the work gets where it has to go (the client,
the IRS, etc.).
With document management, the “
document” needs to be captured, often converted
into a different file format, and sent to the
necessary recipients. With DM, those endpoints can be e-mails, file folders on network
PCs, and, most frequently, a central database
where they are abstracted, keywords are extracted, and a version number of the particular “document” assigned. In a larger practice,
user rights — who has access to the document
— may also be assigned. Document management, for the most part, is a collaborative tool.
Staff know where “documents” are stored,
what their contents are, how they can be retrieved, who has access to them, and if they
have been modified.
The word “document” to this point has
been in quotes. That’s because it still needs
to be defined. Most of us think of paper when
we see the word “document,” and many times
a document will consist of a paper printout of
a report, fax, e-mail, or Web page.
But it doesn’t have to.
Perhaps a more accurate term for this application is “content management,” because
a document management system can usually
handle much more than pieces of paper. In
fact, for any document or workflow management system to operate, it first has to turn a
paper document into an electronic file. This is
BY ted needleman
We’ve been hearing that the paperless office is imminent, and
we’ve been hearing it for years.
picking workflow and document
management solutions starts with knowing
what they are — and what they do
usually accomplished by scanning the paper.
If the contents of the paper are text, the image
of the text is turned into a text file or a PDF
(Portable Document Format) file by a process
called optical character recognition.
Sometimes, the documents are already
in electronic format, such as Microsoft Office files, PDFs, or e-faxes or e-mails. Many
practices also keep digitized versions of other
kinds of content, such as signatures and logos, or even clip art or photos.
Things are getting better, but many practices continue to drown in a sea of paper. Fortunately, document management, workflow
management, and related applications can
offer even smaller firms a less paper-intensive
office. Additionally, the right application can
make storing, finding, handling and routing
documents more efficient.
However, choosing the right application,
getting it correctly configured and up and
running, and maintaining it, isn’t always easy.
That’s especially true for the many smaller
practices whose IT department consists of a
computer-literate staff member or two.
Approaching these applications, though,
does not have to be intimidating. There are
things you can do to maximize your acquisition and implementation efforts.
First, differentiate between workflow management and document management, which
are sometimes used identically. For the most
part, in both cases “documents” are being
routed. With workflow management, these
“documents” are routed to people. Sometimes this is done for the person receiving it
to check it, approve it and send it off to a different person for additional processing. Some
examples of this kind of workflow might be
expense reimbursement or tax returns, both
of which often have to be checked by one person or department, and then approved by a
member of senior management. In a smaller
practice, workflow management often has a
somewhat different meaning — making sure
that work is accomplished when it is supposed to be, by who is supposed to do it, and
GETTING TO THE POINT ... EASILY
Not all document management or workflow
management needs to be accomplished
through a separate specific application.
Workflow and collaboration can frequently
be performed though applications that you
already use, such as Outlook, Word (which
can allow and track multiple versions of
Word documents), and many calendar applications, such as Google Calendars and the
calendar function of Outlook, both of which
allow collaboration and the assignment of
staff-wide assignments, deadlines and appointments.
Some of the applications that you already
use may have document management capabilities. For example, Case Ware’s Working
Papers treats everything it uses, including
journal pages, as a document. Many other
See documentS on
FM Public Broadcasting
Start date: First phase — 2008; current phase
On record: Director of marketing Eric
Challenge/objective: The main objectives
were generating awareness, lead generation,
business development and recruiting. They
saw mobile apps as an innovative and effective way to achieve those goals.
Amount spent: Approx. $10,000-$15,000
Process: The firm took a phased approach
and explored using smartphones for marketing purposes. A second phase was the
construction of mobile-ready Web sites, the
first of which was a micro-mobile site on New
York State’s Excelsior Jobs Program, which
offers tax credits that the firm can help companies to obtain. The firm created a mobile
initiative around it, giving executives information about the program and providing the
ability to ask questions directly from their
The most recent phase involved sponsoring
mobile apps from The Buffalo Business Journal and WNED-AM/FM Public Broadcasting,
two large area media outlets that designed the
apps for business and financial news.
“We chose the news outlets to bring relevant content for our community as they impact business within Western New York,” said
Majchrzak. “The iPhone apps we are sponsoring were designed to pass along the latest
business and issue-driven information. We
believe this complements our brand of being an accessible, pro-active, service-minded
firm that stays on top of the latest issues impacting business.”
Results: While the latest phase of the campaign is still new and specific results were not
yet available, Majchrzak said that he was “very
impressed” by what he was seeing, and that
firms looking to take a similar approach need
to consider several aspects of a mobile campaign. “There are lots of ways to determine
return on investment. For one, we had [an
estimated] $100,000 worth of media mentions
from this recent effort. We had radio, print
and online mentions,” he said. “I can track
business we get off Twitter or search engine
optimization, but I look at bigger trends and
initiatives and campaigns and that’s much
more powerful than seeing them separately.
It just doesn’t make sense to put a metric on
a particular channel.”
Next steps: The firm is looking to create
its own branded apps that are more national
Research on the go
Firm: Jackson Coles / Boise, Idaho
Product: CCH Mobile
Start date: 2010
On record: Partner Richard Jackson
Challenge/objective: The firm decided
early on that it wanted to be at the edge of
technology, and using CCH Mobile was the
next natural step.
Amount spent: Free to IntelliConnect subscribers.
Process: Jackson realized that more and
more offices were becoming virtual, and being on CCH’s advisory board afforded his firm
the opportunity to see and test new products
firsthand. He was curious what CCH Mobile
“As we were walked through the beta pro-
gram, I realized more and more people are
commuting a long way to work or are simply
working offsite more. So I thought during that
time, if they could easily review a tax law or
get your current tax status on a mobile device,
that’s a big deal,” said Jackson. “It took about
two versions to get it to where we wanted it
to be, particularly with definitions of what we
wanted to see, such as needing per-diem rates
or wanting to track a specific tax law change.
As long as you have IntelliConnect [CCH’s
research platform], it’s there.”
After downloading the CCH Mobile app to a
smartphone, users have access to customized
tax tracker news, Internal Revenue Service
codes and regulations, tax tools and calcu-
lators, and smart charts, depending on their
IntelliConnect subscription level. Additional
subscription packages will also be offered to
suit subscribers’ specific research needs.