Steps to Digitize Your Business and Convert Paper Files to Digital

Jan 20, 2021
Steps to Digitize Your Business and Convert Paper Files to Digital

Going digital is a must for any business starting or operating in this age. That doesn’t mean just maintaining a website or social media presence. Thanks to technology, once you digitize you and your employees don’t need to be chained to a desk and hard-line phone to make sales, check inventory, and review receipts. You can do it all from anywhere on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

That is, if you’ve gone paperless.

Paper is playing a smaller and smaller role in business operations as more technological tools are adopted by companies. In fact, becoming a paperless business can save your company significant time and money. It’s also good for the environment, which can benefit your company as more customers are factoring corporate sustainability into their purchasing decisions. With all the tools and resources at your fingertips, now is the right time to digitize your business and the best place to start is your records.

Digitizing means you’re converting paper files into a digital format, such as a PDF, spreadsheet, or text document and storing it in a secure location (we’ll get into some possible storage options later). The move to paperless is about efficiency and productivity. Instead of spending your time wading through piles of documents and receipts, you can access and search your digitized records with ease. And you’ll be spending less on supplies such as paper, ink, and copier leases.

Get ready to donate your file cabinets to an antique store because The CoLab is here to help your business digitize.

Are you ready to go paperless?

The above question might be an easy one for you to answer, but is the rest of your business ready to take the leap into digitizing your files and operations? In order for your paperless system to be successful, you’ll need buy-in from your team. Be sure to explain why you’re switching to a paperless system, how you expect it to impact your team’s workflow, its benefits, and how you plan to keep everyone accountable in terms of its use.

Have everyone onboard? Great! With your team’s support, it’s time to take your business to a new level by going digital. Perhaps you’ve already started to save your company files to a cloud storage platform or create a digital copy of each paper file you have. No matter what your digitizing status is, there are four questions you need to ask yourself to determine if your business can go or truly has gone paperless.

Do you have cloud storage?

You have to shift your mindset that the only place you can store digital files is on your physical computer. Instead, save your files (or at least back them up) to cloud storage. That way, if anything bad happens to your computer, your records and work won’t be lost. It also saves you the cost of installing and maintaining a company server, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Some popular options for cloud storage services include:

Be sure to do some research to figure out which solution is best for your company. If you’re just starting out and money is tight, the aforementioned platforms do have free versions you can use until you’re able to upgrade to a paid business version with more storage and features.

How do you convert paper files into digital files (or have you even started to digitize)?

If you’ve already started migrating your files to a digitized filing system, that’s great! If not, it’s time to start. Just think of all the time you’ll save not waiting around for documents to print and the money you’ll save not shelling out for printers, ink, and paper.

Traditionally, companies have scanned paper documents and kept the digital versions saved on internal servers or on a desktop computer. Remember that cloud storage we mentioned? Well, there is technology out there to help scan your files and instantly upload them to the cloud.

Now, it is possible for you to scan page by page and save them on to your computer then move the files to the cloud. This is fine for small jobs, but if you’re about to convert your entire filing system, you’re looking at a long and arduous process. There are lots of scanners out there, but one product recommended by The CoLab is the ScanSnap iX1500. Not only will it instantly allow you to upload documents to the cloud but also allow you to access its functions from a mobile phone.

If your business doesn’t quite have the funds to drop on a scanner, there also are free phone apps that can scan documents for you to digitize your business. Two recommended by The CoLab are Scannable and GeniusScan.

Do you have a software tool that can organize and edit documents on the go?

With more and more business being conducted over digital channels, having a tool that can open, create, edit, and manage PDFs is a must. Adobe DC Pro is a monthly subscription service that provides you with software to create PDFs, turn them into forms, sign them, and much more. If you don’t need some of the more advanced capabilities, there is a free version called Adobe Acrobat Reader.

If sending off documents such as contracts is a large part of your business, consider adding DocuSign to your arsenal of tools. This technology platform’s goal is to eliminate the paper your company uses for documents, automate the signing process, and connect it to all the other systems that your business is already using. There are several types of products and solutions available from DocuSign to fit businesses of any size.

If you’re on the go, do you need to return to your office in order to conduct business?

If the answer is yes, then you’re not totally paperless. You need to be able to conduct business from anywhere.

Say you’re a Realtor and you’re out showing a house. The clients are over the moon and want to put in an offer right away. If you have to take them back to your office for paperwork instead of being able to pull up what you need on your phone, that’s time they could spend developing buyer’s remorse and reconsidering their decision. You want to be able to serve clients where they are, especially in a world where people expect instant results.

Get started on your paperless journey

Building a paperless system can be a big shift, but these resources will help make the process more manageable. And remember, being paperless isn’t just about what’s in your office now but in the future. Going paperless is about your business operations and habits as well.

Prevent future buildup of paper documents and receipts by opting for digital-only versions of bills, bank statements, and other documents you typically accrue in physical form. You can reduce your paper use by issuing paperless invoices to customers. When you do get paper files, be sure to have a defined process to digitize, naming, and storing them in the proper places, so important documents don’t go missing or get overlooked.

Going digital isn’t just a to-do list for your business, it’s a mindset you and your team need to embrace for this digitize approach to be successful in your business operations.

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About The Author

Megan Marsh is one of the top mortgage brokers in the country, with her brokerage being named 2023 Regional Mortgage Broker of the Year.  Read Megan’s “About Us” story “From Fired to Financial Freedom.”

Feel Free to send Megan a message to [email protected].