Accounting firms are often built upon a series of well-executed systems. From the actual processes that are handled during accounting services for clients to internal steps for things like timekeeping, project updates, and scheduling, most firms would collapse quickly if they didn’t have the right systems propping everything up.
Two of the most important kinds of systems are document management and communication platforms. In our experience, accounting firms that have trouble meeting their growth targets or struggle to maintain efficiency often have challenges in one or both of these areas. Fortunately, there are many technological solutions available that can ease the burden of managing these areas of your business so you can turn them into net positives.
The most common document management and communication platforms for accounting firms
Before we discuss the benefits of ensuring your document management and communication platforms work well together, let’s take a moment to define exactly what we’re talking about when discussing these systems.
Document management tools are software suites that accounting firms use to handle important files related to their work: typically invoices, engagement letters, reports, and client-provided documents needed to complete a project. There are many different options for document management programs, from basic word-processing software to sophisticated encrypted file explorers. In some cases, accounting firms use native tools provided by storage platforms like Dropbox or Google Drive.
Communication platforms are the tools accounting firms use to communicate with clients, partners, and employees. While email is the most popular method for accounting professionals communicating with external parties, many firms like to use a different platform for their internal team – typically one that features an async messaging tool, like Microsoft Teams or Slack. Depending on the particular software stack employed at a firm, communication tools may also be used as part of a larger web-based portal system.
Why accounting firm document management and communication needs to be cohesive
By default, most accounting firms will use disparate systems to handle documents and communications. Sometimes, they might have multiple systems for each different type of document and communication. And while it may not seem like a big deal, over time, the efficiency you lose from a lack of integration between systems will restrict growth and cause frustration among your team.
Here are some of the other benefits of integrated communication and document management platforms:
- Less double work. As an accounting professional, there are plenty of situations in which you’ll need to find something in a document or file and then relay that information to a client or team member. Instead of having to go in and out of individual systems, a streamlined platform allows you to open a file and then leave a comment for a teammate to see all from the same screen.
- Cloud-based access means you’ll be able to work remotely or from home. Most comprehensive accounting practice management software tools can be accessed on any device connected to the internet. Some even have customized mobile app versions created to make access on a tablet or smartphone even easier. In the post-COVID world, where remote work has grown exponentially, being able to access tools from anywhere is critical.
- Permission management features allow you to ensure only the right people can view, edit or delete data. Permission management is vital for the security of both accounting firm documents and communications. Since many firms work with documents protected by legal guidelines, it’s vital to secure them from malicious parties who may be looking to hack your systems for financial gain.
Accounting practice management software: the solution for streamlined operations
Maybe you feel your current systems are working pretty well or that you only need a solution to help you with one of these areas. Even if that’s the case, your firm will likely encounter a problem with the siloed approach sooner or later. Maximizing efficiency is also important for maintaining sufficient levels of workplace engagement to attract and retain top talent in your field.
No matter what shape your current workflows are in, implementing an accounting practice management software platform – or upgrading your current one – is one of the best ways to improve the cohesion between your document management and communication practices
Not only will this type of platform help employees and clients more easily communicate, but it will also benefit your firm's internal management. Being able to access and set privileges for documents, generate relevant reports, and send messages to the right parties all in one place will save time and help your staff get more done during their working hours.
As you seek out the right software to help modernize your accounting practices, remember to think about balance. You want to implement a tool that changes your operations enough to make them significantly more efficient without disrupting your team’s workflows so much during the installation period that it causes setbacks and issues with projects. The right platform will be a seamless fit that enhances your existing processes and helps your team perform at an even higher level.