The In-Crowd and Document Management

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"Do most accounting firms have document management systems?" was the question asked at a recent workflow Webinar conducted by the Accountants Media Group.
Since workflow and document management are inextricably linked to the paper-intensive tax and accounting business, it was a logical question. But the underlying assumption was likely "Does everybody but me have a system?"

People hate to be left out, especially when they think that their colleagues and competitors have a tool that may give them an advantage. And it's also the adult equivalent of "But dad, all my friends have one."

As with pining teenagers, every one does not have one, not by a long shot, was the response of Tom Davis, the Valdosta, Ga.-based sole practitioner who was the guest on our Web-based talk. There's no need to feel left out.

Partner Insights

So why is document management still a hotter topic for talking than doing? After all, there is a rapidly expanding list of products, including many that are especially designed for the CPA market.

For one, these things still aren't cheap in terms of everything that is needed to make document management work. When CCH acquired late in 2004 the product that became ProSystem fx Document, the company noted the application was not suited for many small and midsize practices and said that it would have an ASP version that was more affordable within the 2006 time frame. It hasn't made an appearance yet.


The bigger reason may be that nasty little word, workflow. The acquisition of any software package-indeed any technology-changes things. But to make document management systems work, firms need to understand their workflow and how workflow needs to change to accommodate the new system and to make things better.

That can be a tough proposition for firms that have just enough people that there are several ways of doing things. And sitting down and mapping out how you want your business to work isn't always the first thing on the mind of business people who are busy working for their clients. And just how many firms enjoy breaking in a new application, even if they have a clear workflow chart?

We are certainly going to see more document management systems before the market consolidates, which it will just as the accounting and tax software markets have coalesced. It's highly likely Intuit will join the chase in a bigger way, probably with something low cost.

For right now, the best advice is, buy what you need, when you need it, if you can afford it. But don't lose sleep over whether your competitors are ahead of you. They probably aren't. Need Insights? Editor Robert Scott also writes "Consulting Insights," a free, twice-monthly electronic newsletter that addresses issues concerning the consulting and reselling market. It's insight with an attitude. If you want to subscribe, you can do so at http://www.webcpa.com/newsletters.cfm.

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