Thinking of going paperless?

“Want to lower your overhead by 30 to 40 percent? Switch from paper to electronic documents, advises Matt Peterson, president and CEO of eFileCabinet.

“Going paperless allows you to [be more efficient], and efficiency equals money,” Peterson says. “Responding to customers quickly is your edge as a small business, and being efficient and paperless gives [you] that edge.” ILM Corporation estimates that searching through paper files can take up as much as 30% of employee work time.

That’s the assertion made in this Quickbooks article that caught my eye the other day. I’m not sure about a 30-40% increase in efficiency, but I can certainly vouch that running a paperless office makes you more efficient…and that efficiency has tangible benefits for all involved.

More than just cool

Using 100% digital storage means that all of my project info is quickly accessible from multiple locations and through multiple devices. Being able to find and edit documents on my phone when I’m in the field or show a plan to a client The-Fonz-arthur-fonzarelli-30631370-621-362while we’re actually walking the site definitely hits the mark for the cool factor. But its real value is in allowing us to have all of the info we might need at our fingertips so that we can make informed decisions in real time. It can save us from delaying actions until we “check that file back at the office” and then schedule yet another meeting to follow up.

Where to begin

With digital storage being so inexpensive these days, going paperless has become a viable option for many small and large businesses. The article gives 5 tips for going paperless.

  1. Focus on document management. Aim for more than just storage. Implement a method of organizing and searching files that makes your operations run smoothly. Choose a solution that allows you to index — and then search — your documents with keywords.
  2. Ensure multiple backups. Savvy companies back up records in more than one place. Always back your files up on a separate hard drive that is stored elsewhere and then find a reputable company that offers cloud backup for a monthly fee. Peterson recommends seeking a storage provider that’s been around for a while. There are a range of providers to choose from.
  3. Rally your team. Digitizing is a disruptive process; people may get nervous when they can’t push paper around anymore. It’s important to get everyone on board, so you don’t end up maintaining redundant paper-based and electronic systems.
  4. Scan and file everything that comes in the door. To begin the monumental task of digitizing, store and index all incoming communications in a digital format. Also start indexing any new digital files you create, including email. Shred paper documents after you scan them.
  5. Be mindful of regulation. Make sure you find a document management solution that meets the regulations for your industry, whether you’re in financial services, medical, education, or another field. If you store sensitive client data, security should be your top priority.

Start small

For some of you that may sound doable. But I’m guessing for many that sounds like the beginning of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (and a legitimate reason to move to Australia.) But I think one of the best tips is just to start alexander-300x300where you are…

Although “going paperless” can evoke images of endless scanning of paper files, it is best to simply start by scanning all new incoming material. Only then, after that has become habitual, should one work backward over stored files.

You may just want to start with converting one type of document that you regularly process and then build from there. For example, maybe you can start emailing all your invoices instead of sending a paper copy. I use Quickbooks Online and send paperless email invoices – this allows clients the option to pay online as well. Your clients and customers might appreciate the convenience, plus you’ll benefit from reducing your paper burden in at least one area of your operations.

Everyone wins

Have you gone paperless in at least one aspect of your business? What benefits have you seen from that transition? What headaches did you encounter? If you haven’t gone paperless yet, what are some of the obstacles that stand in your way? I’d love to hear from you, so please add a comment below or contact me directly. Being efficient and passing those savings and benefits along to our customers is one way that technology can help us build community by keeping costs down PLUS creating value for all of our business partners.

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