Author: Mark Woolley, Director, Virtual Cabinet

“I just think that people need to embrace the change, because it helps with ‘efficiencies, it has completely revolutionised the way we have actually worked in the business” Richard White, Larking Gowen, Accountants

George Bernard Shaw once said that progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything.

Technology continues to reshape professional firms and today’s business climate means constantly being on the look out for ways to save more time.  However, making those extra efficiency gains is becoming more and more difficult and it’s time for a radical rethink.

Some firms are doing just that. They are taking the time to look at the processes and the technology they use and are finding that they can save thousands of hours annually. One of the areas where the most exciting gains are being won is with effective, electronic document management and particularly, time saving document creation.

Whether a firm creates one document a day or thousands, this change in thinking makes it possible to combine client and file data with standard text and to generate professional letters in a seconds. Put simply, legacy document management systems are just not up to delivering the level of efficiencies needed in this challenging business environment.

Document creation tools allow professional firms to drastically reduce the time it takes to produce letters. The boost to efficiency is significant for accountancy firms that typically generate thousands of letters a year and they reduce administrative input, ensure accuracy and cut the risk of re-typing errors.

They also free up key personnel to get on with the more innovative, creative elements of the business – the things machines cannot yet do that well!

The highly respected Top 50 firm, Larking Gowen, is one firm that has moved all document creation from a legacy system to a powerful electronic document management system with an integrated document creation tool.

According to Richard White, Database Manager, Larking Gowen, the legacy system was dated and the only people who could keep it up to date, were the developers themselves. “It was cumbersome and although we were able to import data from our practice management software, we were still having to enter figures manually.”

With the new document creation tool, there is no longer a need for any manual data entry where errors can occur and when the time saving is multiplied across the firm, the savings for a single letter equate to 18 weeks of time. This is simply the starting point. The team has calculated that each letter produced using the document creation facility will save a further 30 seconds to a minute.

Lovewell Blake, is another Top 50 accountancy firm that is impressed with automatic document creation.

Shaun Mary, IT partner, Lovewell Blake adds: “It is very slick and easy, and crucially it is in a product that all staff are aware of. It just allows us to generate a letter so much quicker.”

While technology is changing the way in which companies work, forward looking document management systems provide the administrative backbone to any organisation looking for greater flexibility, access, time improvements, versionalisation and accuracy.

Document portals provide backbone to secure communication

Mark Woolley
Mark Woolley

Once a document is created, professional firms face the increasingly complex challenge of ensuring it reaches the recipient safely and particularly, when communicating electronically. High level cyber security breaches are fast becoming part and parcel of this new challenging business environment and integrated document portals that form part of an integrated document management system, are providing the level of protection professional firms require.

Use of a portal guarantees complete security and traceability through a full audit trail and allows users to publish documents to an individual notifying them via an email address. The document is securely uploaded to the Cloud and an email notification sent to the client advising them that there is a document for their attention and they can access and view documents published to them via the portal website or directly from their phone or tablet device.

Accountants and their clients can access and view documents published to them directly from their phone or tablet device with the confidence that they remain confidential. Recipients can securely access their documents and review, sign, approve or reject them from the kind of devices used on a day-to-day basis.  Users can choose to pre-download documentation securely onto the device knowing they will have access to the documents even if they do not have access to the Internet at the time of their meeting.  They will also be safe in the knowledge that should their device go missing or get stolen the documents stored on the device are fully encrypted.

What the future holds

What do all of these trends and concerns mean for the future of the “document” as we know it?  Nicely formatted information, organised to fit in to sequential areas of white space that can be printed at the touch of a button, is likely to remain with us for some time to come.

But as the reign of paper diminishes with each passing year, the ‘Twitterisation’ of society could see new generations who expect to exchange 140-character blurbs of text or electronic transactions rather than writing letters, memos or invoices.

Whether or not what we know as a document will be the same in five years’ time, the business community should be reassured that forward-looking software developers are asking these questions on their behalf and reshaping products to provide that extra turbo boost to efficiency.

It is now possible to generate, process, store, retrieve, update, authorise, sign-off, audit, duplicate, distribute, confirm, and integrate documents, anywhere anytime – all while meeting compliance and governance regulations. But it is automatic document creation, using integrated and innovative technology, that is the new game-changer.