Reducing your carbon footprint might have great environmental benefits but have you considered the advantages it could have for your business and bottom line? With the right document management system (DMS) you can store and share important files securely, cost effectively and meet your legal and compliance obligations.   

1. Understand your obligations

We’re becoming more digital and less paper dependent every day yet there’s still a mentality in business that we need to keep physical records of everything. But when you review the legislation in place, in a lot of cases that’s simply not necessary. In Australia the ATO guidelines state that once a paper record has been imaged into an electronic storage medium the original can be destroyed. For tax purposes businesses are required to:

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2. Consider the wider impact

Changing your document management system has larger implications than just helping the environment (though it’s a great reason!). Switching to digital solutions to replace paper communications is a big step that goes beyond record keeping and raises a number of key questions. By no longer sending printed invoices or letters are you still able to support less tech savvy clients? How will you select a document management system? And what are the best options for a business of your size?

By eliminating physical files and servers from the office you could find a wealth of space at your disposal. This raises the possibility of using the space more effectively to expand your business or presents the opportunity to reduce the size of your office and rent.

3. Start small

Setting out to digitise all your paper documents and records is very ambitious. It calls on a change in business process by shifting your perspective to a more digital/technological outlook. Consider starting small by reducing your paper usage. Often if we receive a letter in the mail we’ll respond with a letter, or if we send a letter or contract to a client we’ll attach a self-addressed envelope. This no longer needs to be the case. Simply responding via email is enough to make a noticeable difference in your paper consumption and postage costs as well.

4. Find the right document management system

When searching for a document management system consider both your short and long-term needs; and always ensure that the system is made for the purpose you intend on using it.

For example, some business owners use free online file syncing services. These are a great option for small-scale photo and video storage but concerningly lack the features of a professional document management system.  Without audit trails, comprehensive search features and signature retrieval functions the system could get out of control very easily and may not meet all your legal and compliance obligations.

The right document management system should also come with a strong search function. We live in a mobile world where we’re much more connected so we expect things on demand. Having your files mere keystrokes away can cut down on the ‘dead-time’ spent searching through archives and servers.

5. Recovery, redundancy and responsibility

Some file syncing services don’t meet the legal requirements of a document management system. This means business owners who store their files using those services  and then destroy the original may not be meeting minimum ATO standards or other compliance requirement.

If you’re using a cloud based DMS, generally speaking, their systems are focussed on the importance of maintaining document integrity and security. It’s crucial to understand yours and your providers’ responsibilities regarding the maintenance, back-up and security of your documents and redundancy process to ensure there are no nasty surprises.

Reducing your reliance on paper and moving to a cloud or off-site server solution can revolutionise your business practice. With the right advice and DMS you can create a greater (and greener) business.