Four Things Businesses Need To Consider
By Matt Peterson, President and CEO of eFileCabinet – Submitted on 02/11/2015
Today, businesses continue their commitment to reducing costs and improving profitability through innovation. This mindset represents a paradigm shift from the traditional practice of cost optimization as a reactive process. As recently as a decade ago, cost reduction was seen as the fate of an under-performing organization, achieved by lowering overall personnel costs through layoffs or the discounted sale of inventories. In today’s knowledge economy, cost reduction is a key component of a company’s pro-active, agile, innovative, strategic, and tactical direction. On average, a home or small business will spend 3% to 7% of its revenue on managing documents and filing paperwork — a tremendous opportunity waiting to be addressed.
The Paperless Office: Fostering Innovation and Optimization in Home Offices
In order to transform the products and services they create, small businesses around the world focus on differentiating themselves from a large field of competitors in terms of the nature and quality of the services they offer. One of the most apparent roadblocks to this differentiation is the lack of large financial reserves that large corporations enjoy. Creating a paperless office through document management software can be a challenge for a home business, given the stringent budgets and operating income. As a small business owner, one of the tried and tested methods to free up capital for business development is through the reduction of overall cost. A paperless office represents a tremendous opportunity for a home office to lower costs.
Going Paperless and Its Considerations
Going paperless is no simple task that can be implemented overnight. Any small business that attempts such a transition requires a planned and phased shift that is bound to raise questions about the effectiveness of a paperless model for small business. Small businesses represent a tremendous opportunity because of their transparent and quick decision-making as well as a low number of employees. Even so, the transition from a paper-based environment to a completely paperless one can leave an organization feeling overwhelmed and scrambling for a starting point that hasn’t been defined clearly. Carefully planned, a paperless office transition can be managed at a minimum cost to the company while preventing any disruption to daily operations. As a home business owner, you stand to reap the short-term, medium term, and long term benefits of such a change. Here are some of the considerations that may help your organization on the road to paperless operations:
Start Small. Paperless operations can be overwhelming if your line and staff are unprepared for such a drastic change. As a business owner, it is vital for you to consider the financial impact that the transition to an electronic document management solution can have. One of the largest roadblocks on the road to a completely paperless operation is the challenge of getting started. Implementing a customizable document management solution may be easy, but before your organization can choose a cloud based document management software, you need to understand your organization’s reliance on paper for documentation and reporting. Starting small involves educating your employees about the benefits of a paperless environment, and simple steps to go paperless. This does not mean you invest in software or spend weeks or months installing an electronic document management system while the transition plan remains on hold.
Starting small helps your organization acclimatize itself to the actual process of using email instead of paper memos, using PDF and scanned documents instead of physical copies. Investing in a scanner for your office could help you back up records on your hard disk or shared drive. Some organizations use a combination of PDF files backed up in simple cloud storage software as a first step to reducing paper use.
First Steps. Using email to transfer digital copies of files and documents to internal and external stakeholders is a positive first step on the road to a successful transition. Setting a “cut-off” date for the cessation of paper operations and creating a file list of all important paper documents is the next step to a gradual adaptation to a paperless environment. Conservation coalition The Paperless Project estimates that the typical organization loses over 70% of its process-specific and operations-specific knowledge when an employee leaves. A simple way to start the journey to paperless operations is to create a project plan with milestones for each department and systematically scan all relevant documentation to a secure location. A consistent file naming and numbering system can ensure accessibility.
One of the challenges of such an arrangement is the maintenance of paper records of the past. You may be faced with a storeroom full of documents that need to be sorted, scanned, and discarded. In order to make your office truly paperless, all documents need to be converted into a consistent file format for storage.
Planning. Planning is the most important step in the transition from paper to paperless. Such a transition is fraught with the risk of losing knowledge or core physical documentation. In order to prevent such losses and manage the transition, it is important to create a systematic project plan that addresses the areas of:
o Digitization of legacy documents
o Hardware and Software requirements
o Storage of old and new documents
o Identification and classification of documents
o Access permissions
o Communication and training for employees
o Staged transition to a paperless office environment
If you are unable to make changes during regular business hours, the plan must account for weekends and after-hours work.
Infrastructure. IT and non-IT infrastructure are core components of the process of digitizing records as part of an organization’s drive to go paperless. Today, small businesses are faced with the choice to invest in cloud document management software or a local electronic document management system. A local or remote backup system ensures that a company’s files are stored on-premises or in a nearby data storage facility. A cloud-based backup and retrieval system improves accessibility and portability of data across devices and software environments. This means that you can access your files from anywhere in the world without a VPN connection. Additionally, a cloud-based document solution allows 24/7 access via smartphones and tablets so no matter the time of day or location, your critical files are only a few clicks away.
Security. This reliance on paper documentation, records, reports, and communication can place a significant burden on an organization. In large organizations, security breaches can compromise data leading to fines and liabilities worth millions of dollars. For home businesses and small enterprises, the lack of security for documents can mean the loss of years of data and documentation. A robust electronic document management system needs to address the risk of damage, downtime, or loss of data. In addition to requiring floor and shelf space, paper documents are prone to fire, water, and mold damage as well as the risk of loss or theft. Wherever your business uses and stores physical documents, you run the risk of them being misplaced, leading to the loss of knowledge and causing delays or defective work. Digitized files and access-controlled cloud-based company data can mean the difference between a safe environment for your company’s data and unsecured access to data.
Small businesses stand to significantly cut costs and secure their data and documents by using small business software for cloud-based document management. With home offices and small businesses growing in relevance as the future of the American economy, paperless office solutions can help you future-proof your business by saving time and freeing up capital: the two ingredients of growth. HBM
Matt Peterson is the CEO of Lehi, Utah-based eFileCabinet, Inc. Founded in 2001, eFileCabinet, Inc. began as a cutting-edge tool to digitally store records in accounting firms. As it grew in popularity, eFileCabinet developed into a full-fledged electronic document management solution designed to help organizations capture, manage, and protect their data. While the accounting industry was the company’s main focus at formation, it has since expanded to include numerous vertical markets. eFileCabinet, Inc. distributes its solutions both direct and through a worldwide network of Value-Added-Resellers and strategic partners that customize solutions to meet their clients’ specific needs. www.efilecabinet.com.
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