As a Chartered Accountant, one has to keep track of lot of documents: be it client related or otherwise. To be successful in professional one also has to keep him updated about the new rules and regulations. Finding an important document or information in this huge pile can be a tedious task. But in this digital age, there is a tool that can help you remember (virtually) everything; a tool that can act as a second brain: Evernote. At the outset, it is a simple note taking application for desktop; both Windows and Mac OS. But when you add a robust mobile application that can work in Android, iOS and Blackberry, you get a truly mobile application that can be used anywhere at any time. It also has a growing repository of in-house and third-party applications that can seamlessly integrate with the whole Evernote experience.
As the name suggests, Evernote is a note taking application. You can create simple text notes using the desktop, mobile or web client. You can add pictures, audio, Microsoft Office files, PDFs etc to notes. Using Evernote extensions for Chrome and Firefox you can clip entire webpages or part of it and save those as notes. You can scan documents and store in Evernote. These notes are synced to the cloud so that a note you created in one device is accessible from another. You can add tags to notes and also store related notes in virtual 'Notebooks'. But still, all this information is useless unless you can find what you need when you need it. Evernote has a powerful search feature that can find any information in an instant. It can even search for texts in images, PDFs and attached documents (searching attached documents and PDFs is a Premium feature).
So how a tool like Evernote can be used by a CA in his/her profession? Here are a few ideas:
1. Creating a Knowledge Base: You can download the circular/notification from the website and store in separate notebooks (One for Income Tax, another for Service Tax etc.). You can use Evernote to store bare acts (laws), notifications issued by government authorities etc. so that you can easily find out relevant information while carrying out an audit. Since all these can be accessed from mobile phone, one can quickly refer legal provisions even if you are in a meeting with a client. Thus you can turn Evernote into a Knowledge base.
2. Client Data: Evernote can store important client related information like Client Master Data, Financial statements, Income Tax returns, PAN Etc. Since most of the statutory returns like Income Tax Return, VAT Return etc. are filed electronically and the acknowledgement is also received in electronic format, you can easily store all this in Evernote. This helps to reduce the paper clutter in the office. Evernote also supports encrypted notes. So you can ensure confidentiality of information by encrypting notes containing sensitive data. Using the mobile camera, you can quickly take a picture of a document and store it in Evernote. Since Eervnote makes the text in photos searchable (through OCR), one can easily find the document when needed.
3. Collaboration: Audit is often a team sport. Most of the times, you will have a group doing an assignment. Using Evernote, you can share the notes in the group so that everyone is updated about the progress of the assignment. Once you have knowledge base of relevant legal provisions etc., you can share this information with other staff so that they also can refer this when needed.
4. Filing cabinet for Working papers: An Auditor has to collect and store lot of working papers and other documents related to each audit assignment. One can use Evernote for storing these working papers, files and client representations and thus avoid the paper clutter. Search feature ensures that relevant information is easily found.
5. To-do Lists and Reminders: Using Evernote, one can create simple Check Boxed To-Do lists to keep track of activities pending in a particular assignment. Using newer versions of the application (except for windows Client) one can create reminders in notes. All these features helps you to plan and execute an assignment while keeping all the information acquired or generated during the assignment together on one place.
6. Studies and Research: Since it can clip web pages and store PDFs and other documents, it’s a perfect tool for researchers and students. Evernote Clearly and Web Clipper, the two browser addons that integrate with Evernote are great tools to clip information from webpages. Information collected from various sources can be stored in one central location which can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Since everything is synced to the cloud in near real time, all the data in Evernote is automatically backed up. One can use evernote to store Application forms, Study Materials (downloaded from various portals like CA Club India), Notes, Exam schedules to Admit Cards. Since almost all of the notes and other documents are available in digital format, it is very easy to transfer these to Evernote.
5. Others: Other uses are -
- To store bills, warranty details etc. of own office equipment and computers.
- To capture correspondence with legal authorities and clients.
- To keep track of bills that you need to claim from the Client (Out of Pocket Expenses)
- To plan a travel and keep travel related documents
This is not an exhaustive list. When it comes to using Evernote, only your imagination is the limit.
Evernote works on Freemium Model which means there are two types of accounts: Free and Premium. Free account gives you most of the features and 60MB of upload allowance per month while premium unlocks all the features like document search and also boosts the monthly upload allowance to 1GB. Single user premium account for one year will cost USD 45. There are Business accounts that can be created to manage a group of account for business users. As a new user, one can create a free account to try Evernote and later on, if need be, can upgrade to a Premium account.
But all being said, the whole Evernote ecosytem with its host of applications can seem a little daunting for a new user. But once you get used to it, you can reap the benefits of using a truly integrated information management environment.