Recently, one local company owner (let’s call him Michael Smith) told us that he first began thinking about transitioning to a paperless office back in 2005. Since then the business has grown dramatically. Three additional branches have been opened. The volume of paper being generated daily—not to mention the inefficiencies tied to the handling of all that paper—soon spiraled out of control. He had reached his breaking point in 2010.
“We were simply out of room at our main facility and we already had one entire office stuffed full of filing cabinets. Additionally, we had well over 100 three-ring binders with work orders from the past couple of years. We’re talking about the type of paperwork you don’t need to put your hands on every day, but still important enough that you don’t want to shred it. I didn’t know what to do. I was looking at having to pay someone off site to store our paper. That was tough to swallow,” Smith recalled.
He happened upon a company called Biel’s Document Management at a Users Expo. He learned about Biel’s EDMS product, a complete document management and workflow software product. His curiosity over the concept of paperless was revitalized.
Smith wishes he would’ve heard of Biel’s in 2005 when he first started thinking about going paperless. He spent the next three years blowing upwards of $25,000 on industry-specific management software that didn’t accomplish what he wanted it to. “We even toyed with the idea of having a software developer create something for us,” Smith says.
“The problem I have with scheduling software is that things change all of the time,” Smith continues. “The weather turns bad, a crew finishes up early on a property, or whatever. You go to all that trouble to type your schedule into the computer, and then it all changes. We end up spending way too much time adjusting schedules in the computer.”
Smith decided to begin the conversion to paperless in October 2010. This was a good time of year because things start to slow down a bit. Furthermore, his staff could utilize a dual system for those last three months of the year in order to get their feet wet. In other words, they began scanning all documents but also retained the paper copies. “We already had paper copies of everything for the first nine months of the year, so this seemed to make sense,” Smith says.
As the company’s CFO and a self-described “computer geek,” Smith took it upon himself to lead the conversion effort. He decided to go “all in” and purchased the complete package of software from Biel’s Document Management, in addition to some hardware and a couple of scanners. He also purchased a new server from another vendor. The total investment was around $25,000
Training went rather smoothly. “The software is pretty intuitive,” Smith says. “Both myself and our office manager picked it up pretty quickly. Actually, the other managers who have access to it also caught on pretty quick.”
Now more than a year into their paperless transformation, Smith says the company is saving money in several ways:
- They’ve quit printing tons of paper, saving thousands of dollars on paper and printer ink.
- They’ve been able to convert that unproductive storage room into a productive office, saving the company more than $700 per year in square footage.
- The customer service representative—who previously spent a significant amount of her time searching for paper files tucked away in cabinets and three-ring binders—now has more time to do what she was actually hired to do. “Being proactive in performing outstanding customer service is so important right now,” Smith reminds. “It’s great to have someone above and beyond the account manager or foreman that’s checking in with the client. Now our CSR has time to do that.”
- Smith is now emailing invoices to roughly 80% of their customer base. This is saving at least $10,000 in printing costs and postage.
- More efficient logistics is another way the company is saving, though it’s difficult to put a dollar amount on it. “The EDMS software has a module that interfaces with Microsoft Outlook,” Smith relates. “When you email an invoice to a client (as a PDF), the EDMS automatically saves a copy in that client’s file on the server. So now we have one repository—an electronic filing cabinet on our server—which only authorized people can access. We no longer have a situation where certain information is stored on the server while other information is on a manager’s laptop, for example. Our goal is to store everything related to a given customer in that given customer’s file on our server.”