Editor’s Note: This is the final installment from Insightful Accountant in a six-part series on why, what and how today’s companies are approaching going paperless. Sponsored by Canon imageFormula scanners, the series takes a deep dive into what a path to paperless strategy means, the various solutions available and a guide to help you get there. Make sure to check out part one, part two, part three, part four and part five here.
Kelling, Bocovich & Co. provides full-service accounting, tax, and consulting solutions for individuals and businesses in and around the Twin Cities. The Coon Rapids, Minnesota firm is a Next Generation Accounting Firm™, which means all of its services are supported by efficient technology infrastructure that offers clients 24-hour access to their financial information.
It was not always like that. There was a time, before Kelling, Bocovich & Co. made the transition from a paper-heavy tax workflow to a more basic scan and organize solution for handling source files, that CPA and President David Kelling and his team lived with the inefficiencies of working with paper files.
That first attempt only offered bookmarks and did not support review notes or a standard tree, elements that are critical for maintaining an organized and efficient tax process. In truth, it was a more glorified sorter than a true scanner and organizer solution.
“Our main goal was to be free of paper,” Kelling recalls.
It was not until the firm turned to a 1040SCAN by SurePrep that things turned around. By adopting centralized, upfront scanning, all source documents are scanned by an administrative staff member at the time they come in from the client. That person provides the preparer with the organized PDF, which comes out of the scanner.
Thanks to its paperless transition, the Kelling, Bocovich & Co. team continues to transform their 1040 tax workflow. As one staffer said, “I can’t imagine ever going back to the old way of working.”
Greg Pope hopes this success story will be one of the many that help reset the narrative of the path to paperless conversation. “These days, most firms we talk to consider themselves to be paperless,” says Pope, VP of Marketing at SurePrep, which helps accounting professionals streamline their tax preparation process through a suite of tax automation software and outsourcing services. “The benefits focus more around access, collaboration and redundancy than automating manual tasks. The next phase of will be that digital transformation.”
But while that sounds hardcore in theory, the digital transformation will not necessarily reduce or eliminate paper, but also reduce friction. “It will ease the psychological resistance experienced by someone when trying to complete an action in a workflow,” Pope says.
Why partnerships matter
When CPAs at the Spring Hill, Florida accounting firm Kierzynski & Associates realized they were spending nearly half of their workday organizing, filing, retrieving, gathering signatures, and other redundant paperwork processes, they knew there had to be a better way.
Searching for any given document would take several minutes, even though they only needed to reference it for a few seconds, they would spend more time filing it back in its proper place. And that did not even take into account the excessive time they spent at an on off-site storage facility.
After connecting with eFile, Kierzynski & Associates began its transition to a paperless environment. Eventually, its CPAs were not only able to cut down on the labor hours spent dealing with that paperwork, but also eliminate storage costs.
“Information is available right now, we don’t have to wait for someone to find a file, it’s just there,” says Kierzynski & Associates CPA Michelle Kastner. “I don’t have to pay someone to go off site and find something, they can focus their work on doing things that make us money.”
When making the decision to switch to a paperless office, Darcey Wilde, Director of Marketing for eFileCabinet, says it is important to have a carefully laid-out plan for the transition. This includes having a timetable for training, implementation of software, and then execution.
“This is the time when a company needs to recreate its everyday business processes with a digital mindset, so they can fully take advantage of a paperless office,” Wilde says. “It’s important for businesses to understand this, not just so they aren’t misled into thinking it means a complete ban on paper and printers, but so they understand the real value of going paperless isn’t just in saving money on a few office supplies.”
Transitioning into better efficiency
For years, a generation services organization of a multi-national energy company had mailed all of its expense documentations to the regional administration to process. The arduous practice began to take its toll on the company’s efficiency.
Seeking better and more efficient ways to streamline the process, the organization turned to The Neat Company, which offers integrated software and scanning solutions to help clean up such arduous processes. Working together, the company was able to move its on-site expense and document management process to a paperless system.
Since 2012, they have used the portability of Neat to submit their expense documents directly from the work site without the need to save the paper or mail them in to the regional office. “This not only saved the company money in postage but saved a tremendous amount of billable labor hours spent managing these documents,” says Annie Birney, Product Marketing Manager for The Neat Company.
Companies that have embraced the transition to a paperless strategy continue to reap the benefits, including no longer having to deal with a loss in efficiency, increased risk in data loss, and forcing customers, partners and other businesses to work with a business’s legacy processes.
“Opposing the move to a paperless office signifies the larger problem of resisting the changes necessary to remain a relevant business long-term,” Birney says. “The reliance on paper to conduct business will soon become a thing of the past.”
That last part—reliance on the past—is something many in the accounting profession are hoping more companies embrace.
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