Moving to a paperless workflow is a big decision for any firm, and as technology has progressed, firms of all sizes are making that leap in an effort to improve efficiency and drive productivity. To successfully make the transition, they need a powerful document management system, such as CCH® ProSystem fx® Document.
For Mesa, Arizona-based Lohman Company, the decision to go paperless came after a period of steady growth ranging from 15 percent to 40 percent per year. Over time, the firm noticed that paper-based processes that had worked well in the past were beginning to show signs of strain. Firm leadership recognized that something had to change. Already using CCH® ProSystem fx® Tax, CCH® ProSystem fx® Practice Management, CCH® ProSystem fx® Engagement, CCH® ProSystem fx® Scan and CCH® Accounting Research Manager®, they began evaluating a variety of document management systems, and eventually decided upon Document.
“Prior to our move to Document, our firm was between zero to 75 percent paperless, depending on the engagement and type of information they received from clients,” explained Craig Lohman, partner-in-charge of the Assurance department at Lohman Company. “Like many firms our size, our workflow included numerous paper gusset files and electronic supplements. We knew instinctively that improved automated document retention policies and document management processes could drive greater efficiency across the firm.”
Document manages the full range of accounting documents electronically, including tax returns, client correspondence, employee records and email. Centralizing all documents in a single, easily searchable repository reduces costs associated with creating and storing paper documents and enables firms to deliver improved client service by minimizing time spent searching through binders for pieces of paper.
In evaluating Document, Lohman Company particularly liked that the solution was well organized, easy to use and customizable to the firm’s workflow. In addition, the integration with other Wolters Kluwer solutions, and the fact that Document was well tested within CPA firms, made the decision to implement Document a relatively straightforward one.
Upon deciding to implement Document within their firm, the implementation process consisted of three equally important phases:
The migration process
During the planning phase, Wolters Kluwer worked with Lohman Company to help the firm think through their retention strategies and how to best organize their files electronically.
“Wolters Kluwer shared best practices, which helped us benefit from what other firms had learned from their migration to a paperless workflow before us,” explained Lohman. “In addition, we took the time to get input from partners, the Information Technology department and key employees. That up-front investment was time well spent as it helped ensure that everyone was on board.”
Led by Lohman Company’s IT department with guidance from Wolters Kluwer, the Installation phase consisted of the installing all of the necessary hardware and software and conducting testing to ensure that the solution was functioning correctly. Finally, the Training phase included a full day of training for all employees to help them learn the new paperless workflow.
Wolters Kluwer offers a full range of services to help make transitioning to a paperless workflow as smooth and productive as possible. In addition to guiding firms through installation, Wolters Kluwer provides firm-wide best practices through training and consulting.
A Successful Transition Leads to Dramatic Efficiency Improvements
Within a year of going live with Document, Lohman Company had successfully migrated to a 100 percent paperless workflow process. The firm decided to use Document for all static documents and any engagement that did not use a trial balance. Static documents include issued reports, tax returns, financial statements, management reports, correspondence, billing support, tax projections, and tax notices. In addition, the firm now houses all internal control documents within Document. These include accounts payable documents, bank statements, billing support, correspondence, tax returns, and financial statements. They also include human resources documents and general firm documents.
Similarly, the firm stores all live engagements with changing documents within Engagement. This includes trial balance reports, workpapers, memorandums, supporting documents, permanent file information, and correspondence relating to the engagement. The integration between Document and Engagement makes it easy to move documents between solutions.
“The fact that Document is customizable has allowed us to set up different classes and subclasses of folders,” explained Lohman. “We can easily sort, save and retrieve information and protect access to sensitive documents as well.”
Standardized, consistent paperless workflow
In the past, the firm had a standard workflow, but it could be difficult to follow procedures consistently. That was especially true when data could take the form of paper, email or electronic documents. Since going paperless, Lohman Company has seen many positive results relating to efficiency and productivity.
“Going paperless has helped our firm tremendously. And we’ve seen dramatic improvements in efficiency — especially in year two and beyond,” said Lohman. “Now every document that comes into our firm has a place to go. Email correspondence is now easily saved and dropped into a client binder, which wasn’t happening consistently in the past. Now, people across the firm can easily see exactly what’s going on with a particular client.”
In addition, Document’s powerful search capability has been a big help in helping staff find documents quickly and easily.
“The powerful search technology in Document enables our staff to quickly find and retrieve documents that were saved to the system, even if they don’t know every single detail about that document,” said Lohman. “Document also automates record retention for us. We know which documents have reached their retention life and when it’s time to get rid of that document, which helps reduce costs.”
Collaborating with Clients with CCH Axcess™ Portal
When it comes to exchanging documents with clients, Lohman Company selected Portal for its centralized and secure environment. Portal enables the firm to securely share documents with clients. Clients with portals can log on and gain access to all of their completed documents at any time.
Initially, the firm required all financial-statement clients, large business tax-only clients, certain consulting clients and third parties to use Portal. But more recently, they are seeing all types of clients appreciate the option of secure, 24/7 access to their documents.
“In addition to providing a safe and easy way to share information, Portal is a great collaboration tool in working with clients and other third-party providers, such as attorneys and consulting firms,” explained Lohman. “And the fact that we have a portal reflects positively on our firm when it comes to prospective new clients. More clients are expecting their accounting firms to be technologically savvy, and Wolters Kluwer helps us exceed their expectations.”
- Using Document and Portal, Lohman Company was able to:
- Successfully migrate to a paperless workflow, achieving significant efficiency and productivity gains.
- Make all firm documents easily storable, searchable and retrievable.
- Automate records retention.
- Exchange documents safely and securely with clients while giving them 24/7 access to their completed work materials.