An effective and comprehensive record keeping system is essential to the running of any business. For years, paper records were the best method of storing and organizing a firm's most important information and data. Recent technological advancements, particularly alongside the lockdowns triggered by the recent Covid-19 pandemic, have thrust companies into the field of digital record-keeping.
Gone are the days of mountainous filing rooms and the attempts to make sense of handwritten notes - businesses have increasingly recognized the value of converting to digital documentation. They save time, money, space, and the environment, as well as better secure the most precious data. This article will take a closer look at these five key benefits.
One of the biggest merits of digital records is the amount of time they save compared to their analogue alternative. Your files will be stored in databases which allow documents to be tagged and labeled in ways that index them according to their content.
An employee would therefore have a much easier time locating documents relating to a certain area of interest, as they can filter them by many different criteria. Paper documents are ordinarily sorted by only one criterion, usually alphabetically.
The new level of accessibility goes beyond this - rather than having to physically search the filing cabinets, employees could access these documents from anywhere in the office - or even from their own homes - across the internet.
Just like your paper records, larger documents can be split into smaller, more specific pieces – free split PDF services exist to easily and quickly separate individual pages of a big digital document into multiple different files.
While editing a paper record would often require printing an entirely new document and entering the new information onto it, digital records can be manipulated at the press of a few keystrokes. Any errors can quickly be corrected without the need to produce an entirely new form.
Though sending paper records to clients or colleagues might need to be done in the mail, digital files can be sent instantaneously and with far greater ease.
When dealing with customers, it is important to understand and meet their expectations. When customers ask a question, they expect a response in an efficient and timely manner. Rather than keeping your customers waiting while you hunt through stacks of related files, it would be far better to simply insert the relevant search term and retrieve it in a matter of seconds.
Having retrieved the requested file, rather than mail or fax it or have the customer pick it up, you could swiftly email it to them instead. These are only some of the time-saving benefits enabled by digital records. This streamlined retrieval process will allow workers to focus on areas and operations which deserve more of their attention. Make sure to explore other ways to improve the quality of your customer service.
As well as saving time, digital records will also save money and make your workflow more efficient in various ways – from cutting down on the amount spent on supplies, to spending your employee’s paid hours more productively.
As mentioned, records could be edited digitally with relatively little effort. The maintenance costs of physical records quickly add up - from the masses of printer paper, to the off-site storage space, to the dreaded expensive printer ink. Reducing your dependency on these expenses - which only increase as your company expands - will save huge amounts of cash in the long-run.
Despite the existing shift towards digital databases, the average American office worker still uses 10,000 sheets of paper a year, and it costs corporations over $120 billion annually. And this is despite the fact that many of those records are rendered out-of-date in the space of just three months!
While paper documents are liable to get lost, damaged, or even stolen, digital records are stored and backed up safely and securely, preventing the need to repair and replace anything.
The time-saving benefits already noted will translate to cost-savings and greater productivity in general, as fewer overtime hours are paid for trawling through paper records - a total waste of your valued employees’ great potential. While there will of course be new costs associated with the installation of new software and the training needed to use it, as well as - potentially - the cloud storage space, these costs pale in comparison to the burden of paper records.
Of course, having stored everything neatly onto a hard drive - or better yet, in the cloud - you can finally do away with the heaps of paper and the filing cabinets that tried to contain them. There are endless possibilities with your newly-acquired office space, but an idea might be to use the room for more employees to aid in your company's expansion, and really make the most of your floorspace.
Otherwise, you might take the opportunity presented by digital documents to downsize your office entirely! Just think of the savings to be had from a smaller office, without rooms dedicated to storing your company’s information. You can practically do away with the shredders and scanners - Word to PDF software can convert all digital files into the appropriate format to be stored in your new database.
Climate change and environmental degradation is a growing concern for many of us, and it’s important that we do what we can to help. Every step of a paper record's life cycle is damaging to the planet: paper production on the massive scale demanded by large companies necessitates the harvest of about two million trees every day. By contributing to a reduction in the demand for paper, companies will prevent unsustainable and damaging deforestation.
The manufacturing process, as well as the transportation from factory to supplier, emits huge amounts of greenhouse gasses, further damaging the atmosphere. Finally, the disposal of outdated or inaccurate paper records does similar damage. While offices applying proper practice will recycle their old paper, the recycling process is still energy-intensive and can be reduced by using less paper.
This does not even consider the similarly damaging ink, folders, and staples made necessary by paper records. Cutting out your dependency on unsustainable practices will mean you’ve done your part for the planet.
Along with the numerous material benefits, digital records also provide additional levels of security over paper.
For one, databases can be secured so that not even the most sophisticated thieves or hackers can access the data - the padlock securing the filing room might appear to do the trick, but it is nothing compared to the military-grade encryption which can be applied to computerized files. This will ensure that only those authorized to can view sensitive company information.
Further, you can restrict access to certain files depending on the permissions you give to various employees. For example, a senior management member might be able to view and edit records which a more junior worker might not.
Another way digital files help improve security is the ability to back up files. While making an exact replica of a cabinet full of paper records is absurd and impractical, doing so with all your digitized data is possible in a matter of seconds. Even in the case of the worst possible scenario, you can rest assured that your data can simply be restored with ease - the same cannot be said of paper files lost to fire, theft, or flooding.
Legal documentation has also progressed in step with technological advancements. Physical signatures are no longer a necessity; sophisticated eSign software can be utilized instead. This represents yet another way by which digital progress saves time and protects your important records.
When you consider the clear benefits of digital record-keeping, it’s a struggle to see why you wouldn't switch immediately. Granted, scanning your existing files and organizing them electronically could be a significant undertaking, but the investment will quickly pay for itself.
In the long term, you will save countless hours of time otherwise spent filing and scouring physical documents, which translates to a massive reduction in costs. The ability of your employees to access company files from a centralized, easy-to-navigate database - even remotely - will be hugely beneficial in streamlining your work.
The physical space saved by a digital conversion will also translate into greater savings and efficiency. Meanwhile, the new security of your information and the positive impact on the planet will give you the peace of mind which paper records cannot.
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Amanda is the Marketing Coordinator for National Business Capital. She’s a graduate of Ziklin School of Business at CUNY Baruch College and holds a B.A. in Advertising, Marketing, and Communications. Amanda has extensive experience creating content, directing outreach campaigns, and managing operations. She is passionate about small business and helping entrepreneurs reach new heights.