If you are looking to grow your small business for the remaining part of the year and beyond, you need to get started in the right way: keeping it organized.
Organization involves setting up systems and procedures for all different parts of your business for more productivity and better profits.
While ensuring order is easier for large businesses with hundreds or thousands of employees and huge budgets, a startup entrepreneur is likely to lack the time and resources required to stay organized.
But there is still hope for small-scale entrepreneurs.
We have outlined exclusive ideas on some of the best practices you can adopt to keep your business organized and running smoothly.
Establishing and maintaining a digital archive will keep your small business organized by keeping your documents safe, accessible, and adaptable to the needs of the business.
The first step in creating a digital archive is scanning documents or importing your already existing files into a centralized system. Management tools for documents are designed to make it easier for you to set up and maintain a digital archive of the records required by your business.
Such a system allows you to scan records upon receipt or when being processed. Alternatively, you or an assigned employee can scan the files in batches on an agreed frequency that can range from daily, weekly, monthly, to annually.
If you do not prefer using internal data management resources, you can outsource the work to a document management service provider who can scan your records in batches and deliver them in a centralized digital file system.
Steps for Digitizing an Archive
- Document Imaging
Paperwork digitization starts with a process commonly known as document imaging. Typically, document imaging entails scanning paper documents into a document management software.
Most document management systems utilize a technology called Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to identify and index documents automatically based on the text on the page.
OCR programs are intelligent and accurately detect most of the handwritten and printed texts. The accuracy of each program depends on the quality of the document being scanned. If the pages are stained or smudged, the program may have a hard time recognizing the content. The same applies when images are blurry.
Although much of the digitization process is easy to automate through a document management software, it makes sense to maintain quality, which makes our next step of digitizing your archive.
- Quality Control
To ensure that your documents are correctly imaged, many document management software allow you to set up a “custom confidence rate.” This implies that your software will only accept the files that meet a specific threshold. For instance, if your software feels that it has imaged a paper document 85% accurately, but you have set up a confidence rate of 95%, that document would be rejected unless you do a manual review and approval.
All digitized documents should be quality-control reviewed for integrity, accuracy, and completeness. You can do this while scanning or after checking images.
Of course, you will also need to take time to remove paper clips, staples, and other obstructions from your paper records prior to scanning them into your system.
Once your documents are converted into digital files and imported to your systems, you should now organize them for easier retrieval.
Your file archive will only be as good as its accessibility – You definitely do not want to search for a specific document in multiple file cabinets.
Fortunately, most document management systems commence the organization process for you with OCR. Your software will identify specific keywords and elements in the document and affix metadata to automatically index your documents.
However, you will need to delineate documents from each other by manually adding extra details and metadata in order to stay fully organized and accurate.
Steps to Successful File Organization
When it comes to document storage, you have two options: on-premises servers and cloud-based platforms.
Although On-premises servers require in-house IT resources and a higher upfront investment, they provide better control over your documents and put your files under the umbrella of your business’s security measures.
On the other hand, cloud-based platforms cost less and do away with the burden of maintenance. On this, you will be trusting a third party to manage your data, which is could create some vulnerabilities. However, most cloud-storage systems are certified, secure, and very efficient.
Both cloud and on-premises storage options are viable, but cloud storage offers an automatic offsite backup. With this, its low cost and many benefits, cloud-storage is progressively becoming the ideal choice for most companies.
If you opt for a cloud system of storage, it is crucial you do your research on the provider and ensure that he meets high-security standards. It is also wise that you maintain your own disaster recovery backup for all your files and systems.
Data backup can come in different ways like storing files in multiple locations and making it a regular practice to capture your files and keep them secure.
Data security goes beyond the simple considerations for storage. Your archive will contain all your business records, with some that are very sensitive. Since data breaches are very common, you should prioritize in ensuring that your archive is super-secure.
As you select a software program, you should look for active directory authentication, configurable firewalls, and SSL technologies. You should also get a system that offers comprehensive uneditable record on every time a file was accessed.
Most management systems come with user access permissions that allow admins to determine the users who can access or see files stored in the archive. This keeps vulnerabilities minimal and information confidential.
You can also customize access permissions when different departments in your organization are using the same document management software. This ensures that financial files stay within the accounting department, while sensitive staff information can only be viewed by the Human Resource department.
Although some documents are important enough to retain for a long time, not all need to be kept permanently.
You should understand how long you need to retain word documents and files. This will help improve security and free up your storage space.
IRS recommends that small businesses should retain their financial records for up to 7 years. Nonetheless, internal business documents such as customer order records and supplier contracts can be retained longer.
Once you have fully digitized and organized your archive, your team now needs to be able to revise the documents easily, without making contradictory edits.
A good document management system will have built-in tools to help your teams collaborate without difficulty.
Such a system will also track all the versions of all the content and facilitate production collaboration by allowing simultaneous access to the same documents.
A document management software can also add structure and accuracy through routing, signatures, approvals, checklists, and reminders.
A document management software’s collaboration tools will help your team in working seamlessly together and prevent contradictory edits that arise when multiple users are accessing a document.
With digitization, organization, and collaboration, data management does not have to be difficult. Fortunately, a great document management software can help you achieve this seamlessly.
Try out one today and your business will enjoy a progressive and sustained improvement in time management, productivity, customer relations, and profit margins.