Becoming Succession Ready: Document Management
As you prepare for your practice succession, an area often overlooked but with enough sting in the tail to warrant your attention – particularly when you are transitioning your business to your successor – is your filing protocols for your document management. How easy is it for a new team to navigate through your filing system and find all the required documents in a reasonable timeframe?
Through the transition phase of your succession, you are looking to exit the business while ensuring your successor is well-briefed on your client's needs and requirements. We previously spoke about preparing Client Dossiers – these will be invaluable through your transition phase. In addition, it is vital to have an organised document management system with filing protocols that are well-documented and clearly explained. Both your existing team and your successor will benefit.
As you transition your practice, your document management protocols should be well tested, ensuring unfamiliar staff can navigate client documentation efficiently. This will hold you in good stead when you go through the transition.
Document management protocols are a set of guidelines that outline the process for organising, storing, and retrieving electronic documents. Key elements include:
Naming Convention: You must have a standardised naming convention for all documents, including the client's name, document type, and date. For example: "ClientName_DocumentType_YYYYMMDD".
Document Categories: Creating categories for different types of documents, such as client information, financial statements, tax returns, etc., will assist in making it easier to find specific documents.
Folders: Create folders within each category to further organise the documents. For example, within the "Client Information" category, you might create a folder for each client.
Document Metadata: Add metadata to each document to describe its content and make it easier to search for and find. Examples include the client's name, document type, date created, and keywords.
Version Control: Implement a version control system to track document changes over time and ensure that the latest version of a document is always available.
The market-leading document management systems offer various features to meet accounting firms' specific needs and enable the above filing protocols. In addition, the best features include security, collaboration, workflow automation, integration with your accounting software, document imaging, mobile access, customisation, and reporting. Taking stock of your document management system is worth determining which elements you do and don't have covered.
Having detailed filing protocols, you can ensure that your electronic documents are well-organised, secure, and easy to access and manage. As you move into the transition phase of your succession journey, it will be critical that you conduct the appropriate training to ensure your successor has a thorough understanding of your filing systems. Of course, protocols should be regularly reviewed and updated as necessary to ensure that it continues to meet the evolving needs of your practice.