As a business owner who wants my employees to be more efficient and orderly when it comes to paperwork, I have noticed that my bookkeeper is swamped with financial paperwork. She deals with it all day, every day. I want to have a paperless office. Is there such a thing? If so, what are the best options available to have all the current paper transferred to an electronic device so that when she needs to pull something up she can search it via a keyword or other search mechanism?
While the prospect of a paperless office may be an efficiency goal, it is often difficult to achieve in practice due to legal, tax, cost, and other business implications. Also, a bookkeeper’s job, by its very nature involves considerable paperwork and the processing of that paperwork – customer invoices, vendor/supplier bills, payroll and vendor checks, financial reports, etc. Even if the eventual goal is to have a paperless office, your bookkeeper and other employees in your office may still need to process a significant amount of paperwork before it can be converted to a digital format for electronic storage and access.
In terms of a filing system for your company’s electronic records, you can devise one on your own based on your business’ particular needs or consider purchasing a document management system or software program to assist in the process. We aren’t certain exactly what type of or the volume of internal documents your business generates, but there are a variety of document management software programs on the market that may suit your needs. However, some of these programs are geared toward specific industries whose activities ordinarily generate large volumes of paper, for example healthcare providers (practitioners, clinics, or hospitals), accounting and tax practitioners (CPAs, EAs, etc.), legal practitioners (attorneys, lawyers) and others. Although geared toward specific industries, that does not mean one of these programs could not be modified to your particular situation. Basically, you will need to research whether one or more of these programs could meet your specific needs. The following are a few example programs:
- Paperless Office Technology: abanet.org
- Buyer Guide to Document Management Software: resourcenation.com
- How to Prepare for a Document Management Purchase: mpowerincorporated.com
- Saving Trees and File Space: webcpa.com
- 2013 Review of Document Management Systems: cpapracticeadvisor.com
There are a variety of relatively inexpensive document management software programs that could be used to convert scanned and electronic documents to various file formats to certain standard file formats (PDF files, for example) for easier storage, retrieval, viewing and printing. However, there are costs beyond the initial costs of computer and scanning equipment and conversion software, like the staff time involved in converting all of your paper records to electronic format then organizing and keeping them stored in a logical file system that is secure yet easily accessible. For some simple, less-expensive document management solutions, you can research document management software programs and OCR software solutions like the following to determine if one or more may be a viable alternatives for use in developing your electronic recordkeeping system and document management strategy:
- Document Management Software: google.com
- OCR Software Guide: simpleocr.com
- Document Scanning Solutions: scanstore.com
- Data and Document Management: nothingbutsoftware.com
You can also review information on record storage and retention guidelines at the following websites: