If you had to make a list of all the things that are critical for small business compliance, the successful management of source documents would be right at the top. This is especially true for accounting firms, in particular, who are dealing with massive volumes of documents — like bills, invoices, receipts, and anything else related to countless transactions on a daily basis.
In addition, the management of these documents is also important in terms of accurately and efficiently completing the accounting process to begin with. Likewise, if you understand what documents you’re dealing with, you’re in a better position to extract valuable insight from them that likely would have otherwise gone undiscovered. This is a great way to put your small business in a position to capitalize on opportunities, rather than simply watching them pass you by.
All of this underlines the importance of having an information management strategy — spearheaded by a system like M-Files. With an intelligent information management system, accounting firms can finally aggregate these documents and store them securely. This brings with it a wide range of different benefits:
The Importance of Source Documents: Breaking Things Down
Again, source documents are a vital part of any accounting firm, largely because they dramatically improve data quality and accountability across the board. Not only will having these source documents readily available make the transaction reconciliation process faster, easier, and more accurate, but it also makes it far easier to gather needed information faster. This in turn allows you to translate that data into legitimate business intelligence, all of which can be used to make better and more informed decisions whenever possible.
The issue, however, is that these source documents are traditionally difficult to collect on the best of days. Even getting something as seemingly simple as an invoice returned often involves a lot of back-and-forth communications with clients, which sometimes leads to time-consuming (and frustrating) delays.
The Power of an Information Management System
But by transitioning to an information management system like M-Files, you can largely digitize the collection and management of these source documents, thus improving efficiency as much as possible.
Metadata. When you add source documents to a solution like M-Files, the data is extracted and metadata is used to reveal not what a document is called or where it is located, but what raw value is contained inside. This means that you don’t actually need to know where something is stored in order to find it instantly — all you need to know is WHAT you’re looking for and the system itself will take care of the rest, all while creating a data storage structure that is easily searchable in the future.
Artificial Intelligence. Built-in artificial intelligence and machine learning are core elements in M-Files that help in processing source documents and extracting key data points into metadata. It is the AI that enables a lot of the more advanced information management features:
- Search for, access and manage information across different systems and repositories.
- Separate business critical data from clutter.
- Automatically tag content with metadata.
Remote work enablement. Moving to an information management system like M-Files is a particularly important move right now when most people are still working remotely. With M-Files, what you’re really doing is creating one, centralized repository that all of your employees can utilize from wherever they happen to be. In addition to integrating with all popular cloud storage platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive, it also brings together information stored in your existing repositories like network shares and traditional hard disk drives.
Not only will this make sure that no data silos are created with your workforce spread so thin, but it will also help break down many of the existing ones that you’re dealing with, too. Information will finally be free to flow across the entirety of your enterprise, thus improving communication and collaboration as well.
Cost savings of digital documents. Moving to an information management platform ushers in a large number of other benefits, too — including ones that a lot of people just don’t think about. Thanks to the sheer volume of documents that your accounting firm is likely working with, you’re probably paying a fortune in physical storage alone. Not only do you need to constantly invest in new equipment like filing cabinets, but you’re also paying rent on that space to maintain a physical place of business that you can’t actually get the most out of right now. By digitizing everything and moving to an information management solution, you could easily find yourself in a position where you’re able to downsize your office — thus saving money every month without actually making any type of significant change at all.
The end result of this decision is truly a perfect storm in the best possible way. Not only do you suddenly have a new way to manage source documents that is both (A) compliant and (B) secure to the point of being disaster proof, but you also get the added benefit of automating a lot of those tedious manual processes that take up so much of your workers’ time. You get to spend less time chasing down documents and getting them from clients and can devote the majority of your attention on actually putting those documents to good use.
You get a legitimate opportunity to improve how source documents are created and handled, and clients get the additional peace-of-mind that only comes with knowing their documents are readily available in the event that they should ever be audited. Once you have a chance to see what the system can do in your own environment, you’ll quickly begin to wonder why you ever waited on making the jump for as long as you did.