Accounting firms are often overwhelmed with incoming paper and electronic documents – particularly at tax time. Clients send e-mails with tons of disorganized attachments. Customers come in with disorderly stacks of paper, hoping you can make sense of it all and file their return.

It’s a challenge to keep up with it all, and every minute you spend searching through stacks of paper or files filled with electronic documents for the right receipt or invoice is time you can’t spend generating income.

Document management software can make your firm’s operations less taxing by putting important documents at your fingertips and helping you stay organized all through tax season and beyond. Accounting firms that go paperless are more productive and effective.

But selecting the right document management solution for your office is critical. Here are three tips to help you understand how document management software can help your office run more efficiently and which features are most important to your success.

1. Easy scanning. The scanning process has been the chief obstacle to a paperless firm because many accountants are convinced that it’s time-consuming and cumbersome. But scanning technology has evolved since the early days of paperless, so it’s easier to scan and store client files than ever before.

You can scan documents in just seconds, and with the right technology package, you can also create keyword-searchable files that you can edit in a universal format like PDF. A quality scanning solution can even make volume scanning easy, recognizing where one document begins and another ends in a stack and sending them to the right client folder.

2. Simple organization. Another reason some accountants are less enthusiastic about going paperless is that they worry about the way their clients’ files will be organized online. Some document management systems have a complex interface, and since most smaller accounting firms don’t have onsite tech support, using a complicated system isn’t feasible.

A system built around a simple, intuitive structure that anyone in your network can access is a better alternative. If you find a solution with integrated search features, you can conduct a keyword search to pull up client documents.

3. Editable documents. Accountants need to be able to make changes to electronic documents and convert printed pages into editable electronic files. You’ll want to choose a paperless office solution that uses a universal format such as PDF.

With a document management system that has full PDF functionality, you can combine files by dropping them on each other and scan new pages into existing documents. The right document management system makes it easy to manage all of your client files.

If you’re ready to make operations at your firm run more smoothly at tax time or any other time of the year, it’s time to consider going paperless. But remember that there are many paperless office systems available, so it pays to evaluate your options carefully before you make a selection.

For an accounting firm, going paperless is an excellent way to end the costly paper chase and promote greener operations. Once you find the right solution, you’ll find that a paperless office makes accounting operations much less taxing.

Jeff Pickard is president and CEO of Lucion Technologies, makers of FileCenter.

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