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We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that companies do business both externally and internally.
The “dirty little secret” though is that there are many businesses that were well positioned to make the transition to this more remote working world before the pandemic happened. And it is a trend that will continue to take hold as many companies elect to offer remote working opportunities to their staff on a part-time or full-time basis.
As a result, what was true in March 2020 remains true now. Most companies require digital records to be productive and efficient. Those organizations that rely on paper-based systems are dinosaurs.
What I quickly discovered once the pandemic hit is that there are three pandemic technology shifts that can help define whether companies that can operate efficiently remotely: cloud-based document management, digital forms, and automated accounts payable. I find it helpful to provide a real-world example for each shift.
Cloud-Based Document Management
Companies with cloud-based document management didn’t suffer the same problems when shifting employees to remote working environments, because they did not need to change the ways they accessed and used data in business processes. There was less friction and fewer challenges.
Our client Cooperative Education Services (CES) is educational procurement agency in New Mexico that managed mountains of paperwork to procure services for their members. Without having completed a shift to a cloud-based document management before the pandemic, conducting business remotely would have been virtually impossible.
You might be surprised at how many organizations still rely on paper forms. They can cause operational headaches and inefficiencies, yet they are commonly used in almost all businesses. In a post-pandemic world with many customer interactions occurring virtually, using these paper forms result in bottlenecks at best, and lost business at worst.
Our client Real Property Management Vancouver moved its document processes to a single cloud-based document management platform with e-forms before the pandemic. The online forms allow them to collect and exchange information and digitally sign important documents with their clients from virtually any location. Making the move to a completely remote company overnight was relatively seamless and allowed the company to continue growing in 2020-21.
Automated Accounts Payable (AP) Processes in the Cloud
Many who think of an Accounts Payable team think about a back office filled with professionals who are great at numbers and make sure the “books are balanced.” Yet, these professionals can do their jobs anywhere. Consider that it costs an average of $11.76 to process a single invoice, and 70-80% of invoices in the U.S. are still paper based, according to the Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM). Those that switch from paper to digital invoices save $5.46 per invoice.
Saving money is a clear benefit but e-invoices do not have to arrive in the same format to be entered into an “AP in the Cloud” system. So, there’s no operational drawback. R.C. Bigelow is the #1 specialty tea company in the United States. After automating its AP processes, Nucleus Research, an independent analyst organization specializing in the financial return on technology investments, calculated the return on investment for R.C. Bigelow was a whopping 813 percent.
We all want to make sure our data is safe, which can be another concern that organizations have about keeping their data digital or in the ubiquitous “cloud.” But security is an inherent strength of the industry. While we read about the impact of hackers and data breaches, the reality is the chances of losing your paper files in a fire or by some type of human error is much greater. Plus, chances are there is no backup plan in place if paper is the primary source of record keeping.
That is why if you are responsible in any way for client, employee, vendor, or any type of important data, or if you oversee an accounting team, digitizing your files in a dynamic cloud environment is essential. In an evolving world, maintaining secure remote access to corporate documents, forms, and financials will limit wasted time, while offering you the best customer service possible.
Cloud-based document management supported with digital forms and process automation is not a trend or a fad. It is an essential benefit to your business. The pandemic was a reminder of many things to us on a personal and professional level. Unfortunately for many businesses, it was a reminder of the fine line between a business that effectively manages its data, and one that is at the mercy of market and societal dynamics.