Making the often laborious transition to a paperless office often has less to do with hardware and software than it does with changing the culture of a firm. "It's a rethinking of how to run and operate your firm," said Timothy Shortsleeve, a partner in the Rochester, N.Y., CPA firm of Bonn Shortsleeve & Gray LLP. "It's a paradigm shift. You're telling professionals how to do it differently." Shortsleeve led a session titled "Paperless Office -- What's in It for Me," at Tech 2005: The AICPA Information Technology Conference, here. Shortsleeve told the audience of CPAs, vendors and IT consultants that one four-drawer filing cabinet costs roughly $25,000 to fill up and $2,000 per year to maintain. By contrast, a 40-gigabyte hard drive can hold one million documents and costs about $100. "A typical office worker spends 30 percent of their time looking for files and information," he said. "Ninety percent of all documents are on paper and 30 percent of those often contain obsolete information." He said that to enact a paperless strategy, a firm must first establish a task force, and then break down the practice into workflow pieces, such as the tax practice. At his firm, it used to consume some 15 minutes to process a tax return, of which the firm used to process 2,000 annually. But with e-filing and other paperless strategies, that time was slashed to six minutes. Other benefits to his practice were improved office administration, the ability to archive human resources information, on-screen billing, a honed disaster recovery plan and increased office space. "We became more efficient with less people," Shortsleeve said.

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