Do you have document management done? Have you considered your strategy, chosen a product and implemented everything to your satisfaction? If so, congratulations on a great start! Wait! You say you’re finished? Are you sure? Would you like to improve the return on your investment? Would you like to be more effective and efficient?
Many firms that have implemented paperless document management frequently have only started the job, not really finished the job or have done it right. Think of your initial implementation as “Paperless 1.0”. Some characteristics of a “1.0” installation include:
- Improved or easy access to data,
- Documents are stored in searchable database,
- Many docs are automatically filed,
- Reducing/eliminating misfiles and with Web-enablement and,
- Documents are available anytime, anywhere.
Some additional benefits of Paperless 1.0 are: improved Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery and security where you can lock down documents in database to prevent unauthorized access/changes. You probably also have some benefits with being environmentally friendly with a reduction in paper printed internally.
Finally, you may be able to encourage or mandate vendors and potentially clients/customers to transact business electronically, rather than via paper documents. More improvements are possible, and the cost and time savings from Paperless 1.0 is typically only 2-5% at best. Paperless 2.0 might yield another 2-5% or more, while you spend very little hard dollars, with a small investment of brain power and time.
Where can improvements be made?
First, develop an annual review of processes where you look for things done well, identify changes to improve your processes, and any necessary re-training of your team. Watch for the opportunities when you are busy to help you prepare for the post busy season debriefing or post mortem on process improvement. Firms that annually review their processes and make incremental changes see profitability gains and time savings for the time invested.
Second, consider if the product you initially selected is doing the job. There have been enough improvements in the last two years to most document management systems that a review may be warranted. If you chose a do it yourself (DIY) approach, you may want to consider an Electronic File Cabinet (EFC) system, a Document Management System (DMS), or an Electronic Content Management system (ECM).
Possible candidates for providing document management for your firm include: Office Tools Professional, AccountantsWorld CyberCabinet, Thomson Reuters FileCabinet CS, Intuit DMS, Drake Document Manager, SmartVault, eFileCabinet, Doc-It, CCH Document, Thomson Reuters GoFileRoom, Conarc iChannel, and Autonomy Worksite. There are over 200 products that could work well in an industry implementation.
Third, you should have a portal. Besides the efficiency of creating final work products in an electronic format, you have a secure way for clients to pick up and drop off documents for your work together. Portals can be part of your practice management or document management systems, or they can be standalone utilities to get the job done. Possible solutions for providing portals for your firm include: AccountantsWorld CyberCabinet, Thomson Reuters NetClient CS, SmartVault, ShareFile, eFileCabinet SecureDrawer, Doc-It Web Client Portal, CCH ProSystem fx Portal, Thomson Reuters GoFileRoom Portal, Conarc iChannel, Autonomy Worksite and SharePoint. These portals should be integrated into your web site as we have pointed out in prior articles.
Fourth, consider an electronic workflow strategy. Automating the procedures that you have documented in a debriefing can bring consistency and controls to your firm. The most common reason for not implementing workflow is too much visibility and partners not being able to do as they please. The most common reasons to implement an electronic workflow are: reducing the amount of processing time for any task, easily being able to see the status of jobs by authorized managers, sharing work among locations, and creating consistent steps that are followed. Options for providing electronic workflow for your firm include: Office Tools Professional, XCM Solutions, Doc-It, CCH WorkStream, Thomson Reuters FirmFlow, and SharePoint.