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4 Smart Information Management Strategies for Accounting Firms and Tax Consultants

According to some estimates, nearly 20% of an employee’s time is spent searching for documents. But wait… that’s not all. PwC says that 7.5% of documents in an office are simply lost — not misplaced, not hidden on someone’s desk. Lost, forever. We suspect that in a document-intensive business like that of accounting firms and tax consultants, these issues are especially prevalent.

While many major accounting firms have welcomed the new era paperless office, other firms continue to battle the vast number of documents that an accounting firm produces. In an accounting firm, the entire process used to be paper-driven, with employees often sharing files and documents daily. While the paperless office has been a hot topic for accounting firms, the drivers to implement sophisticated information management strategies run much deeper.

Professional Services companies, in general, are undergoing an unprecedented transformation, often referred to as a digital disruption. As technology has advanced, customer’s needs have evolved, and new players are emerging with services and products that are more simple, convenient and affordable. Information management strategies help these organizations keep up with these transformations. Specifically, accounting firms have a staked interest in:

  1. Minimizing labor-intensive tasks to free up time for strategic services
  2. Automating client services to increase margins on existing services
  3. Minimizing compliance and audit risks

Below you’ll find four key drivers for accounting firms to prominently feature information management as part of their digital transformation strategy:

Focus on Customer Lifetime and Customer Experience

Buyers of professional services today have changed significantly. Over the past five years, maintaining client loyalty has become a bigger challenge. Customer experience and personalized service are becoming increasingly critical. This means that companies need to put the customer at the center of their offering, rethinking products, services and portfolios to adapt to customers’ expectations. This also means that companies must ensure that workers are not caught up in manual and tedious administrative work that distracts them from serving the customer best.

Key Use Cases

CASE/ENGAGEMENT MANAGEMENT | In accounting firms, the customer experience is correlated to how well the company can carry out projects. It’s important that documentation is controlled from kick-off to hand off to archival, and that project managers have the information they need at hand in order to effectively deliver what’s promised.

DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT | Serving the customer best requires that customer information is managed effectively and accessible immediately – in the office or on the go.

CONTRACT MANAGEMENT | Contract management is critical in accounting firms. Efficient contract management means deals are closed quickly and workers can be billable faster.

Prices for Accounting Services are Getting Pushed Down in this New Buyer’s Market

The professional services environment is highly competitive, and consumers are demanding fixed fees and transparent pricing, along with services that are faster, simpler, more convenient, and affordable. In order to stay competitive, companies have to (1) lower prices and make them more transparent, and (2) offer more competitive products and services. This means that companies need to not only ensure high utilization to stay profitable, but also reduce operational waste in order to invest resources in new service offerings. Costs need to be kept low in order to be able to deliver margins in line with projections.

Key Use Cases

DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT | Traditionally, documents are stored in many different repositories like CRM, ERP, network folders and (gasp) email inboxes. Firms often have paper documents stored in physical archives, as well. This causes two main problems. The first is operational waste. Staff are not working to their fullest capacity because they have “administrative” work that could otherwise be automated or significantly reduced using solutions like M-Files. These tasks are not billable and distract workers from serving the customer best. The second issue is ensuring that knowledge can be transferred while still remaining secured. This is particularly critical when “case” or project documentation must be archived.

RFP MANAGEMENT | In a buyer’s market, the ability to quickly produce and send this content to prospective clients is critical for landing new clients and gaining more revenue.

Changing Workforce Expectations

Professional services companies are only as good as their workforce. However, attracting and retaining talent is an ongoing challenge. It is important to meet the expectations of an increasingly agile workforce. Some growing trends are:

  1. Flexibility in the ability to work remotely
  2. Efficient technology-enabled collaboration and communication

Key Use Cases

DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT | As new generations of workers enter the workforce, there are increasing demands for flexible working environments that are enabled by technology.  New workers are not motivated to do tasks that they know could be automated otherwise.

An information management technology not only eliminates information silos that inherently obstruct collaboration, but offers workers the ability to access the information they need:

  • No matter where they are
  • No matter where their data is
  • No matter what system they’re using

Focus on Safeguarding Customer Information

Accounting firms handle an enormous volume of confidential client information. The delicate nature of this cannot be overstated, as high-value data can cause havoc if it falls into the wrong hands, making these companies the obvious targets of hackers. As a result, information security is increasingly important as data breaches pose a huge potential threat to consultancies.

Most data security regulations require that organizations:

  • Document their procedures, operations, processes and policies
  • Prove that they follow documented procedures
  • Report and maintain records of issues and CAPAs (corrective and preventative actions)

Key Use Cases

SECURITY | Information management platforms can store customer data according to safety and security standards.

AUDIT MANAGEMENT | Professional Services companies need to comply to different regulations that change over time. When an audit request comes, failing to or delaying in following up with it can lead to fines or more severe consequences.

For professional accounting firms who need to accelerate the process of managing client information and minimize errors in filing compliance, M-Files provides an intelligent information management solution that helps you immediately and easily find and manage client related information based upon what it is – not where it’s stored.

Unlike any other solution, M-Files integrates all internal systems and delivers automation that provides staff with a 360-degree view of the latest, up to date information from which to make decisions. M-Files key elements for accounting firms includes:

  • Multi-repository contextual search
  • Workflow process automation
  • Project document management
  • Contract management
  • M-Files Advanced Outlook integration
  • Document signing capabilities
  • Compliance kit