For an accounting practice, paperwork is the foundation of business operations. Many people still associate accounting firms with traditional methods of storing and organizing paperwork: massive gray filing cabinets, banker’s boxes, and endless reams of paper waiting to be loaded into a printer or scanner.
If this sounds like your firm, it’s probably time for you to work on updating your paperwork management principles. But if you haven’t spent much time thinking about modern methods of document management, you might not know where to begin. Following the strategies below will be a good place to get started in your efforts to update the way your accounting firm handles key documents related to all kinds of important tasks.
Make sure you’re fully paperless
We’ve seen a lot of accounting firms who use a type of hybrid system, where most of their operations are paperless but they still handle some things with paper. “It’s just more convenient,” or “It would take longer to change!” are some of the more common explanations we hear for these hybrid paper-and-digital systems. And while it may feel like this method is easier, in most of these cases, the firms we talk to find that once they get over the emotional hump of eliminating all paper, it results in some great benefits.
Research over the years has shown that making the jump to paperless can provide your firm with anywhere from 50% to 70% cost savings compared to traditional methods. Even better: with some skillful communication (more on this below), you’ll be able to show your clients how they will also reap benefits from a paperless model, like less time spent signing and mailing documents.
Communicate with your clients
Time and time again, one of the biggest objections we hear from firms hesitant to fully move away from paper documents is that their clients would balk, causing them to lose business. While it’s true that some of your clients may resist the idea of going paperless at first, this simply presents an opportunity for you to educate your clients on why a digital-first operating method can be better for them, too.
You might begin by assuaging any technical fears they may have, which are often at the root of objections to going paperless. Discuss other elements of updating your forms, too, and how they’ll still be compatible with the basic tools that your clients already know how to use. Finally, remember to emphasize the cost and time savings it will bring to your clients. This should be particularly valuable for them since they already know the value of taking business tasks off their plate.
Automate your firm’s recurring forms
Most accounting firms have a certain class of forms that they need to send out regularly. This can be anything from monthly account statements to recaps of meetings to notices of adjusted business hours. If you’re still generating and distributing these kinds of documents manually, you’re losing out on a lot of time and energy.
With the right digital tools, you can have all of these items created and distributed with very little human effort and direction. Instead of someone on your staff having to type up a meeting summary from a recording or try to multitask while the meeting is happening, you can find digital tools that take care of this entire process and send it out to a designated list of people.
Streamline your accounting practice management software
While the many digital accounting tools available for modern firms can help ease the burden of manually completing monotonous administrative paperwork, they do come with a downside: setup and integration time. Most of the software suites or apps you can find to help with accounting work require some time to be spent setting up the tool and then integrating it with your firm’s existing work processes. This can cause confusion and lowered efficiency among your team and, in the worst cases, may negatively impact client work.
An easy way to overcome this issue is by using an all-in-one platform for your firm. The best tools offer multiple functions from the same platform, meaning you won’t have to devote setup time to creating a complicated stack of unique software tools that may or may not integrate well with one another. With integrated accounting practice management software, you only have to spend time setting up and training your team on one kind of tool that offers many different functions, from time tracking to project management updates.
Final thoughts on modernizing your firm
If you haven’t already gone fully digital with your accounting paperwork, you’re probably devoting too many resources to your current processes. Instead of dealing with the struggles of storing, editing, and transmitting physical documents, going paperless and leveraging other features of modern forms (like eSignature) can make work easier and more efficient across the board.