Besides the costs associated with whatever product or service you provide, all businesses incur overhead costs to support its functions, such as accounting, billing, human resources, legal and other administrative duties. One of the first things you learn about running a business is that no matter how well the business is doing, whether you’re profitable or not, you have a set overhead expenditure you need to pay.
If sales are sluggish, you might be able to cut back on some aspects of your operations to save money, but you can’t easily cut back on your overhead. Things like your lease, utilities and other operating fees won’t change and have to be paid. The costs to do accounting, human resources and more need to be paid.
Tragically, overheads rise as your business grows. More employees mean more HR and payroll work. More clients mean more accounting and billing work. You’re essentially generating more paperwork and hiring more hands to accomplish the same job as before.
However, if you take the paper out of paperwork, you’ll find that you can get more work done without increasing overhead—you may even be able to reduce it. Essentially, doing away with physical documents and conducting most of your business using digital documents is “going paperless,” but there’s more to it than that.
Included in overhead costs are materials related to the back-office and business operations: computers, paper, printers, filing cabinets and other general office equipment. Going paperless allows you to save on some of those costs, as well as the physical space needed to store documents that will certainly put a dent in your overhead.
Applying different types of technology to document management gives you the opportunity to automate certain tasks. Optical character recognition, which translates the text on graphic-based files like PDFs into data, allows smart document management to automate the filing of your documents, based on a few pre-configured rules. Automated workflows allow you to streamline your traditional business processes, reducing the time they take and the attention they take away from personnel.
Imagine the time saved in the back-office if all you had to do to file a document was scan it and the system took care of the rest? Based on the rules you set before, character recognition software can take something like an invoice, recognize the date, names and amount and file it accordingly.
In addition, accounting processes can be fully automated. Inputting an invoice into the system will automatically route it to the right person for approval and then archive it when the work is done. Furthermore, issues like compliance can be automated to your needs, as long as you deploy a system that can follow the rules you need to adhere to such as Financial Industry Regulatory Authority guidelines or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
When you take advantage of a paperless environment and implement business process automation at every opportunity, the time and resources you save are invaluable. Resources can be shifted away from the limitations imposed by overheads to operations that grow the business. And as the business grows, you no longer have to scale overhead with it. No matter how many employees you add, your HR processes are automatically handled. No matter how many customer accounts you add, your billing processes are automated and need little supervision.
Jesse Wood is CEO of eFileCabinet, a document management software company.