Let’s face it, concepts like paperless office and cloud computing are not ‘new’ concepts anymore. It still surprises me when I encounter businesses that are not paperless and in the cloud. It just makes sense. I’ve been running businesses as ‘paperless offices’ since I co-founded Business Fitness back in 2001. My current business, PARADOX, has been ‘paperless’ and had 100% cloud-based IT and business systems from day one, almost 8 years ago now.

Two key things about terms like ‘paperless’ and cloud’ are that:

It’s not about the lack of paper or the servers being ‘in the cloud’ — they’re just features;

It’s about efficiencies, data flows and knowledge sharing — they’re the benefits.

The terms ‘paperless’ and ‘cloud’ are both quite abstract, so let’s look at some concrete examples of things that are evidence that your business practices might still be stuck in the last century…

7 Signs of Inefficient Business Systems

1. Manual data entry: Data should flow into your business from sources such as:

  • Your website
  • Online forms (such as ‘contact us’, questionnaires, applications forms)
  • Data feeds from banks and other suppliers

You and your team should not be doing manual data entry. You can design your marketing and sales processes so that your prospects and customers or clients happily do that data entry for you.

2. Re-keying of data: This is where you already have the data—such as the customer’s or client’s name and contact details—but the data is in some apps and not others. Your data should flow seamlessly between your different apps including your:

  • Website platform
  • Email marketing system
  • Bookkeeping and accounting system
  • CRM
  • eCommerce system
  • Point-of-sale system
  • Inventory system
  • Marketing automation platform
  • Proposal system
  • Workflow system

Typing of data is for trained monkeys.

3. On-site data backups: Cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers will do more frequent, more reliable and more secure data backups than your business will ever do. Storing your data locally on your own servers and desktop computers is risky. Floods, storms, fires, earthquakes, theft. They happen.

4. Onboarding new staff is extremely time consuming: If you need to show new team members how to do everything through one-to-one training, and you find yourself re-explaining processes and procedures, chances are (1) you don’t have a company wiki, and (2) you don’t use videos and screencasts to train your staff. Wikis are easy to create—try Google Sites, it’s free—and videos and screencasts are easily recorded using apps such as Snagit and Screencast-O-Matic.

5. Manual invoicing: When people buy from you, the invoicing process should be 100% automated in terms of creating it, PDF’ing it, emailing it to the client and storing it in your digital filing system. Depending on your accounting and eCommerce system—for example we use Xero and Infusionsoft—there are various ways to achieve this automation.

6. Manual chasing of debtors: Best practice for collecting payments is to let people know when their payment is due and when it is just overdue. These timely reminders can be automated via email, SMS and voicemail messages. Apps like Chaser, InvoiceSherpa, EzyCollect and Debtor Daddy make this automation possible.

7. Cash flow is managed based on bank balances: Simply looking at your bank statement every now and then is not cash flow management, yet sadly this is how many small business operators assess their cash position. Cash flow needs to be managed on a predictive basis, taking into account known future inflows and known future outflows, such as payroll, rent, supplier payments and (often large and lumpy) tax and compliance-related payments. Thankfully there are now apps that make it much easier to pull in the data you need to effectively manage your cash flow and be able to predict—and then head off—any potential cash flow crunches in the coming months.

So, be on the lookout for any typing monkeys, okay?