Optimize Your DocumentsYou’ve heard it for so many years – “the paperless” office. HA. We have more paper than ever before and our worlds are not paperless. In fact, I think paper is GOOD.  I love business cards, thank you cards, colorful hand outs and I can much better digest printing out a longer report or other document than scrolling up and down a computer screen, phone or tablet!

However, I think what a paperless office really means is the better management of the paper in our lives.

Business owners today feel increasing pressure to get more done in less time. We have so many great tools at our disposal to automate almost everything we do, but knowing exactly which tools to use for each process can be tricky.

One of the best things professionals can do is to move away from outdated processes that cost time and dramatically reduce productivity. By moving to document management, I’ve been able to streamline processes that would have traditionally taken multiple steps. It’s important to have tools that work well together to create a process that moves your business forward, using smart strategies to fold paper-based documents into digital workflows.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the tools I use to streamline document management.

What do you do with all that paper?

Sure, I receive lots of information in paper format, and most of it can be thrown out or recycled by the end of the day. But, what happens to those documents that linger on the corner of your desk? They’re ones that are really important, but don’t have a home in a filing cabinet. That’s when I realize just how valuable being paperless is. From my multifunction printer, all I have to do is scan my documents directly to Dropbox (or Google Drive or Office 365) or email and they’re exactly where I can access them from wherever I am. If you have a team, you can even sync files in your Dropbox accounts, where they can either print them out or download them to their hard drives.

For cash management and accounting, I use QuickBooks Online. It integrates with all of the other software I use and thanks to its reporting, I can pull out exactly what I need when it’s time to file taxes. QuickBooks lets you only pay for the features you use, too, which makes it great for small businesses that only don’t need a comprehensive bookkeeping package. Of course Xero, Freshbooks and other solutions work well for small business financial management as well.

What about documents that have to be seen by multiple people?

Document routing can be time consuming, even if you do so without using paper. How much time is wasted each day as we email paperwork from one person to another? I’ve found it’s best to establish a process with your team, and use document management software to help route for you. Once your procedure is established, you canjust choose a person from a drop-down box and send it on its way.

Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365 are great tools if you need a group to collaborate on certain documents. Everyone can see the document in real time. If someone is updating it, everyone else in the group can see those updates as they’re happening. No more worrying about version control. It’s as if you’re all gathered around a conference table, looking at the document on a screen.

Knowing the right tools to use can be difficult but once you’ve found your favorites, you’ll be set. Having your documents in the cloud means they’re secure and backed up, so you no longer have to worry about losing files.

What’s YOUR favorite tool? What’s your favorite way to a life or more productivity? To learn more about how to optimize people, process and technology to build a smarter document management strategy, visit xerox.com/smb.

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Ramon RayAbout the author

Ramon Ray, Marketing & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com & Infusionsoft. Full bio at http://www.ramonray.com/ . Visit his Small Business Solutions Blog Author Page to get in touch on Google+, Twitter or Facebook.