DHKN is a chartered accountancy and financial services provider with offices in Galway and Dublin. Employing more than 100 professionals, the group’s accounting practice delivers audit, accounting services, taxation and corporate finance services to almost 3,000 clients ranging from SMEs, sole traders, individuals and the public sector. DHKN Life and Wealth is the financial services arm of the business, offering pension and life assurance services to more than 2,200 individuals and group scheme members.
Originally started as an accountancy practice 40 years ago, in more recent times DHKN has expanded and consolidated through acquisition. The challenge that emerged for the combined entity was to consolidate the different business processes and systems that they had previously been using – with paper documents at the heart of this strategy.
DHKN’s Group Financial Controller Pat MacSweeney outlines what lay ahead for the firm when it looked at the situation back in 2007: “An accountancy firm generates a lot of paper and we would have a file generated every year for every client that we were filing returns or completing audits for. We had documentation that was either generated internally or handed to us by clients. Our challenge at a very basic level was to store that documentation in a manner which would meet our legal and statutory obligations for file storage.”
DHKN was incurring additional costs to store those files. It had been renting four warehouse locations around Galway and, retrieving those documents was a time-consuming exercise – far from an ideal scenario for any business that charges billable hours for its expertise.
What’s more, DHKN was generating new paper documents all the time without a regular document shredding service, unnecessary paper had been accumulating.
Following a competitive tendering process, DHKN chose Kefron to provide a range of services comprising document scanning, electronic document management system, off-site storage and scheduled document shredding. The project began with Kefron providing expert consultancy around best-practice document and information management. This was initially focussed on retention and best practice disposition of the files in the disparate storage locations.
Since 2006, Kefron has been delivering document and information management solutions through its range of service brands, including Kefron Digital, Kefron Filestores and confidential shredding.
With a renewed process in place, Kefron Filestores transported DHKN’s documents to its secure facility at Park West in Dublin where they were scanned and uploaded error-free to a secure internet site in accordance with a jointly agreed scope of work schedule.
One of the key questions when digitising the files was ‘How will the files be used and accessed once scanned, who needs access and what controls are required? Also, is there a need for internal document workflow?
Kefron Digital introduced DHKN to the Therefore EDMS (Electronic Document Management System). This provided electronic storage of files, allowed for greater accessibility of information and ensured that robust Disaster Recovery steps had been taken to protect DHKN’s core documentation, namely the customer files.
The digitised files were then made available seamlessly on the Canon Therefore document management system which also connects into DHKN’s existing customer relationship management software.
“Through that conversion process we also introduced a unique reference number for each customer so that meant a much more efficient retrieval process outside of the stand alone CRM system,” explains Stephen Mackey, Senior Information Management Consultant with Kefron.
Now, DHKN’s staff has easy access to information, ensuring that clients receive efficient, timely response to any queries.
Where hard copy documents needed to be retained, Kefron Filestores developed a process to manage the files to make them easily searchable. DHKN currently stores over a thousand archive boxes with Filestores. DHKN also engaged with Kefron’s consulting arm over a two-month period to work on a revised records retention policy to reflect best industry practice.
When it was established what documents could be disposed of, DHKN worked with Kefron Shredit to shred safely those files in storage that were no longer needed. Kefron also placed shred bins at various locations throughout DHKN’s offices and collects the contents for secure destruction once a month.
There was no additional staff training needed to put this process in place, adds MacSweeney. “We would have the expertise in that we know what needs to be kept and what needs to be destroyed. The beauty of the Kefron process is that our staff don’t have to be re-educated to work with them. All of them know there are Kefron green boxes around to put material into storage, and there’s a process for requesting access to files. It was good that we didn’t need behavioural changes.”
Improved information management
DHKN recently attained ISO certification for quality management and MacSweeney says Kefron’s streamlined processes for handling documents played a key role in the firm attaining this standard.
“In terms of our filing and our administration, it’s completely changed the way we do our business. Everybody uses the system, everyone has access to documents. Even salespeople on the road can easily get information.”
Previously, finding a document could have taken up to two hours or more: “Now it is literally the click of a button,” says MacSweeney. “No-one talks about file storage anymore because it’s not a problematic area for us. Now we know it’s running smoothly.”
Fast access to off-site documents
MacSweeney praises Kefron’s response times and its adherence to service level agreements. “If you send in a request for files, there’s an automatic response confirming receipt of email then another response with likely times of when files will be sent back,” he says. “, If we want a physical document back, we can have it back within 24 hours which more than meets our needs.”
Easily understood document policies
“The benefit is that now we have a clear policy in place which staff can refer to if they have any questions concerning what documentation to store, or the legislative requirements for storage of documents. With new staff coming and old staff going it’s a useful document to have,” says MacSweeney.
Since it began working with Kefron, DHKN no longer needs to maintain its own facilities for storing documents, leading to reduced overheads because it no longer has to pay rental charges for that space.
DHKN also generates far less paper than before – a deliberate strategy to reduce its use of hard copy documents. “We’re working now towards emailing clients rather than printing letters and putting it on the file,” says Nina Pilbrow, Office Manager with DHKN. “As an estimate, it would probably have taken at least 25 per cent of the cost of administration. Timewise and then hard copies and paper costs, for the cost compared to what we’ve been saving, at least 25 per cent,” she adds.
Sensitive information held securely
DHKN has confidence that its documents, containing sensitive financial details about many clients, are stored safely at all times. “We saw in Kefron a company with processes that are certified, they can clearly demonstrate the level of security that is in place in terms of storage of documents and in terms of record keeping, and they can demonstrate from their own experience and their client base which includes major financial institutions. That gives us a level of comfort that their processes are secure and they meet our confidentiality requirements,” says MacSweeney.
Since the initial project was completed, Kefron has provided additional services to DHKN. One area that Kefron is now working with clients is on Lean Management Practices. A series of workshops have been conducted to date to implement business process improvement and lean management practices, which are expected to result in further savings for the firm. This is specifically focussed on bringing consistency and efficient processes across all service areas of the business in relation to preparation of information.
It’s a sign of the continuing strong working relationship between the companies and Pat MacSweeney says he has no hesitation in recommending Kefron.
“I’d say that it has helped us to make our administrative, non-productive activities more efficient. Key for any professional services firm is to maximise the billable time. That means ensuring any administrative activities are running as efficiently as possible. That’s what Kefron have done for us.”