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Tax & Accounting11 January, 2019

Achieving a paperless office today, not tomorrow

Dean Shepherd is Senior Product Manager for Compliance at Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting UK, with over twenty years’ experience as a practising accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser. Dean joined Wolters Kluwer after selling his own practice, which he built from the ground up over a period of 10 years. Here he shares the single change that made his practice more efficient.

When I was in practice, one of the best efficiency decisions we ever made was to commit to becoming a paperless office. This strategy has also been adopted by many forward-thinking Wolters Kluwer customers.

The main drivers for our practice was to cut costs, streamline workflows and operate in a more environmentally friendly way. While going completely paperless is the goal, any reduction in paper benefits both the bottom line and the client experience as a whole.

With these benefits in mind, why do some firms hesitate to replace paper-based processes with electronic document management?

They may be daunted by the perceived investment of time and budget required or be reluctant to change time-honoured working practices. Some of our customers have also told us that their clients won’t make the change, won’t respond as promptly to information sent electronically and won’t value a PDF as much as a nicely bound set of accounts.

Why future-thinking firms have taken the plunge

Three firms who have made the transition to electronic document management explain why they would never want to return to the old days of using paper:

They have eliminated the overheads of housing and managing paper

Loucas, a firm of chartered certified accountants in London and the South East, implemented electronic document management early in its journey to becoming a digital practice and has freed space and resources by doing so.

Director Athos Louca says, “We used to have about 50 filing-cabinets back in the day; so I reckon we would need about 150 now. Imagine the expense and inconvenience of housing all those. Instead, visiting a client means I simply pick up my laptop and go. Everything is at hand – not scattered across multiple paper files.”

They have gained real-time access to information

If, at a conservative estimate, it typically takes three minutes to search for a paper document, the lost chargeable time can run into thousands of pounds every year. Removing that task from day-to-day processes frees that time for higher value work.

What’s more, using electronic document management provides greater visibility over all information on your clients on one platform, no matter where it comes from, with a shared view of the client on employees’ screens. Customer emails are centralised rather than scattered across staff’s disconnected personal email inboxes.

At McPhersons Chartered Accountants in Bexhill-On-Sea, Mark Finch finds electronic document management a significant time-saver, while also improving client service:

“With everything on screen and no paper files to trawl through, should a client call up to query a previous tax bill, we can find the answer immediately – rather than spending an hour searching through filing-cabinets in a dark and dusty basement!”

They have improved compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation

For many firms, an added driver in moving to electronic document management is gaining confidence that working practices are fully compliant with the GDPR in how securely data is stored and how promptly clients’ requests for access to their personal data can be fulfilled.

Julie Sinsbury, IT Manager at Moore Stephens (South) LLP, comments,“The introduction of the GDPR in 2018 heightened the importance of having client information readily, yet securely, accessible. With electronic document management, everything we know about our clients is in one location, rather than having to dip into separate applications. Should we receive a data request from a client, we can respond promptly. It’s a real comfort to know that it takes any guesswork out of the equation.”

How Wolters Kluwer can help

Wolters Kluwer’s CCH Document Management software makes it easier to manage and share information securely, including emails and attachments, softcopy documents, PDFs and scanned originals, with an audit trail and version control. Workflow management of letters and documents is automated with workflow templates. This saves further time and equips staff to apply a consistent approach to client communications.

For the full story, watch a one-hour webinar on how CCH Document Management would make managing and sharing information in your practice easier and safer.

We’re experts in providing information, software and services to tax executives who work in complex, compliance-driven environments.  Our innovative and mobile technology provides the information that tax, accounting and audit professionals need to make accurate decisions, comply with legislation and to increase the efficiency of their operations. We support our customers by offering expertise from our in-house team of finance professionals, ex-accountants and developers.
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