Why it pays to embrace the advances in accountancy management software.

Document management for accountants tends to go hand in hand with the concept of paperless organisation: the art of moving records, spreadsheets and entire administrative systems onto accountancy-friendly software, designed to record financial transactions and data and instantly produce calculations for tax returns, mid-year reports and other relevant information based on a range of real-time financial situations. A valuable tool for accountants then.1

Accountancy has benefited hugely from the advance of information technology and the internet in recent years. ‘Going paperless’ brings with it many advantages, from tidier workspaces and filing systems to instant calculations and the ability to update financial information on the move. Here are six more benefits for accountancy firms of using document management software.

Storage

Gone are the days of towering piles of paper and bulging filing cabinets. Or at least they should be. Thanks to specialist accountancy software and internet-based storage solutions, key financial documents can be saved in electronic format, ready to be brought up at the touch of a button and only printed when hard copies are needed by the accountant, taxman or client. Clever document management software can also recognise multiple file types and convert them to a universal format, such as PDF, so they can be readable by all kinds of systems, simply by inserting the memory stick. They come with powerful search engines too, and other workflow tools that make life easier when retrieving files and updating accounts.

Processing

Paper-based organisational systems do not allow for such easy updating. Fresh copies must be printed out and the old ones archived or destroyed. Making amendments in pen can often lead to confusion and all the outdated copies turn into waste paper in need of careful disposal. Accountancy software offers easy access to financial files needing updating and they automatically update the entire system as you go along, leaving less room for human error. Also, so long as you are assiduous with backing up your electronic files, they can often prove more secure than filing cabinets full of paper that can fall foul of pests, mould and other destructive external factors.

Distribution

Making multiple copies of accountancy files for the pertinent people to see and comment on used to be a photocopying and stapling nightmare. Now, with online storage, accountants can simply call up the files they need and email them, or their protective password, so that relevant parties can log in for immediate access. This makes meetings easier to prepare for, especially those involving teams based in more than one location, and removes the worry of having confidential papers lying about to fall into the wrong hands or go missing on public transport. Some document management systems provide a secure electronic workflow system to allow documents to be passed electronically and efficiently between team members.

Security

As per the point previously discussed above, log-ins, passwords and different layers of available access allow the document management software to remain private and secure. Depending on the type of system chosen, accountants can lock certain parties out of the system altogether, while allowing others the required level of security access, simply from a standard settings screen. Some systems allow accountants to email people directly from them, which means that email address lists can also be securely created and stored by the document management software. This mitigates against the risk of unwittingly sending valuable financial data to the wrong person and is a far more efficient way of handling distribution. More recent developments around secure portals have taken secure distribution to clients to a new level, allowing electronic approval of accounts and tax returns a reality which saves time, postage and printing costs.

Reporting

Most document management software systems also have provision for printing out reports, work in progress sheets and other records that help the entire company keep track of their accounts. These remain consistent in their format, plus the software can be programmed to produce these reports and even email them automatically, at a time period specified by the accountant.

Electronic Documents

Whilst paper-based documents can be largely converted to electronic images by scanning, much client-based correspondence is now electronic via emails. Having a document management system that stores and indexes both emails as well as scanned paper can prove a distinct advantage for interaction with clients and within the accountancy team. Having an efficient way of storing emails is an important part of an accountants filing system. Such efficiencies are attractive and save a lot of time, once the software is up and running. For the initial financial outlay and time learning how to operate the system, it seems that document management software really can be an accountant’s best friend.