As businesses strive to become more eco-friendly and ease their processes, transitioning to a paperless system it’s still one of the most lagging paradigm shifts. This is especially true in accounting firms where the amount of documents managed on a daily basis is considerable.
It’s not just about the system or how good your software is, but more about changing the throw-away culture in the office. Although this transition to a paperless system can sometimes feel overwhelming, with good planning and thorough execution it can be done successfully.
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of going paperless and how to implement a successful digital system.
Why Going Paperless in an Accounting Firm?
Without a doubt, increase efficiency and cost savings. A paperless system reduces the time and effort required to manage documents. By digitizing paperwork, accounting firms can store, organize, and access them more easily, eliminating manual tasks such as printing or filing, and reducing the risk of misfiled documents.
Also, digital documents take up less physical space, leaving you with more office footage to use for other things.
How to Implement a Paperless Office
As we said, becoming a no-paper company can be overwhelming for accounting firms, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. You just need a good execution plan to do it successfully. Here are some steps to follow when implementing a paperless system:
- Select and throw away: Start by selecting which documents need to be digitized (Think about client files, invoices, receipts, and other financial documents that are systematically created) and which ones are not required anymore. I know you think all of them are important, but on the way, you will probably find repeated documents, blank forms, and misfiled archives.
- Choose a Software: There are many options available for accounting firms to manage their documents. Choose a software that meets your needs and is compatible with your hardware.
- Invest in Hardware: You will need scanners and computers. Pay special attention to storage hardware, such as disks and internal servers if you think you need them. High-quality hardware can make all the difference for the digitization process to be smooth and efficient.
- Get everyone on board: Arguably, this is the most important step for the implementation to be successful. Employees need to be very well trained and know everything about how to scan documents, search and store them. They need to really understand the benefits of the paperless system and how it will improve their own workflow in order for this to work.
It's definitely a challenge, but it's not difficult
Resistance to change is a common challenge when going paperless in an accounting firm. Some employees may be hesitant to give up familiar paper-based processes, fearing that they may lose important information or become irrelevant. To overcome this, make sure you do it gradually. It will take time for people to adapt so pay special attention to training and clear communication.
Also, a slow merger will help you implement new procedures properly and eliminate useless ancient steps. During the transition period, you may probably need to combine some paperless systems protocols in tandem with your old systems to make it more friendly.
Another challenge is security concerns. With digital documents, there is a risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. With today's technology, this is an easy topic to tackle, implementing security measures such as password protocols, two-factor authentication, and regular backups. Consider creating different levels of access according to role and make sure all employees are aware of the security policies in place.
Paperless Accounting Office Best Practices
Maintaining a paperless system is not a one-time job. It requires ongoing effort to make sure that it remains secure, useful, and up-to-date. Here are some best practices to follow in order to maintain a proper paperless accounting firm:
- Be safe by making backups: Regularly back up all digital documents and update software to ensure that it is running smoothly.
- Pay attention to document retention policies: Establish clear retention policies to ensure that documents are stored and deleted according to legal and regulatory requirements. Hire highly qualified people on this topic or seek specialized counseling.
- Don’t forget about cybersecurity: firewalls, anti-virus software, and employee training are a must to prevent data breaches.
- Keep your people up-dated: Provide ongoing training and education to all employees to ensure that they are using the paperless system effectively and efficiently.
Join the Paperless Revolution: Go Green in Your Accounting Firm
The benefits of going paperless extend beyond the accounting firm itself. By reducing the need for paper-based processes, companies can help reduce their environmental impact and contribute to a more sustainable future.
So, let's join the paperless revolution, go green and help save the environment, while also boosting the efficiency and organization of accounting firms.
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Kevin Mitchell, CPA
Senior Manager and CPA with over 20 years of experience in accounting and financial services, specializing in risk management and regulatory compliance. Skilled in managing audits and leading teams to deliver exceptional services. Proud father of two.