The Paperless Office: A case study

The paperless office was for a long time little more than a pipedream. It promised so much but was too hard to implement or didn’t fit the needs of the specific business.

All that has gone. Paperless is now best practice and is being quickly adopted throughout all manner of businesses.

At Generate Accounting, we fully implemented a paperless office over twelve months ago and we thought it might be helpful to share how we achieved it.

1. Partner

The first thing we did was partner with one of the best cloud integrators in the country. We chose Aerorock. These guys live and breathe cloud computing – the only time they touch a server is to recycle it. Best of all they aren’t tied to one particular vendor. They recommend the solutions that best suits your needs from Dropbox to Microsoft to Google. They were able to migrate all our records, and we have a lot, from our server into the cloud with no down time.

2. Capture

You need to be able to quickly and effortless capture paper at source and turn it into digital form. This means scanning. We have a copier with a scanning function for the big jobs where we need to capture many pages. For less paper intensive scanning, we invested in a scanner on everyone’s desk. We opted for the Kodak ScanMate i940 as it’s so compact but there are any number of options on the market. It’s a great little machine that’s little bigger than an old fashioned pencil case. It takes up no room at all and each team member can effortlessly convert paper to digital at their desk. We scan to to PDF format – a universal standard readable on virtually any computer or mobile device.

3. Sort

We need to find information quickly. Whatever device(s) you implement, they need to have optical character resolution (OCR). Sorry, we have to get a teeny bit technical here. OCR converts what the scanner sees on a page into a machine readable format. That means that when you search for a document, you can search for something unique within the actual text of the document. This is a game changer. Old fashioned filing systems relied on a standard filing scheme. That meant locating the file and working your way through many hundreds of pages to find what you wanted. OCR turns all of this on its head. You don’t have to remember a complex file name in a directory. Imagine you have an invoice from a supplier but can’t remember the supplier’s name. That’s no trouble. Search for the name of the product you sourced from the supplier. Easy.

4. Store

We wanted to use a system that enabled us to retrieve files 24/7 anywhere in the world. That means cloud. We opted to use Dropbox but there are any number of different options. We are really pleased we did as Xero has just announced a strategic alliance with Dropbox that will enable significant integration between the two applications.

5. Email

Accountants are nothing if not frugal. We set a challenge to Arrowrock to find us a cost effective email management system that enabled us to save all important emails for perpetuity and retrieve them easily. They didn’t disappoint. We now use OnePlaceMail which integrates with Microsoft Sharepoint to save important correspondence and enable us to quickly find anything.

6. Backup

Everything we scan is automatically backed up to Google Drive. That means that in the unlikely event that we can’t access Dropbox we can still find essential documents. Just to be doubly sure, we still back up all our systems to another third party to ensure redundancy.

7. Xero

One of the least heralded and most productive enhancements in Xero is the ability to save a source document to the actual transaction in Xero. This means that any invoice you receive can be scanned and saved into Xero for perpetuity. There is no need to keep paper copies any more. You can scan and discard the paper – there is no need for any folders or filing cabinets. You can learn more by clicking here.

Alternatively you can email invoices directly to Xero. You can find out more about that by clicking here.

In addition, if you send your invoices using Xero and the recipient also uses Xero, you don’t even need to scan. By changing some settings in Xero this can all happen at the click of a mouse without the need to print and scan anything. It is all possible on the Xero-to-Xero network. Learn more by clicking here.

All this is possible now that Inland Revenue accept digital copies of source documents. You can read more by clicking here.

Ironically the IRD still sends us all correspondence concerning your tax affairs to us by mail. We can’t wait for that to change and discussion is already advanced.

The result of all this change has been a truly mobile practice where we can work anywhere and anytime. Productivity has improved out of sight. There is no down time spent on filing or finding files. Emails can be retrieved effortlessly. All our supplier invoices are stored next to the source transaction in Xero.

Feel free to contact us if you’d like more information about how we made the transition into the cloud. You don’t have to do all of this at once. You can start by saving all your source documents into Xero. Then you might consider doing away with your server and implementing Dropbox and OnePlaceMail. If you chose a great partner it should be effortless.

By the way, does anyone need some cheap filing cabinets?