a very good post indeed!

thelma65 | | Permalink

charles feel free to call me or mail me 07545431478 carl.chambers@lindenhouse.co.uk

i work with accountants going paperless and fully integrate to all of the Practe management solutions to give the added benefit.

We work closley with 2020 and can offer help / advice if required

 

many thanks

 

Paul Scholes's picture

Information management

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

A timely article.  It is refreshing, at last, to be looking at the next stage of development rather than dwelling on the paper/no paper debate which tended to cloud the valuable stuff.

Much like the part played by oil & the internal combustion engine in trasport, paper didn't just add practical difficulty in allowing the free flow of information it had taken on a life of its own and had become an obstacle to progress.  In it's defence of course is that, in various forms, it has been around for thousands of years and so was/is not going to vanish overnight.

We are still on the cusp though and, I have to say that, in a way I feel the same way about the full-blown document management systems as I do about paper.  The best illustration I suppose is in the practice that has grown up of scanning and tagging/indexing every bit of paper that enters a building rather then reading it and deciding what's best to do with the information it contains.  Maybe it just confirms something you already know or is akin to a tephone call, the information from which leads to a tick box being completed.

Such paper is scrap and just continues to act as a hinderance only now someone has digitized it to remain forever taking up e-space, which is fast becoming the environmental elephant in the data centre.

derekgfrench's picture

Scanning incoming post

derekgfrench | | Permalink

Paul, I think you may be being a bit unfair. Many of those doing the scanning of incoming post are members of the admin team. They are perhaps not in a position of either knowledge or authority to decide what is, and what is not, appropriate to be scanned. Many Partners in my experience err on the side of caution and instruct most documents (except perhaps obvious marketing literature) to be scanned as a matter of course.

Paul Scholes's picture

Hi Derek

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

Most practice within an office tends to be determined by the partners not the admin team and so it's not being unfair on the admin team to say the methods are inefficient.

The admin team scan everthing that comes in, presumably they might tag some of it that's obvious, say to a client, but much they might not and so is, presumably, held untagged.  The partners then go through it all deciding what has to be tagged and to where and presumably wishing some could have been chucked.  I'm only going on what others have told me in that short story but surely wouldn't it make sense for the partners to see the post, chuck out what's not needed then say what should happen to everything else, before it's scanned?

Way Forward

Cruncher Alan | | Permalink

We use IRIS and produce all letters from within the sofware (standard letters as much as posiible) and scan all incoming mail. File notes are typed directly into the computer and stored in the same place. All work flows are controlled from within the iRIS software but supplemented by shared spereadsheets so that we can all keep an overview of work allocations (vats, payrolls etc). We file everything online and don't keep paper copies of anything we do not need.

Accounts working papers are generally on Excel and so stored in the client folder on the network.

It easier to look up client records on screen than go and hunt for a file that could be out on someone else''s desk and I can do it from anywhere that I can get on to the internet. We are working across 4 offices and can access any client form any office.

Are we ahead of the game? I don't think so. There must be plenty of firms out there who are just like us.

But we need to know how other firms deal with the practicalities eg on IRIS, how do you put a file note on more than one client at the same time etc and all the other anoyances.What solutions do people use to allow clients to upload files for us to access?

We want to know what other experiences firms are having, what other solutions they have found.

Really looking forward to seeing the articles and reading the posts.