I am sitting in a conference session focusing on small business trends.  While the topic of the conference is based on revenue and hiring growth, I can’t help but to sit here and marvel at the way the other attendees are using technology. 

Let me put some frame of reference around this.  We are in 2012, and many people have iPads and smart phones.  The conference center we are at has wifi for everyone, and this particular conference has its own iPhone app with the schedule, break-out sessions, session notes and the ability to tweet topics from the break-out sessions.  Did I mention that this is the annual American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) conference?  Yes…accountants can use technology too!

Here is what I am noticing from the sessions.  There are attendees from their 20’s to their 70’s.  Obviously, my general sense is that the younger crowd is more apt to use technology than the older crowd. However, I am seeing many in the older crowd using technology very well.  I am going to stratify the use of technology in three buckets:

1.  Early or Qualified Adopters.  These people are utilizing their iPad or computer and are typing or taking their notes electronically (some working in Powerpoint on the specific slides).  Some are even recording the speaker and taking notes with their iPad.

2.  The Adopters.  There are those who have shown up with an iPad, computer, or other device and are looking at the Powerpoint presentation on their device (which matches the slides on the screen) and are writing notes on paper.  I would say that these people are attempting to utilize new technologies but are not sure how to use them efficiently.  But they’re trying. 

3.  The Late Adopters. There are attendees in here that are writing session notes feverishly by hand on a pad of paper and trying to keep up with the conversation ,and there are those who have printed out the slides before getting to the conference and are writing their notes on the slides (slightly more efficient).

4.  Attendees who are writing blogs instead of paying attention to the presentation.   I know I said  three buckets, but I felt the need to write this blog as the inspiration was there (and because the speaker is literally reading the slides and his notes verbatim.)

Here is the critical part – It doesn’t matter which of the above buckets you fall into – it matters how you use the time you spend and what you do with the notes.  Don’t take notes if you don’t plan on using them or referring to them. And most importantly, use the method that creates the most efficiencies for you and your organization. 

Now back to the original reason I why I started to write this blog.  How are you using technology in your business?  There are thousands of technologies and thousands of ways to use them.  Since I am a CPA, I am going to address technology in your accounting department.  All of the businesses that we work with have a computer-based accounting system.  The way each of them uses the system varies.   I am beginning to recognize an increased need for businesses to have paperless accounting and filing systems.  While this does not mean that no paper flows through the system, it does mean that paper is eventually removed from the system in a timely manner.

 Having a paperless system will allow you to:

  1. Prevent “lost” bills, invoices and contracts
  2. Reduces risk of information theft (no papers lying around or taken from filing cabinets)
  3. Allows quick access to documents when they are paperless
  4. No physical filing cabinets, folders, etc. means less physical space is required
  5. Internal controls for limited access to the documents
  6. Ability to electronically collaborate with others and share the documents

If you are going to implement an electronic filing system for your accounting documents, you should seek qualified help to automate the workflow process and ensure that you build solid internal control processes. You should involve your I.T. team in the project. They can provide valuable ideas and feedback and make sure that the technology is secure. 

To sum it all up:

1. However you use technology, make sure you use the method that creates the most efficiencies for your business now and in the future.

2. If you have not already done so, consider moving your accounting records to a paperless technology.  The benefits definitely outweigh the costs.