If paperwork is choking your business then perhaps it’s time to take paper out of the equation.
Paperwork might be a necessary evil, but actual paper isn’t. These days pretty much any business process you manage via paper can be digitised — not only helping to curb your business costs but also offering a major productivity boost.
If you’re trying to eliminate that briefcase full of documents, or the makeshift filing cabinet in the boot of your car, then you’ll need a portable device to take its place, like a notebook, smartphone or tablet. It’s tempting to rush out and buy a fleet of Apple iPads or Microsoft Surface Pro tablets, but you’d be approaching the problem backwards.
The first step is to definite the specific problems and business processes you want to address and then start evaluating possible solutions, rather than starting with a shiny gadget and then hoping it meets your needs.
Don’t try to change everything at once. Instead, start with the low hanging fruit so you can get early runs on the board and perhaps look for a quick return on investment.
You might start by considering a document management system to make it easy to store large libraries of static reference documents, from customer contracts to council regulations. Straight away you’re carrying less paper, plus you’ve made that document archive easier to search, share, synchronise between devices, and backup to the cloud.
Always think about the big picture — because once your business starts to see the benefits of digitisation and the cloud, you’ll begin to recognise other opportunities for improvement. For example, you might decide to integrate your document management system with a project management platform or customer relationship management (CRM) suite to help create a single view of clients or projects.
These kinds of powerful business tools were once only available to the big end of town, but the cloud puts a wide range of enterprise-grade services within reach of small businesses. They’re also designed to scale as your business expands to help ease some of the traditional business growing pains.
Any efforts to eliminate paper from your workflows should be part of a wider business strategy to improve the way your business runs and equip you to tackle new challenges.