Like many things the idea of going paperless was much more daunting than actually doing it.
We had always used our own electronic excel based workpapers and held everything in electronic folders. For each client by year we store Client Records, Workpapers, Financial Reports and Tax returns. We file emails and save PDFs of annual accounts and tax returns (we use Xero and WorkflowMax). Phone messages and faxes are all emailed to us and we can save these to client folders (we use Two Talk’s internet based phone system and the calls come in MP3 format).
Newsletters and year end checklists are all sent out by email and we hardly ever write a letter these days.
We encourage clients to send records in electronically (eg PDF format or scanned). Any piece of paper that is dropped off or posted in is scanned and filed in the client’s electronic Client Records folder.
I couldn’t manage now without my two screens in both home office and downtown – I know some people use 4 and I can see that being useful in future but 2’s enough for now. All our staff offsite use 2 screens as well. One screen effectively replaces the piece of paper that would otherwise have been in front of us.
Several things we had hung onto in paper format: signed engagement letters, tax agent authority forms, signed annual accounts and tax returns. Not any more. All are PDFed, emailed, signed by the client, scanned and emailed back to us for filing in the client folder. All invoices are emailed out and payments and receipts done through internet banking.
We have no filing room and no paper files; we run daily backups automatically and these are stored overseas and physically.
There have been huge time saving benefits. No more letters, posting, printing accounts, tax returns, covering letters, invoices, preparing envelopes, filing etc although I do miss my routine of several years ago of popping down the hill from home to the bank, posting the mail and picking up something tasty for dinner at the supermarket.
I estimate nearly two-three days a week admin time has been saved by going paperless – that’s a huge cost saving, plus we have made significant savings on stationery, printer ink, stamps etc,etc. And there’s less rubbish to deal with. We do use a document destruction bin but we haven’t filled it yet.
I also put all electronic meeting papers into Dropbox and just take my iPad to meetings. It fits nicely in my handbag!
And my desk and office are always tidy…