Welcome to the New World. Paperless Accounting.
Recently, I was work-shopping project requirements with a client and I learned that this employee spent half his week filing. Yes, 20 hours a week filing paper. Further, the field staff were carrying up to 10 pieces of paper and collecting 68 data points a day…on paper. When they returned to the regional office after a day in the field, the data entry staff collected all that paper and entered all the data manually into various systems. At the time, I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing.
Gladly, Semmens & Co. is not that place.
With a great IT strategy, we’ve managed to create business processes and workflows that are 100% paperless. The most wonderful part? Our clients have embraced it with no issue. We’ve replaced paper forms with apps, filing cabinets with secure online storage…and pens with electronic signatures.
So, where to start? Start by understanding yourself and your business culture. Unfortunately, if your team are addicted to paper processes and have been following the same process with little change for many years, it is imperative to address your culture before your start the journey. It is important to note that any and all change can create anxiety in your team. You may think everyone is lovely and open-minded but process change can turn even your star employees into nervous wrecks – if not administered correctly. In my experience, the best place to start is by talking the team through the dream. Talk to them about the changes you’d like to make and be open to feedback…all the while staying firm that change is coming and why it is an important strategy for the business.
Next, document your process. Use something simple like One Note. You would be amazed at how many business owners buy a software product, implement it and then realise it doesn’t meet their needs. For one simple reason. They never really considered their own needs and processes or the value of each process step.
Now that it is documented, take the time to consider every step…is it valuable? It is valuable for your business to collect that data or valuable to your customer…and how valuable? Are we talking nice-to-have or must-have?
At this point you can consider software products that provide your required service/process. And a word of advice – and the most important words on this page – step back and consider the bigger picture. We have rule at Semmens & Co. If the systems we are considering don’t integrate with our ‘source of truth’ systems, we won’t consider it. It must integrate. Why? Because if not, the process will require a human being to move data from one system to another…which is a waste of time and money. Hence, the two most important rules of purchasing software: make sure it meets your list of ‘must-haves’ and consider the bigger picture.
Next, choose your product, handover the credit card and get it implemented. Now, if you are a small company, and plan to do this yourself, seek advice and guidance from the software provider before you start. At this stage, it is a good idea to revisit the document where you wrote down the original process and walk through the must haves again, mapping out how the staff will undertake the new process, with the new system in mind.
Once implemented, I can’t tell you how important it is to WRITE DOWN THE PROCESS. And further, SHARE IT WITH YOUR TEAM, in a formal meeting. If you plan to simply send them their username and password and think they’ll work it out for themselves, think again. That approach will do very little for your popularity. For the most part, people don’t like change. We need to ease the team into it – with support.
Lastly, a word of encouragement for all the business owners, wanting to take a leap of faith into a paperless world. The applications available to small businesses today are amazing. I am constantly amazed by the technology I discover. The market is abundant with tech start-ups doing mind-blowing things…for a great price…in a global marketplace. Fintech is a very strong domain in the UK and US and as a result, industries that we previously thought were impenetrable are now undergoing disruption. Banking, finance and accounting will not be what they are today in 5-10 years. Take advantage of the waves of change and get on board with technology that will save you time and money.
If you have an interest in streamlining your finance processes and making the brave move towards a paperless world, call Semmens & Co for the know-how.