Surviving and thriving in today’s competitive, fast-paced world is tough for small businesses, but many are finding that digital transformation and recent Government financial support have the potential to level the playing field between large and small businesses. The hurdles can be much easier to overcome in small businesses without pre-existing infrastructures, corporate hierarchies and legacy IT systems. New technologies are affordable and scalable, removing the need to finance a big upfront investment.
In a broad sense, digital transformation is the concept of transforming manual processes into digital or automated processes. Often it starts with modernising data and information management, which is the best way to promote productivity.
Transforming document-centric business workflows is a key component of any digital transformation strategy. Understanding which operations and processes can be improved and would deliver more value if they were transformed digitally is essential.
Typically, these are the processes that generate large volumes of documents in both paper and digital form, which offer numerous opportunities for streamlining. As more business is conducted digitally, the continued use of paper creates a hybrid physical-digital landscape which can be time consuming and difficult to manage. Iron Mountain research, Examining the pace of digital transformation, found that the average employee spends 25 per cent of the week filing, copying, indexing or retrieving hard-copy documents.
With widespread use of information technology tools and the increase of data production, not only does digitally transforming reduce costs and the environmental impacts of paper, but it also encourages flexibility in working when documents can be accessed from anywhere, saving costs and time.
To transition to a paperless or paper-reduced working environment, four key steps can put your small business on the right path.
Organise your documentation
Make a list of the different types of records in the company from accounting, tax, personnel and customer then develop a records retention schedule that defines how long categories of records should be retained and when they should be destroyed.
Understanding where the paper is coming from can help to stop it from being created. Stopping the creation of paper must be done in a prioritised manner, based on regulatory, customer and cost impacts. As such it is recommended to start with vendor sources, then employee and finally customer sources.
Physical documents that take up valuable office space can be stored digitally at a fraction of the space and cost. Digital files can be categorised and prioritised based on department or project, helping to make them more accessible by staff, available to employees working remotely and improving the ability to find and analyse valuable insights that can be converted into new leads and growth.
Destroy what you don’t need Unless there is a compelling reason to keep paper copies for legal or compliance reasons, eliminating documents after they are no longer required makes economic sense. Once you’ve determined which documents can go, it is important to destroy them securely.
Consider offsite storage
Digitisation is not always a perfect solution and some businesses require secure storage of physical documents. Depending on how much paper you manage, storing it onsite can be convenient and inexpensive at first, but utilising an offsite storage provider can keep your sensitive documents safe from loss or damage.
As the digital world around us continues to evolve and pervade every part of our personal and work lives, the digitisation of records is the fastest way to ensure efficient and effective processes. For a small business looking to automate any business process, the removal of paper is a key component to its growth and success. Digitalisation helps to alleviate administrative tasks for automation which frees up employees to be more productive and innovative in their respective roles, providing greater opportunities to build and ensure competitive advantage.