By Bryan Orr
Going paperless is the rage and has been for some time. Not only is it eco-friendly, but there are other benefits including:
- Cuts back on file space
- Easy access to files from anyplace
- More efficient processes
Many of us may still be functioning in the “stone age” of paper invoices, snail mail, etc. Especially small businesses. And while we like the idea of making the switch from paper to paperless, where and how do we start? Here are some tips on how to go paperless in your small business.
If you feel overwhelmed by the new technology you’ll have to implement, I encourage you to start making small changes in your processes. That way you won’t overwhelm yourself or other employees; and then move forward from one area to the next.
Decide on something basic and very specific. This will help you communicate the benefits you expect while training your staff, and it will help the process go more smoothly.
One great place to start would be using a digital scanner for your paperwork flow. You can store documents using a cloud-based service that allows you to share access. Any changes or updates to a document happen once and everyone will have the most up-to-date version. There are a lot of options for services like this, but a simple place to start would be DropBox. Options like Google Drive or Slack can get a little more complex, but also can be customized for your specific industry.
Pick the areas that make the most sense and will push your business forward. I wouldn’t suggest starting on something right off the bat that will require large investments of time and education with the staff. Sudden and drastic changes can greatly reduce efficiency, and you’ll get a lot of push back. Testing in small areas that will have immediate positive results will set a better tone for making larger changes and give you and your staff better vision of why paperless is the way to go
Be patient enough to be systematic. Prepare to face challenges that you didn’t see coming, and allow for time and flexibility to deal with them.
You might start storing all of your documents on a specific device, only to find out that network problems or a staff member’s family emergency renders your documents inaccessible. You’ll be glad for your gradual deployment as you adjust your plans, possibly moving your documents to a cloud storage solution. You might even spend the extra time planning to have gone to remote file-sharing in the first place!
Consistency Is Key
Once you decide to head in the direction of paperless, have a consistent and clear process. Once your process is established, clarify that all staff must abide by entering data and communicating via the same steps. Especially if you’re making radical changes to processes, things can degrade quickly. What was a perfectly ideal execution right after the training meeting can morph into a confusing monster with a little time and a dash of neglect.
Having office staff entering data via the cloud and field staff writing out paper invoices will inhibit efficient and smooth flow between processes. A little double-entry can seem less efficient, but the consistency it brings will help you get the most out of your plan.
Get the whole team on board and remember that by going paperless you’ll be saving pennies, saving time, saving space, and moving forward with your business in innovative and efficient ways.
What is the first thing you would like to change from paper to paperless?