Case studies: Document management in 2018

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Document management systems are often folded into larger platforms that handle workflow, portals and other practice management needs. But document management systems are the place where the most sensitive client information is stored, and so their security and functionality is a serious consideration. A DMS’s smooth integration with other software is also a top consideration, because moving documents around, renaming them, and keeping them secure can take up a lot of valuable time the less that process is automated.

Here are two firms’ experiences using document management systems within larger platforms.

Simple and intuitive

Product: iChannel

Firm: DeLeon & Stang

Staff users: 50

Start date: 2012

Cost: Ranges from $25-$50 per user per month

On record: Steven J. Kurinsky, CPA, manager of the firm’s Leesburg, Va., office

Objective: According to office manager Steven Kurinsky, the previous document management system that DeLeon & Stang was using was not meeting its needs. IChannel offered the “many features we needed in one solution,” he said. It functions as the firm’s client portal, contact manager, and project and workflow management solution as well.

Implementation: Two staff members from iChannel flew into DeLeon & Stang’s Gaithersburg, Md., office to assist with implementation. They transferred every document from the firm’s previous software into iChannel, and sorted them by category and year. Implementation was complete in two weeks.

The vendor trained a small group of firm staff to be “power users,” which meant that after iChannel left, there would be a few staff members who could act as point people if anyone needed day-to-day assistance with the software. The firm also developed its own internal training guides.

Advantages: The clear advantage iChannel offers, Kurinsky said, is “simplicity and ease of use.” It’s an intuitive software, he said, and “having everything you need on one platform has been a very large advantage.”

The vendor’s automation of workflow has been a boon to the firm. For example, with the advanced auto-routing feature, tax returns from the firm’s tax software that save with unclear and nonspecific file names automatically flow into iChannel and are renamed with a file name that makes sense and is searchable, using optical character recognition technology to pull keywords from the document. The files are thereby named consistently, without human interaction.

This feature was particularly useful for one of DeLeon & Stang’s clients, a hotel investor group. “There can be 50 shareholders for one hotel,” Kurinsky explained, “And individuals’ K-1s can come out of the tax software, and that individual shareholder will get that individual file, and if they invest in another hotel as well, they will get the file for that too. It’s a one-click print and it disperses each K-1 automatically.”

Challenges: The firm’s biggest challenge with iChannel has been the software’s biannual software updates. Participating in the updates is optional, but the firm chooses to stay completely up to date so it can make the best use of all the features iChannel offers. For instance, one of the recent updates was an integration with DocuSign, which allows clients to e-sign documents and send them securely. After every update, there is a two-week period where “not everything is working 100 percent accurately,” but the kinks are always sorted out quickly.

Firm growth: “We’ve been able to determine iChannel saves roughly 0.5 to 1 hours of time to do one tax return,” Kurinsky said. “This saves about $100 to $150 per individual return we do, and we do 2,500 returns a year — so that’s about $375,000 in savings just on efficiencies that iChannel automates.”

Smooth operations

Product: CCH Axcess Document

Firm: Randy K. Jentzsch & Co.

Staff users: 15

Start date: 2016

Cost: $12,000 per year

On record: Jeremy Allen, CPA, tax manager

Objective: Randy K. Jentzsch & Co. wanted smooth integration between all of its platforms, and the firm was already using CCH Axcess cloud-based tax software when it chose to use Wolters Kluwer’s document management system as well.

“We tested out a bunch of different software packages, and theirs was by far the most robust,” said tax manager Jeremy Allen.

“We also wanted to be 100 percent paperless as far as our tax preparers,” he added. “CCH Axcess Document has a nice integration with [CCH ProSystem fx] PDFlyer, which allows you to annotate on the workpaper and check in/check out the documents. We have employees in three other states, so we really needed a streamlined system which allows them to do their work and have it in a secure location where I can view it.”

Implementation: While CCH Axcess does offer a paid option to migrate all data from a previous system into theirs, Randy K. Jentzsch & Co. opted out of this process and chose to retain all of its documents previous to 2016 in the old system. As time permits, firm staff are manually migrating the data over themselves.

Advantages: Allen points to the check in/check out feature as a major advantage. “Say I want to review some workpapers that staff prepped — I just have to click it, open it up, annotate, close it, and it checks it right back into the system.”

Another highlight is data labeling, which allows the firm to create
categories or use the default categories across the system, making organizing
and searching easy.

Finally, the DMS’s integration with the portal has been a surprise hit. There is no drag-and-drop; a user right-clicks the document and publishes it to the portal, and the client gets an automated email letting them know it’s available for viewing. “We rolled that out this year, and nobody thought anyone would use it — but adoption with clients has been good,” Allen said.

Challenges: “Because it’s all in the cloud, it can disconnect, and I’ve had staff people lose work,” Allen explained. “It does have a saving feature, but the way it’s checking in and out, it’s like using a temporary folder locally on your computer. So if the connection breaks or something happens, it will grab whatever was in that temporary folder, so if you haven’t saved the changes you made to your PDF, it will bring in an old copy and you’ll lose your work.”

Allen noted that the firm has discussed this with Wolters Kluwer. The automated check in/check out feature is optional (the other option being a manual process), and it’s this highly automated process that can cause this hiccup in the event of an interruption in connection. However, Allen said, the benefits of this feature outweigh the negatives.

Firm growth: “One of the nicest benefits that’s helped us scale is the portal integration and the speed at which we can get client information wherever they are,” Allen said. “And if we didn’t have a cloud-based solution, then I wouldn’t be able to keep the superstar [staff] that I have in other states.”

Allen himself is planning an extended trip to the Philippines — and he knows he’ll be able to work if needed, through CCH Axcess.

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