Businesses have evolved a lot since the paper trail days of the trusty Rolodex, boxes of paper receipts and imposing filing cabinets. Now, thanks to the cloud, everything from your contact books and financial accounts to documents and customer data can exist virtually; easily accessible anywhere, anytime, and to anyone in business.
The benefits of this evolution are many, chief among them: operational efficiencies and cost. As a small business, time and money are of the essence. So if you regularly waste time shifting through a filing cabinet or a cluttered desk to find a piece of paper, you’re not operating as efficiently as you should. Digitising your documents is a key way to first streamline and then grow your business. Here are a few simple ways your small business could feel the benefits.
If a customer asks when an invoice is due or a subscription expires, and you need to look through a pile of crumpled documents to find the answer, you’re wasting valuable time. Taking advantage of a cloud-based filing system means you can upload every single document, receipt or address and access it quickly and easily from any device with an internet connection. Take your finances, with cloud accounting software, you can easily track expenses, upload receipts, monitor and automate transactions, pull up payment histories and take advantage of powerful reporting tools and statements. What’s more, with online accounting software you have the freedom to do it anywhere and at any time.
Whatever your small business does, it relies on revenue to survive. Whether you offer a product or service, you need to invoice your customers to get paid. But instead of sending paper invoices – and paying for postage and packaging and waiting for delivery – switching to electronic invoices can expedite the payment. When you send an email invoice with convenient payment options, your customer will receive it immediately and is presented with much easier ways to pay. If you use software that lets you create and track invoices, you can handle unpaid invoices more efficiently by sending out automated follow-up requests for payment.
The gains are more than merely financial, though. Even for the smallest teams, collaborating and sharing information among your staff is a key requirement for a successful business. But when everything is scribbled on Post-It Notes or written in the margin, exchanging that knowledge can be difficult. However, digital collaboration tools make it easier to share knowledge and circulate information. These tools let employees share documents, folders, and projects with the ability to work on all simultaneously and collaboratively. When employees can collaborate in the cloud instead of waiting for co-workers to hand them a file it can improve teamwork, encourage innovation, and prevent knowledge hoarding.
Going paperless can be a little daunting at first, especially if your small business has relied on a physical paper trail for a long time. That’s a lot of information to convert to the cloud, but doing so is easier than you might think. Some apps would allow you to scan documents and easily upload them to your business’ cloud. You can also add e-signatures, extract text from a scanned document, and even translate a document into multiple languages. Going digital isn’t as big a leap as it sounds.
The advancing cloud is not the sign of an impending storm but the dawn of new possibilities for small businesses – possibilities that increase operational efficiencies, reduce costs, and provide the freedom and foundation for businesses to focus on what they do best. And, that’s all before you even get to the peace of mind provided by a clutter-free workplace!
Vijay Sundaram, Chief Strategy Officer, Zoho