Consolidating Applications to Improve Productivity
Most organizations have redundant or seldom used software applications that complicate IT support and increase costs. Assessing your firm’s needs and consolidating applications can improve productivity.
Accounting Firm Software:
Consolidate Applications to Improve Productivity
By Kevin Sharma
Today’s accounting firms are information-driven and heavily dependent on software. How many applications would you guess are in use at your firm? The categories of software in our industry include accounting applications, engagement software, practice management, document scanning, tax preparation, sales tax processing, e-filing, payroll, time and billing, trial balance, fixed asset tracking, audit processing, eSignature processing, analytics/reporting and more.
Depending on the nature of your firm’s practice, there may be 40 or more applications just for tax and accounting. This tally doesn’t even take into account the numerous business applications for productivity, communications, CRM and marketing.
Best of Breed Approach
A best of breed approach allows firms to select the optimal targeted solution for each task and choose the right products that are feature-rich. Innovations in cloud technology and the application programming interface revolution have shifted the balance in favor of a best of breed approach. Modern platforms feature APIs (application programming interface – think of it as a ‘connector’) that enable powerful integration and data-sharing between applications, often right out of the box. For example, a web-based portal may use APIs to connect seamlessly with the eSignature software of your choice. Or a document management system may employ APIs to automatically recognize and file documents from a tax application.
Simplifying by Consolidating Applications
Over time, many firms find that they purchase – and then have to maintain – multiple applications that are redundant or are used by just a few employees. This can happen when resourceful employees are free to adopt new applications for their desktops or work groups. In doing so they inadvertently increase the burden on IT, drive up costs and can affect the client experience.
Selecting and standardizing on a set of software applications that best suit your firm can enhance productivity and security and reduce operating costs. Here are some points to consider:
- Most firms work on PDF documents. Choose a PDF editor that integrates within your document work environment. A PDF editor designed for accountants will offer, for example, calculator features that allow you to run a “tape” and attach it to the document. Doc.It Suite includes a robust PDF editor at no additional cost, allowing firms to completely eliminate the licensing and support costs of Adobe, PDFlyer, Nitro or other PDF-editing applications.
- Reduce complexity with integrated document management and workflow. Many workflow systems are designed only for tracking tasks and due dates in processes. But the tasks accountants perform daily are directly related to client documents – filings, forms and financial data. Consolidating document management and workflow into a single application reduces implementation effort, IT support and licensing costs. The document management backbone can serve as storage and archiving throughout the life cycle of the engagement or client relationship.
- Consolidation on file-sharing applications also delivers greater productivity to both firms and their clients. It’s common to see various employees at accounting firms choosing SafeSend, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or similar apps to exchange documents with clients. These tools are popular, but designed for general use. Consolidate applications by adopting a portal site designed for accountants. The portal site included in Doc.It Suite or Doc.It Connect offers value-added features for clients, such as Prepared by Client (PBC) lists, reminders and integrated eSignature capability.
Where do you start your search? Form a committee, outline the needs of all stakeholders and view demos of two or three products. Narrow down the list from there based on price, functionality, future direction of vendor and other criteria. Remember software is represented by the people behind the product, not just what you see on screen. Ask about support capabilities, product strategy for future releases and management direction to be sure they meet your needs.
As a best of breed solution for document management, workflow and portal access, Doc.It Suite allows firms to reduce cost and complexity with a focused solution to decrease the number of disparate applications in daily operations. This approach alleviates support and maintenance efforts while supporting a forward-thinking, flexible API strategy that will allow integration with the future applications that are continuously introduced to market. Ultimately this leads to fewer clicks and greater efficiency while eliminating the need to jump from software to software to find information. Integration also means that the same data doesn’t need to be added in multiple places as they sync directly through your applications.
Its nine pieces include document storage and management with full search and retention, workflow monitoring, a web portal with secure email and PBC checklists and a PDF editor that can replace Adobe along with an additional mark-up tool, scan and organize tools with OCR and auto-file naming as well as a mobile application. True to the API model, Doc.It includes integration with DocuSign, the leading application for eSignatures.
It makes sense to get greater value from a best of breed approach rather than purchasing each piece separately. Reducing the number of applications in your firm and standardizing on the most important software systems will reduce IT complexity and cost.
The Bottom Line
What’s the bottom line here? For a cohesive document management process, seek a provider that offers one well-integrated suite focused specifically on efficient creation, filing, sharing and storage of client documents – the common thread in daily firm administration. A more flexible approach with a wider choice of well-designed applications that can be integrated through the use of APIs allows you to grow and change at your own pace.
If you have an interest in exploring ways to improve app consolidation, document management, workflow, a portal site or other productivity solutions for your firm, contact me at [email protected].