Mike Ryan of Tempco Pest Control in Fort Meyers, FL, recently began transitioning to a paperless office. “I’d like to get to a point where I don’t use any paper whatsoever with routing, scheduling and daily operations,” he says. “We’ll save two trees a year.”
Ryan, a Clip Software user, is currently transfixed on two areas: customer information and routing. All contracts are scanned into the computer. “Clip lets me easily file the information by customer name so everything I have on a given customer is all in one place,” he says.
To assist with mobile communications, Ryan was initially thinking about putting laptops in each of his 10 trucks. Instead, he’s gone with Clip2Go mobile palm devices. Drivers can access customer notes and enter new data. “At the end of the day, they can send me the information over the Internet, or bring me the device the next morning to sync it to the main computer,” Ryan tells. “Either way, it saves me hours of paperwork each day.”
Ryan is also saving big by not having to print route sheets for his drivers. Clip2Go links to a GPS system, allowing it to schedule routes in the most efficient order, helping reduce fuel expenditures.
Getting Started Cheap
Thinking you might like to head in the paperless direction? Babigian says it is the perfect time of year to begin this type of project. The amount of time you’ll spend transitioning depends on how much you decide to actually undertake.
While the implementation of incoming documents is pretty straightforward in terms of time, committing to an electronic conversion of your prior paper documentation is another story. Based on the volume of documents already in storage, Babigian says prior-year conversions are usually done as time allows.
If you’re just going to scan documents and simply file them in folders you’ve set up on your computer, you can get going immediately. “Prior to that, though, you should carefully consider the file structure and document naming scheme,” Babigian advises. “Remember, one of the goals of going paperless is quick and easy retrieval of information.”
Document Filing Software
While a simple, low-investment system can help you achieve some of the objectives of going paperless, document filing software is available that can help you accomplish even more.
“If you don’t employ a more formal documentation software program to file and secure the documents,” Babigian points out, “you are unlikely to realize some of the benefits of going paperless. Secure file sharing is also more difficult. You could password-protect sensitive documents, but that provides its own set of challenges in terms of remembering all those passwords.”
Clip Software has document filing features. eCopy ShareScan quickly turns paper documents into digital files. A couple of other popular products are also available from a company called Cabinet NG. CNG-SAFE is document management software, while CNG-Books integrates with QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions to share billing, credit card, payment and other information.
When going paperless, Babigian says, it’s very beneficial to invest in programs that integrate with QuickBooks, such as Cabinet NG, to streamline data entry. “Another feature I like about the QuickBooks link is the ability to have employees approve documents, such as vendor invoices, via electronic submission,” Babigian points out. “For example, the bookkeeper could send a document electronically to an account manager for review, and the account manager could sign off and approve the invoice without ever touching or seeing a physical piece of paper. The approval is then sent back to be filed electronically.”
Have a Backup Strategy
While there are many differences between a paperless office and one that is bogged down by piles of files, there is also a similarity: Files and data can be lost. “As with any server or computer-based system, there needs to be a solid backup strategy,” Babigian reminds. “Off-site backup storage is always important.”
Zior says most of Clip Software’s customers backup on CD-ROM. “I’d advise getting an automated program and pop a CD in every night, or at least once or twice a week,” he adds. “How often you backup your files depends on how much data you’re willing to re-enter.” Online services are also available for backing up files.