Buy versus build: Factors to consider when selecting a document management system for your accounting firm

Most generic, industry-agnostic document management systems for accounting firms don’t address the many unique needs of both certified public accountants (CPAs) and their clients. For this reason, many accounting firms invest large amounts of time, money, and resources into building their own document management systems.

If you’re considering this approach, we understand why it can seem ideal in theory: Your firm can build a solution that will work exactly the way you want in terms of functionality and workflow, and you’ll have full control over your system and data.

The reality, however, is usually quite different.

Even if your firm manages to successfully create its own document management system (DMS), you’ll most likely run into serious complications around maintenance, costs, and security.

Updating your system
Because technology and the accounting industry are continuously evolving, firms need to ensure that their tools and processes don’t become obsolete and cause them to fall behind their competitors.

Unfortunately, when accounting firms build their own document management software for CPAs, they often struggle to properly maintain and update those solutions. Maintaining homegrown systems can prove an arduous challenge for firm IT resources — especially when it comes to large, time-consuming projects like moving data from an on-premises solution to the cloud.

In contrast, firms that use purpose-built, cloud-based platforms can simply rely on their platform providers to automatically update the product and offer technical support as needed.

Securing your data
Firms that build their own document management software for CPAs are also likely to face elevated security risks. When it comes to building secure systems, accounting firms simply don’t have the same level of experience and expertise as leading technology companies like Microsoft, and are more likely to be successfully breached by cybercriminals. These attacks can cost firms millions and damage their reputations and client relationships.

Microsoft, on the other hand, invests roughly $1 billion each year into Microsoft 365’s robust cloud environment to ensure that it offers the latest features and exceeds information security standards. For example, Microsoft 365 uses multiple high-level encryption technologies to protect firm and user data, and offers multifactor authentication options for accessing accounts and documents. By leveraging top-grade platforms like Microsoft 365, you can reassure both current and potential clients that their sensitive data is well protected.

Integrating your Microsoft 365 tools
Microsoft 365 offers a user-friendly interface and powerful collaboration and security features, making it an ideal platform for your accounting firm. And by investing in the right companion technology, you can seamlessly integrate all your Microsoft 365 products to further enhance collaboration and promote more efficient document management.

Currently, many accountants spend too much time navigating between Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Outlook, and other firm systems when trying to track down shared documents and information related to each of their engagements. Switching between apps can be detrimental to a firm’s performance: According to one survey, professionals can switch between 10 apps 25 times per day — causing them to miss more than one-quarter of their deadlines, miss 27% of their messages and actions, and duplicate 24% of their work.

To avoid wasting time and effort, your accounting firm needs a tool that both integrates your Microsoft products and offers industry-specific capabilities built for your firm’s unique needs. Firms can easily and securely unify document management and collaboration within Microsoft 365 by adopting Intapp Documents, part of the Intapp Collaboration & Content suite.

Turning Microsoft 365 into a document management system for accounting firms
Intapp Documents acts as an additional layer to your Microsoft 365 investment, centralizing the documents and information your engagement teams need to collaborate more effectively. With streamlined document management and collaboration, professionals can spend fewer hours searching for information — as well as working on the engagement overall — resulting in more profitable service delivery.

Best of all, users don’t have to worry about losing control over their data since it stays securely stored within the firm’s Microsoft tenant in the specific geographic region the firm chose through Microsoft 365. This sovereignty over data residency helps your firm better address regulations and laws specific to your firm’s geographic location.

Investing in premier technology
By attempting to build and maintain document management systems for accounting firms from scratch, firms take on significant challenges and risks. Instead, your firm should leverage the expertise and technology of software providers like Microsoft and Intapp so you can serve your clients more efficiently and more securely.

Schedule a demo to learn how Intapp Documents can help your accounting firm expand its Microsoft 365 investment.

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Written by:

Gary Palmer

Director and Practice Group Leader for Collaboration and Content

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