When tax season rolls around and your firm is at its busiest, many people think that all non-essential firm operations should be set aside to focus on the seasonal crush. However, the beginning of the year is still a good time to take care of important operational tasks. With good planning now, your firm can make the most of the summer months before extension season. In a recent webinar, Damon Russel, Wolters Kluwer Product Line Manager, and Kimberly Engstrom, Senior Manager at Global Mobility Tax spoke with Woltes Kluwer Senior Manager of Strategic Relationships Brian Siet about some simple steps firms can take make incremental improvements. The webinar, Common Sense Steps to Improve Your Document Management, covered topics related to security, workflow and collaboration. The discussion included a few document management tips you can easily implement, even (or especially) during busy season.
Review security policies, especially seasonal staff permissions
If your firm has a written security policy, it’s best to have all staff review it at least once a year. Even if you haven’t made any changes to your policies, an annual security check-up can help staff stay aware of potential issues.
According to Engstrom, “We hire interns to help with preparation of tax returns and so making sure that they are using our security processes and that they are in compliance with our rules within our firm is a top concern in our firm right now.” – Kimberly Engstrom
Russel recommends limiting access for seasonal staff to only those clients they need access to. You can also limit their user permissions to the minimum required to complete their jobs. CCH Axcess Document offers role-based security features that make this simple, along with client access groups to protect high net worth clients as well as folder-level and file-level security for the most granular protection.
Document your current processes and identify pain points
The first step to improving your workflow is to document your current processes. You might not be able to make an entire transformation during tax season. But taking time to jot down current processes will help you identify pain points that you can work on later. After tax season, the inefficiencies will start to fade from memory quickly, so it’s best to document problems as they happen.
“The specific pain points we had were document storage,” Engstrom said. “We had way too many documents to store and to keep increasing the size of our server was difficult. That was a very big problem that we had.”
When you’ve documented your processes and identified pain points, the next step according to Russel is to map those pain points to potential software features. That might be a task for after tax season. The important thing is to take it one step at a time.
Don’t email important documents
Most accountants know that they shouldn’t email sensitive documents, but sometimes clients can push back. Although the firm primarily uses CCH Axcess Portal to exchange files, they also have an alternate solution.
She says, “We do have those people that maybe don’t want another login and password or they’re just not technology savvy to use the Portal. And so we use Share Safe (in those cases).”
According to Russel, the CCH Axcess Document Share Safe feature was introduced for just these cases. It allows firms to upload files to a secure location in the cloud. Then, the client accesses the file with a secure link and a code sent in separate emails.