In 2010, Grant Thornton LLP - the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd, one of the six global audit, tax and advisory organizations - adopted Tax Symphony® Technology, an initiative that not only standardized the firm's client service delivery methodology throughout their tax practice, but also reduced the firm's paper usage by 40% in just one year. Considering the volume of accounting documents that Grant Thornton must archive for retention purposes, this savings is the result of a Herculean effort to go paperless. To put into perspective the amount of paper used prior to the initiative, the tax files alone for each of the firm's thousands of engagements were typically 3" to 4" thick and stuffed full of paper.
To achieve the 40% paper savings, Grant Thornton made several strategic technology investments to enable digital workflows and electronic storage of final documents. For the company's tax practice, identifying and standardizing on a professional PDF editor was key to the success of the paperless initiative. Grant Thornton tax professionals frequently create, review and add comments to documents and spreadsheets, including tax returns and sections of research materials that are published in PDF. By utilizing a powerful PDF editor to electronically view and markup these documents, the tax practice could simultaneously reduce their overall paper usage and create electronic output files that could be easily archived once finalized.
To meet the company's new paperless office standards, the Grant Thornton tax practice searched for a PDF solution that would meet the following requirements:
After evaluating several PDF editors, the Grant Thornton tax practice selected and deployed Bluebeam Revu Standard. Developed by Bluebeam Software, Revu is a fully-functional PDF creation, markup and editing solution. With a user-friendly interface, exclusive features that simplify electronic commenting and competitive pricing, Revu is a popular Acrobat® alternative among professional and technical users.
Grant Thornton's tax professionals now use Bluebeam Revu for their PDF viewing, annotating and editing needs. Rather than printing and adding comments by hand, tax practice employees frequently use Revu to markup electronic PDF work papers, making it much easier to store information digitally, view comments and version history for interim review, and then to archive final versions of client deliverables. After PDFs have been finalized, users add secure digital signatures through Revu, which add not only their digital ID data but also an image of their wet signature.
Bluebeam's integration with SharePoint has also added simplicity to the tax practice's new paperless processes. The firm uses SharePoint extensively, and Bluebeam enables users to retrieve files from the document management system, add markups and check in PDFs simply by clicking a button on the Revu toolbar.
In addition to helping Grant Thornton achieve a 40% reduction in paper usage, the tax practice has gained several unexpected benefits from using Bluebeam Revu. For example, the software's Tool Chest, a patented feature that enables users to store custom markups, has streamlined document review and approval. The tax practice created a tool set of custom symbols and tick marks with text comments that pop up when a user places his or her cursor over the markup. This tool set was centrally deployed to all users, not only making it incredibly easy to standardize electronic markup for nearly 1,200 users, but also making it faster and easier for partners and principals to review the work of junior team members. Additionally, Bluebeam's PDF editing features enable employees to create higher-quality, electronic deliverables for clients by using Bluebeam's hyperlinking and bookmarking features for easier navigation through multi-page PDF documents.
Overall, Grant Thornton's paperless initiative has proven successful. For example, the once heavy, paper-filled 3" to 4" client tax files are now stored and accessed electronically. "Recently, an internal study of the entire firm's paper usage yielded a rewarding statistic," said Michael Gebura, Grant Thornton Tax Partner. "Prior to rollout, every full-time Grant Thornton employee consumed 2.5 trees per year. In just one year's time, that consumption has been reduced to 1.5 trees per full-time employee - a 40% decrease. Bluebeam Revu has played an important role in helping the tax practice achieve this tremendous reduction in paper usage."
"Bluebeam Revu has provided extraordinary benefits to our tax professionals, enabling them to work faster, more efficiently and with significantly less paper," added Dave Johnson, Grant Thornton Director of IT. "We believe there is great potential for Bluebeam to continue to bring significant savings not only within the Grant Thornton tax practice, but throughout our organization."