Save Time and Money! Going Paperless

Go PaperlessI know, this topic is not directly related to web design but your website should provide your business with some help by giving you a way to reduce your costs if not help you increase your sales. For example, incorporating a fax number that uses a fax-to-email system or a downloadable PDF form that can be emailed rather than mailed or faxed are just two ways to do this.

“I want a paperless office but I have just have too much paper to manage and file.” I worked for the Defense Department for 10 years and that organization is the epitome of paperdom. They really know how to make paper fly. Each cubicle had its own 3 level file cabinet. By the time I left in 1996 they had moved toward a paperless inventory system in warehouses but it was another 5-10 years away from implementation. At the time, though, I think the technology had not been invented yet for each employee to make an impact within their own offices.

So here I am, 15 years later, the owner of a small web design firm in Houston with a nice office and just one small file cabinet. Some of you might think, yeah well that is your industry, electronic and technical work. But, like everyone else, I too have contracts, written notes, documents from clients, and receipts. I just have tools and processes in place to either convert the paper to an electronic file or it comes to me that way.

Your business can go paperless; here is how.

1. The Tools

Keep your technology and systems simple and compatible with what most people use.

  • Fujitsue ScanSnap. Quick and easy way to scan any document from letters to business cards. It is small enough to sit next to your computer so you can quickly zip any document quickly and at the same time it will be recorded into your EverNote software. There are other scanners that are coming down the pipeline that will compete like the Canon Portable Scanner. http://www.fujitsu.com/us/products/computing/peripheral/scanners/scansnap/ix500/index.html
  • Evernote. I use this software religiously whether it is for filing documents, making notes, screenshots. It is on my iPhone as well as my laptop which allows me to take a picture of a receipt while I am at the restaurant. When I get back to my desk, the software has synched already and my new receipt is now on my desktop.
  • Adobe PDF.  You’ll need the Pro version to really take advantage of the software. Things like creating PDF forms are invaluable to me now. I can send sign-off sheets to clients who can fill out the form, add an electronic signature, and simply email it back. It’s great for mobile users who are not near faxes.
  • eFax or any Fax-to-Email system. For those clients or vendors who need to fax you the contract signed, this system will convert the fax to a PDF where you can immediately file it away electronically.

2. The Process

  • Backup! This is the most important step in any paperless office. I cannot stress this enough. Backup using a backup server online like Carbonite as well as an external hard drive that resides in your office. I am up to 2 TB (terabytes). I don’t use CDs or tapes. They deteriorate, get lost or the format is no longer used. CDs are just a pain to backup.
  • Create a filename structure. Create a structure that instructs your employees on how to name the file when saving. It is important to be consistent with this or you’ll have a hard time finding files later. I recommend adding a date to the nomenclature like 2010_1030_Receipt_NameOfCompanyVendor.docx. You can have your own setup but just be sure that everyone follows the same format and it is easy to understand.
  • Keep each piece of paper you need to scan next to the scanner. If you don’t do this, it will get filed or forgotten.
  • Spend 5-10 minutes scanning, giving each paper a tag and title. It’s important to tag each file, meaning add a key word that best describes the document. For example, if it is a receipt, I give the tag, receipt-2010 or receipt-2009. This way, come tax time, I just hit the tag I need and all receipts associated with that group are shown. I can then combine the notes, if needed, and zip them up for my CPA.
  • Adopt an “If in doubt, throw it out” policy. I tend to be a bit quick to toss out stuff I am not sure of. The odds are that since I only tend to ever look at maybe 1% of the documents filed, there is a high probability the stuff is not worth keeping.

3. The Follow-up

  • Be consistent with yourself and staff. Each employee should have the tools they need and understand the process. It might take some time but it will take hold if you are consistent.
  • Be consistent with your customers and vendors. This does not mean you should beat up a client who wants you to send hardcopy proofs or a signed original instead of an electronic version. I tend to give clients the choice. However, I do request that my vendors provide documents electronically. With my industry, this is not difficult but there is the occasional problem that is easily solved with a fax that is then converted to a PDF automatically.

Here is  a great site to a paperless office benefit:
http://www.apaperlesslife.com/2010/01/10-selfish-reasons-to-go-paperless/

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Christina Hawkins

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