By Roman H. Kepczyk
Quantum of Paperless: Technology Guide & Checklist
One of the keys to optimizing production processes is capturing information at its “root” source. This means when data enters your firm, regardless of the format (mail, fax, email, portal, and even as a text message).
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Ideally, source documents would be provided to the firm in a digital format such as secured email or preferably through a web portal. But the reality today is that a significant portion of accounting firm source documents continues to arrive from clients in a traditional paper format.
Your firm will need to develop processes to efficiently scan, name, and store these documents. Having the right physical scanners in place is required to optimize the timely capturing of data at three levels: production, workgroup, and individual.
Production scanning needs to be a centralized process. As far back as the 2009 AAA survey, 81 percent of firms utilized administrative personnel to do this as it promotes standardization and captures documents at a lower cost, even if much of the scanning was done at the back end. The 2017 survey found that 82 percent had transitioned the scanning process to the front or mid-level such that preparation and review were being done onscreen, another key Quantum Leap process. The key to selecting a production scanner is to evaluate how easily it can integrate within your document management or tax workflow application.
Most of the traditional high-end copier/duplicators scan all documents to a specific employee or network directory and some allow the files to be named at the time of scanning. While these devices are acceptable for workgroup scanning, they can be counterproductive for any volume scanning. Dedicated production scanners can handle a larger volume and do a better job of adapting to different sizes and colors of documents, which reduces the amount of rework.
To optimize scanning production, your administrative personnel need to be well trained on tax document organization and have a workspace where they can immediately review, organize, and save the source documents. This step requires using dedicated workstations attached directly to the production scanner.
Today’s standard scanners are Fujitsu and Canon units that are capable of processing 50 pages per minute or more and utilize on-the-fly correction software that comes with the scanners, such as Kofax VRS (VirtualReScan) to further minimize manual handling.
Throughout the office, there also needs to be workgroup scanning capabilities for smaller jobs and most firms utilize their copier/duplicators for this purpose or purchase smaller multifunction units that can also print and copy, such as those by HP or Xerox, which scan at 30-plus pages per minute.
According to the CPAFMA IT Survey,
- 88 percent of firms have centralized scanners,
- 57 percent have distributed/shared scanners and
- 51 percent have some users with desktop scanning capability.
While centralized scanning increased in firms (84% in 2018), both group and individual scanning decreased (79% and 55% respectively), which firms should consider when renewing equipment leases.
Certain individuals on the audit team or within administration and marketing frequently receive physical documents that need to be scanned.
Individual workstation scanners such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 are effective in addition to the workgroup brands described above. While the ScanSnap devices are not TWAIN-compliant (cannot print directly within audit binders), they are cost-effective for documents to be archived or managed within the firm’s audit document container.
For TWAIN-compliant scanners, Canon has its personal DR (C225) series that allow staff to scan directly to their audit engagement applications.
Finally, for quick capture of a small number of documents, today’s smartphones have extremely powerful cameras that allow an auditor to take a picture of a receipt, capture the text with optical character recognition and send the expense report digitally.
- RECOMMENDED ACTION: Purchase dedicated production scanners attached to workstations for the administrative department to promote centralized scanning and train professional staff on utilizing workgroup and individual scanners for capturing physical paper documents.