Accountant eyes compliance via docs management

Ensuring information can be adequately audited in the event of an investigation has driven a national accounting firm to tighten its grip on document management and archiving.

With five offices in Australia and New Zealand, financial services company William Buck will implement a document management system and optical character recognition (OCR) server to enable electronic archiving and searching of its content.

George Khalil, Buck's IT manager, said compliance measures like Sarbanes-Oxley are "really hitting hard" in the local market.

"Compliance is a grey area, especially in regard to e-mail," Khalil said. "Companies want to be compliant but at same time they can only be compliant if everything is stored."

Khalil said preparing for compliance legislation may cost Australian companies "a lot of dollars up front" but that it may save a lot money in future if there is a lawsuit brought against them.

In William Buck's case to ensure compliance, it needs to archive all correspondence with its clients as it "gives a lot of advice" via e-mail which therefore needs to be stored securely.

William Buck has already implemented Docscorp's Pdfdocs product for ordering and collating heterogeneous documents, like office productivity and financial management files, which is the first stage of moving to a complete document management system (DMS). The firm has recently added the ability to save e-mail electronically from Outlook into a practice management system.

"We can add watermarks and different types of images, stamps, or [mark as] a draft copy," Khalil said.

"For example, with tax return sections that need to be signed, we used to print these out but now we insert an electronic 'sign-here' in document and the client prints it out and sends it back."

The firm is now looking at Interwoven's DMS which integrates with pdfdocs to give better collaboration and proper search with the documents to allow better profiling with metadata. Also in the pipeline is Docscorp's optical character recognition (OCR) server which will allow documents to be converted to searchable text.

"If we receive notices like tax refunds from the ATO in paper format it is usually filed away," he said. "With the OCR server we can scan documents where the image is converted into searchable text then put it into the document management system. The [DMS] will go in first and OCR server will follow closely."

William Buck's main practice management application is Myob's Viztopia which is used to store client profiles and financial information.

"We're moving to saving everything into the practice management system on an SQL Server database," he said, adding there will never be a paperless office but definitely a "less paper" office.

Docscorp managing director Dean Sappey said compliance is becoming an issue because companies are increasingly communicating advice via e-mail.

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