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Technology

The case for digitized perm files

Having lugged around three thick files representing the full permanent file for an audit client for the past few weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that my firm needs to consider digitizing these things.

Perm files for accountants consist of client documents that carry forward year to year. For example, engagement letters are good for three years before they need to be updated and signed the client again, so a copy goes in the perm file for that time. Loan and lease agreements and their related payment schedules straddle multiple periods, as do rebate/royalty/license agreements. Articles of incorporation or amalgamation, and anything to do with share purchases and sales.

There’s no good reason to continue to keep physical copies of all these documents, rather than storing them in PDF or similar format and printing them when a hard copy is required (if ever).

The advantages are many:

  • Cheaper to store
  • Can easily be reprinted if hard copy is ever required
  • Increased mobility due to weight savings and digital format
  • Backups are simple and easy to do frequently
  • More secure storage on protected hard drives
  • Searchable (becomes really helpful as the file gains documents)

The same can basically be said for digitizing whole work paper files each year, but there are still situations where having a physical copy with work done directly on it is needed. I think tablets could be useful in ushering out the era of paper-based files, but who knows when the big firms will start to use them.

How far away from a truly paperless client file system is your firm?