If you want to grow your accounting business, win new customers, and continue to provide an amazing service then having a talented team by itself might not be enough. You’re going to need great accounting software to match. The best accounting systems will manage and store all your important information and will help you stay both professional and legal in all of your client interactions.
What is the right accounting software for your firm, you may ask?
For starters, you’re going to need a quality document management system. For conquering the industry, you’re going to want to get the best document management system money can buy.
This isn’t hyperbole. You won’t be effective if you aren’t prepared. And you won’t be efficient if you aren’t organized.
What is accounting document management software?
Accounting document management software is software that helps you accurately manage all of the paperwork associated with your firm and its clients. It’s where you upload, store, and edit all of your digital files and then organize those files so that you and your colleagues can access them from any device.
Interesting side note: you’ve heard those funny statistics that reveal how much of your life is spent sleeping. Or folding clothes. You won’t believe how much of the year the average office employee spends looking for the right file. Just another great reason your accounting practice should be 100% digital.
But we digress. Document management software likewise makes it easy to share documents with clients. An email attachment is easy, sure. But it’s not very secure—or professional, for that matter.
You: Did you get the file I sent you? Them: I don’t think so. You: Check your email, I’m pretty sure I sent it to you. Them: I don’t see it. You: I promise I sent it to you! Them: Can you try sending it again?
Back and forth. You know the conversation.
What features do accountants need in a document management software?
A first-in-class document management software will likely set you up with more tools, short-cuts, gizmos, and time-savers than you can shake a stick at. But let’s go over some of the basics—features that a majority of accountants would find useful—and, once they get used to them, probably indispensable.
To begin with, you’re going to want software that sets you up with a virtual drive, so that the files and folders on your computer desktop automatically sync with the document management system. That way you don’t have to worry about accidentally creating different versions of things and keeping track of which one is the most up to date.
If uploading documents to your document management system is at all cumbersome, you’re likely to get a little bit lazy and skip the process every now and then. So the ability to create files in any program and quickly upload them to the system is critical.
For digital documents, you’ll likely do this from the print dialog, similar to how you turn a Word doc into a PDF. For physical documents, you’ll obviously need to scan them. But a good software will send the scanned files to a folder already in your system.
Another key feature of a solid document management will be a client portal where clients can sign in on their own to upload, download, and view files as necessary. An easy-to-use client portal simplifies your interactions with clients immensely. You’ll wonder how you ever survived without it.
A great example is previous years’ tax returns. How much time do you want to spend digging those up for clients who want them? Answer: zero. With a client portal, clients can access all of their information by themselves. That’s what we call “less hand holding.” But they think your services are more personalized than ever.
Infinite storage and backup
If you take the time and expense to invest in a document management system, you shouldn’t have to worry about storage or backing up your files. The first should be unlimited, and the second should occur on a regular basis. Be sure to read the fine print for each.
The thing that made Google Docs so cool, way back in the day—before Iron Man 2, even—was that people could work on the same document together, at the same time. So it goes without saying that your document management software should do that much.
A top software, however, should give you the ability to edit not just the text but the actual file itself. That means being able to move pages around, delete blank pages, or even combine multiple file types—PDF, FDF, DOCX, PPTX, you name it—into a single file.
Fillable PDFs and integrated eSignature
Two final features you’ll put to good use are fillable PDFs and drag-and-drop eSignature fields. I’ve placed them together because in both cases you’re dealing with documents that require a response from your client.
Getting clients to respond, add content to documents, and send them back to you can be a real pain in the—a real hassle, that is, so it’s imperative you make the process as easy as possible with the right document management system.
What kind of document management systems do accountants use?
The best document management software for accountants is one created specifically for accountants! It should reduce document sprawl, make file sharing as secure and easy as possible and ultimately save time while still ensuring accuracy.
Unfortunately, that's not what happens. The default product for many business professionals, and therefore accountants, is often one of the well-known file hosting services like DropBox, SmartVault, and Google Drive. These are systems that have been designed to work for any industry or even person, really—someone who just needs a place to store and share their digital assets. It could be the closing documents for a new home, your daughter’s 12th grade English assignment or even a highly secretive business dealings with infamous politicians.
These are solid products, to be sure. The problem with them—or perhaps limitation is a better word—is that they weren’t designed with accountants primarily in mind, and so they lack key features that most accountants would take advantage of, if they had the option.
Other document management systems, like Canopy’s, were created specifically for accountants to help them with their most important work responsibilities. In fact, Document Management by Canopy is actually only one module of Canopy’s complete Practice Management software that accountants use to run their entire accounting business and streamline their workflow.
So, you could invest in Canopy’s Document Management software if your primary area of concern is protecting, sharing, storing, and editing your documents . . .
Or, if you want to really fill the tank with jet fuel, you can explore Canopy’s entire Practice Management platform to see where else you can fine-tune processes and maximize your ROI.
Improve your business with better document management
Now that you know more about document management, you can be on the lookout for moments in your day when an effective document management system could save you time and benefit your accounting firm.
Such moments shouldn’t be hard to identify. You’re probably dealing with documents all day long. Don’t underestimate the importance of how you manage those documents. A big part of your firm’s success could be riding on it!
Dave Nielsen lives in Salt Lake City. He holds a PhD from the University of Cincinnati and writes regularly about business and healthcare.READ MORE BY Dave