As you prepare to compile your needs analysis for your new accounting software solutions or ERP system, you have no doubt thoroughly identified your business processes. But there are three areas of coming importance that you may have overlooked, but won’t want to ignore. These are workflow management, data management, and document management. 
 
Document Management
Look at any list of hot topics in technology over the last five years and you will surely see the document management, or the “paperless office”. While ten years ago users used to scoff at such a notion, most companies have now either adopted or are designing document management plans. As you review products, check on how they accommodate document management. How are documents digitized? How are the files attached to the transactions? How are they are encrypted and stored? What functionality is included with the system and what needs to be accomplished with a third party document management solution? What scanners are used? What are the hardware (scanners) and software investment requirements?
 
Workflow Management
As the paperless office materializes, there will be fewer documents physically flowing from desk to desk for review and/or hand signature approval. Approval will be made electronically, and the design of that approval process is referred to as workflow management. Systems now include the ability to design approval processes, and the flexibility to include the simplest to the complex. Whether it’s a time sheet, a budget, or an expenditure, the review and approval process needs to be based on an automated workflow of electronic documents and alerts that accommodates your level of complexity. Make sure you review your own internal processes here as well, involving all team members who are in charge of authorizations. It’s a great learning process that can lead to better business practices as well as greater efficiency!
 
Data Security
With all of this information and data moving around the office, it’s imperative to make sure it’s secure. In addition to federal laws such as HIPPA, the majority of states have enacted additional data security laws. Penalties for violating security rules can reach $500,000, not to mention cripple customer confidence, or even compromise their personal information. Therefore the use of file encryption, the use of portals for external access and file transfer, and careful management of document attachments is critical. Ask your potential providers what they recommend for data security, what tools are included within their system to facilitate this, and what additional measures they recommend beyond that to insure your data is secure.
 
Whether you’re already in a paperless office, designing a document management system, or just resigned to the fact that “one-day” these data security issues will affect you (that day is today, folks), reviewing how systems address these areas will leave you well positioned moving forward.  

Author's Bio: 

About the Author
 
John S. Francis graduated with his MBA from Southern Illinois University- Carbondale in 1985. Since that time he has worked in various accounting professions.   From 1996 to 2009, he was founder and President of one of the country’s leading accounting software implementation firms. Acknowledged as a “Top 100 Technology Pacesetter” and a “Killer VAR” by Accounting Today magazine, and a “Top 100 Value Added Reseller” by Accounting Technology magazine, his firm successfully managed accounting system implementation and training engagements for thousands of clients worldwide. In 2009 he began working on accountingsoftwaresuccess.com, a site dedicated to assisting accounting professionals with their search, selection, implementation and use of accounting systems. The site contains several tools to assist accounting professionals with their accounting software research including an Accounting Software Selection Tool and an Accounting Software Articles Library.