What Production Accountants Need in a Document Management System
This is an extra resource to go along with the original article:
Thinking of switching to a digital document management system? Make sure it comes with these critical features.
You need a way for crew to upload their W-9s, create purchase orders, create check requests, submit petty cash envelopes and expense reports, (including the individual receipts in a petty cash envelope) and submit accounts payable invoices. Then you need a way to approve them, audit them, and assign them account coding and ledger descriptions. Your forms should be accessible digitally so crew can submit them to accounting.
The fact that we are shipping 10 people to the shooting location to process accounts payable and petty cash receipts in the 21st century is just insane. Your tool should be cloud-based so you can work remotely with a single production assistant on the ground. This lets you work with people you trust no matter where a project films.
Ledger Description Flexibility
You probably have your own system for describing transactions in your ledger. Your document management system should give you freedom to describe your transactions as you see fit.
You should be able to review, approve, and audit what the location accountant does in real-time. You should be able to see if documents are processed and moving forward. You should be able to identify a bottleneck if a production accountant is in over their head, doesn't have enough labor, or just doesn't know what they're doing.
Rather than retrain your entire team and crew, you want a system that looks, feels, and behaves like a traditional production accounting process. For instance, crew know how to fill out a petty cash envelope, so the digital version of that task should look and feel the same.
You need a system that is standalone and not integrated into the antiquated accounting systems that the payroll services force on us. We struggle every day to make their antiquated software that was built in 1990 work, why would we want more of that. The system should function like the paper process that we currently use when filling in a filing cabinet with hanging folders, manila folders, file labels and reams of paper.
You need a way to find documents quickly without combing through folders or scrolling through lists. And you need the ability to archive documents for storage and audit (if necessary). Documents need to be kept in a standardized format and searchable via an index. The index needs the ability to research an item in an accounting system general ledger, then find the document in a file store so it can be reviewed or printed for audit or claim.