10 Document Management Tips Every Accountancy Practice Needs

Piles of paperwork on an accountant's desk

Does this sound like your accountancy practice? A daily challenge of managing a growing volume of documents. Efficient document management is not just about maintaining order; it’s about enhancing productivity, ensuring compliance, and ultimately, improving client satisfaction.


However, many accountancy practices struggle to implement effective systems, which can lead to wasted time, increased costs, and potential compliance risks. So, what’s the solution?


Consider one Evolve client, a partner at a mid-sized accounting firm in Preston. She found herself buried under piles of paperwork, losing valuable time searching for documents, and constantly worrying about data security. Her story is not unique. Many accountancy professionals share her frustration. But with the right document management strategies, this can change.


Here are ten essential tips to transform your document management practices and streamline your operations.


  • Choose the Right Document Management System (DMS)


Selecting a DMS tailored to your practice’s needs is crucial. For example, QuickBooks Practice Manager and Xero Practice Manager are designed to integrate seamlessly with accounting software, enhancing overall efficiency. These systems automate data entry and invoicing, saving time and reducing errors.


When choosing a DMS, consider factors like integration capabilities, ease of use, and scalability to ensure it meets your specific requirements.


  • Establish Clear Indexing and Naming Conventions


A consistent file naming and indexing system is fundamental for easy document retrieval. Imagine searching for a client’s financial report from last year but finding files named “doc1” or “scan2”. It’s a nightmare. Consistent conventions prevent this chaos and ensure everyone in the practice can quickly find what they need. As Benjamin Stenson, CEO of Norsemen Home Remodeling, advocates, maintaining uniformity in file structures across the organisation is key.


  • Automate Routine Tasks


Automation can drastically cut down the time spent on repetitive tasks like invoicing and data sharing. Jane, from our earlier example, adopted an automated invoicing system and saw a 40% reduction in administrative workload, allowing her team to focus more on strategic tasks and client interactions. This not only boosts productivity but also enhances data accuracy.


  • Ensure Document Security


Data breaches are a significant concern for accountancy practices handling sensitive financial information. Implementing strong security measures, such as access controls and encryption, is essential. Regular audits and updates to security protocols can prevent unauthorised access and data leaks. Remember, not all departments need access to all documents. Restricting access based on roles enhances security and ensures sensitive information is handled appropriately.


  • Invest in User Training and Feedback


Even the best DMS is only as good as its users. Regular training ensures everyone knows how to use the system effectively. Jane’s firm holds quarterly training sessions and encourages feedback from employees to continuously improve their document management processes. This approach not only keeps the system up-to-date but also aligns it with the evolving needs of the practice.


  • Digitise Paper Documents


Transitioning from paper to digital documents enhances both security and accessibility. Scanning and properly indexing documents mitigate the risk of loss or damage and make retrieval faster and more efficient. Jane’s firm undertook a digitisation project and reduced their physical storage needs by 70%, freeing up office space and making document retrieval a breeze.


  • Conduct Regular Document Audits


Periodic audits ensure compliance with retention policies and help identify documents that can be archived or deleted. This keeps the system lean and efficient, ensuring only necessary documents are stored. In the UK, financial records must be retained for at least six years as per HMRC guidelines. A robust DMS helps manage this efficiently, avoiding compliance issues and potential penalties.


  • Utilise Cloud Storage


Cloud-based DMS solutions offer scalability, remote access, and enhanced collaboration features. For practices with multiple locations or remote workers, cloud storage ensures everyone can access the documents they need, anytime, anywhere. This flexibility is particularly beneficial in today’s increasingly remote work environment.


  • Set Clear Objectives and Metrics


Define specific goals for your document management strategy and establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress. For instance, you might aim to reduce document retrieval times by 50% or achieve 100% compliance with retention policies. These objectives help align the DMS with broader business goals and track its effectiveness over time.


  • Commit to Continuous Improvement


Document management is not a one-time task. Regularly review and update your processes and tools to ensure they remain effective. Be open to changing systems if they no longer meet your needs. Continuous improvement keeps your practice agile and responsive to changing business requirements.


In conclusion, effective document management is critical for any accountancy practice aiming to improve efficiency, ensure compliance, and enhance client satisfaction.


By choosing the right DMS, establishing clear naming conventions, automating routine tasks, ensuring document security, investing in training, digitising paper documents, conducting regular audits, utilising cloud storage, setting clear objectives, and committing to continuous improvement, you can transform your document management practices.


Take inspiration from our client’s journey and make these strategies work for your practice. The benefits will be tangible, and your clients will thank you for it.