The “paperless office” has been a concept in American business culture since 1979, when it was first coined in Newsweek. As the technology improves and becomes more cost effective for small businesses, the paperless office is becoming a reality for more and more small companies. If you are considering going paperless or adopting a document management system, consider these five benefits.
Call it a variant of Murphy’s Law — when you need a paper file, it is inevitably located at the bottom of a large stack of files on the floor in the corner of somebody’s office.
For example, law firm personnel can spend literally hours every year looking for paper files. In an industry that typically charges by the hour, that’s not a productive use of time.
By contrast, you can immediately retrieve a scanned file from your document management system. With a document management system, multiple people can retrieve a given document at the same time, improving efficiency.
When you scan a document, you get an image of that file. To convert the image of the text into searchable text, you can use optical character recognition (OCR ) software — often included with a scanner.
Once you’ve made scanned files searchable, it becomes even easier to find them because you can search for any phrase in the document, such as a client name, not just the name of the document itself. This makes it incredibly easy to find invoice numbers or any other information that is usually hidden deep within a document.
Improved Customer Service
At one time or another, everyone has been on the receiving end of the dreaded phrase “I’ll have to check the documents and get back to you.” Consider how much happier your customers would be if you could say, “Let me pull up the document now and check for you,” resolving their question during a single phone call?
As an added bonus, the ability to search documents makes it less likely that you’ll overlook that key piece of information. More efficient service means happier clients who pay their bills faster.
Even better, improving your client relations will make your clients more likely to hire your firm for other services and make it easier for them to refer your business!
Reduce Operating Costs
Storage costs represent a major expense. Typically, office space is second only to salaries in terms of cost, especially in large cities. As the piles of paper grow, so do your storage costs.
Scanning documents can substantially reduce storage costs by eliminating a significant portion of your paper files and the storage space required to store them. You can then put the space once used for storage to more productive use.
Before you call a shredding company, read your state rules on the retention of physical files, especially in practice areas such as Real Estate or Financial Services.
Even if you have to keep the files for a specified period of time, scanning them will enable you to store them off-site as cheaply as possible. Scanning documents also reduces time spent requesting documents from the file room or even warehouse.
Finally, since you can easily email scanned documents, you can reduce your phone bill by faxing documents less often. Some paperless law firms have even eliminated their fax machines entirely and switched to online fax services.
With a paperless office, you can almost entirely eliminate the costs of printing, such as copy paper, ink and toner. With toner being one of the most expensive liquids on the planet, this can equal huge cost savings for your small business.
Paper documents are subject to two risks — physical theft and destruction from a variety of disasters (fire, flood, etc.). When you scan confidential documents, you can restrict access to your eyes only. For example, you can limit the access of sensitive information or specific case files to select people.
Law firms subject to federal and state regulations regarding the protection of client information will find compliance significantly easier with scanned documents. Also, replacing a digital file is much easier than trying to replace a file cabinet destroyed by fire or flood.
If environmental issues are important to you and your business or you have clientele that care about these issues, going paperless can boost your status in the community.
For example, digitization of your files will result in fewer photocopies, reducing company paper consumption.
The less we use today means the more we leave behind for future generations. If you are part of the Green Revolution, making your business paperless is a great place to start.
Going paperless will save your firm time and money – but be wary of anyone selling you a magic software product that will fix all your problems. Like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it.
There are many organizations that can help with this type of solution, but make sure their company culture matches you own. After all, the last thing you want is to try and go paperless with the help of Xerox or any copier company whose main interest is in hardware and consumables.
(Image Source: iCLIPART)