Go digital to optimize your small business workflows
While enterprises are rapidly moving business functions to the cloud, many small businesses remain mired in paperwork. After all, it’s not hard to keep track of things when you’re small, and you probably have little to gain from going digital anyway — right?
Not so fast. An AIIM study found that two-thirds of businesses adopting paper-free processes reported a payback within 18 months.  Seventy percent reported good or excellent return on their investment for going paperless with accounts payable/accounts receivable alone.
They also cited other benefits, like better audit records, faster response time, improved productivity and better monitoring of process statuses and workflows.
Why digitize if you’re small?
In a small, thinly-staffed office, it’s important for everyone to be as efficient as possible. If even one worker has to waste time looking for documents, it impedes productivity.
And let’s face it — paper gets misplaced. A survey by Software Advice notes that office workers in paper-based environments lose at least six hours a week searching for documents, while employees in digital offices lose almost no time.
The fact is, manual, paper-intensive processes are holding small businesses back. Even if you have a perfect office where all documents are properly filed and everyone knows exactly where they are, that won’t help someone who suddenly needs a file on a sales call or when working remotely.
Digitizing your records ensures that everything is correctly classified and stored. It makes workers more efficient by giving them what they need when they need it, and allows them to collaborate in new ways. Here are just a few cases that illustrate how going digital makes your business better:
Most small businesses don’t have a big HR staff. It’s often just one person, or maybe two, responsible for hiring and firing, payroll, benefits, time tracking, and keeping up with a ton of regulations about record-keeping and labor policies. Taking the onboarding process digital not only makes your HR person’s life easier, it speeds up your hiring and prevents mistakes that occur in a harried environment and could cause liability problems.
With digital onboarding, you decide what documents you need, scan them in once, and you’re done. Job applications, resumes, profiles, notes, contracts, legal forms —all of it goes into a secure, searchable cloud storage system where it can be retrieved with a click. Predefined rules about compliance mean your HR person doesn’t have to schedule reminders about when to archive or dispose of documents.
Some systems also have an employee portal where workers can change their address, check on their 401(k), or find answers to policy questions without bugging your busy HR staff.
The number-intensive accounts payable workflow is a natural for digitizing. You can set up a system where any department can scan in invoices with the push of a button on their multifunction printer (MFP).
Once the information is in the system, it can be analyzed without taking up your accountant’s time. Are there expenses you can cut? Are you paying too much for some supplies, or stocking more than you need — or not enough? A digitized accounts system gives you a quick and objective way to find out.
It also saves time for accountants, whom you would otherwise be paying a high rate to fill out a multitude of forms. It eliminates the errors that are bound to occur with manual processing, and allows accountants to place, review and approve requests faster.
Perhaps best of all, the speed that digitizing brings to your organization allows you to take better advantage of vendor early-payment discounts.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that you can’t separate millennials from their cell phones. Millennials now make up a majority in the labor force, and their numbers will only grow in the coming years. 
One reason they’re so wedded to their phones, tablets and laptops is that they like to work from home — or from the train on the way home, or from Starbucks or from just about anywhere. This trend isn’t going away, and to make it work, you need to give them access to company documents. That means you need to store your information in a secure cloud platform — with permissions, of course.
Another big workplace trend is collaboration — not in meetings, but on documents themselves. When workers can share, edit and comment on projects remotely, as well as add new information (including pictures, graphs and PFDs), they don’t have to waste time setting up and attending meetings. They get their work done faster. That means they can serve your customers faster, too.
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- 1. Doug Miles. "Industry Watch: Winning the Paper Wars." AIIM Market Intelligence. 2013. http://www.aiim.org/pdfdocuments/IW-Paper-Wars-2013.pdf
- 2. Craig Borowski. "Become a Paperless Office With Document Management Software: IndustryView 2015." Software Advice. September 4, 2015. http://www.softwareadvice.com/cms/industryview/go-paperless-with-document-management-software/
- 3. Richard Fry. "Millennials surpass Gen Xers as the largest generation in U.S. labor force." May 11, 2015. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/11/millennials-surpass-gen-xers-as-the-largest-generation-in-u-s-labor-force/