Although we’re in the digital age, American businesses use over 21 million tons of paper annually.
The move toward a paperless office is easy with technology and can improve your bottom line. The ROI for every $1 spent on enterprise investments is $6.12, says Sean Morris, director of sales at Digitech Systems Inc., a Greenwood Village, Colo.-based company that helps businesses manage, retrieve and store information using enterprise content management services and software.
It doesn’t have to happen overnight: Moneycrashers.com, a financial advice website, became 95% paper-free in only nine months "to save money, increase the security of our documents and help the environment," says co-owner Andrew Schrage, an NFIB member.
Here’s how to simplify your switch to a paperless office.
Determine which documents you print the most and if you can make electronic versions of them. "If the majority of your work is form-based, use a form-builder app that allows you to input your data directly on the server," says Erik Johnson, mobile strategist at LexTech Global Services, a mobile app developer in Lisle, Ill. “It eliminates mistakes, and is more efficient."
Once you've evaluated the paper from your file cabinets, scan important files to a cloud-server-based filing system, and then shred the hard copy. "We started using Google Apps for Business for the majority of our communication, scheduling and documentation needs," says Schrage. Once yo'’ve created and organized your system, you will be able to save directly onto the new system from the start—eliminating the need to print.
Convert your payroll.
You can use programs like FreshBooks ($29.95/mo.) to manage bills and paychecks online. Freshbooks was one of "the two products that played the biggest role in going paperless," says Schrage. This simple change will save your business money on envelopes and stamps, too.
To be sure your files are safe in the cloud, Morris recommends encrypting them using 256-bit encryption—a process that transforms information to an unreadable format to everyone except those in possession of the encryption code. "We use a secure methodology for uploading information, and with ImageSilo [their preferred cloud system] we set up user rights and privileges," says Morris. "Encrypting makes your data save in a format that renders it useless for anyone who doesn't have the specific key to unlock it," he says.
If you don't stay organized, being paperless will be no help to your bottom line. The key for a small business is establishing process and procedures around system use.