Back in the good old days, or at least about five years ago, a scanned document was just an image that you could store–and that was nice! But things have changed a lot in a very short period of time.  Because now, new technology on the market can not only scan a document, but actually read the data on it and do stuff with it (more on that below).  And scanned documents can now interact with you, too.  No longer just a method of storage, scanning has grown into a powerful way to save paper and improve workflow. Want some examples?  Here are four technologies that are changing the world of scanning, and reducing the use of paper at the same time.

Evernote

Evernote is an online storage system that store everything you type into the cloud. You can use Evernote to:

  • Take notes at meetings, conferences and on-the-go
  • Save your bright ideas
  • Manage your to-do list, and
  • share and store documents.

The app is so robust that are are blogs dedicated to the many ways Evernote can be used to make your life easier as a small business owner.

Adobe Document Cloud (formerly EchoSign) or DocuSign

Bought a house recently? You probably experienced two things. First, the fees, taxes and commissions are ridiculous. And yet there was less paper than you expected, right?  Back in the day, every property purchase involved a stack of paperwork that needed signatures, initials and blood from both the buyer and the seller.  And heaven forbid an agreement changed, because whatever agreements that were previously signed would become null and void and new signatures, initials and yes, even more blood would be needed.

With Adobe Document Cloud or DocuSign, that headache goes away.  All word processing (or spreadsheets) are electronically uploaded to one of those services and an email with a link is sent to the parties involved for their electronic signatures.  This significantly cuts back on time, complexity and most important…paper!  Everything is stored forever in the cloud and any future changes can be made without effecting a tree.  If your business relies on agreements, orders, quotes, proposals, or anything that needs a signature, throw away your printer and sign on to one of these services instead.

Expensify

How do you handle travel allowance in your company – better yet, the unexpected costs of business travel? Let me guess.  There’s a form that people fill out.  Or maybe even a spreadsheet.  Employees manually complete it with either a ballpoint pen or a #2 pencil, print it out, attach all of their receipts, tickets and other scraps of paper to it and submit it first to their supervisor  for sign-off and then to accounting for processing and reimbursement.  Welcome to the 1960’s! You’re officially in an episode of Mad Men.

But Expensify changes all that.  It’s all online.  And the application can actually scan any receipt that you send to it (you get an assigned email address) and it also reads the data and understands it!  So now employees just forward that airline receipt, that email from Square or PayPal, or that hotel bill to Expensify and it takes the data and does the report for them.  Just have a paper receipt? They can scan and send it with their smartphone.  Once Expensify transcribes the data, they (or a supervisor) can review it and forward electronically to the powers that be.  It all integrates with your accounting system.  And you don’t even want to know the ‘big data’ benefits you’ll get as the service integrates with other travel and social media services in the future.  For now, just enjoy the benefits of no longer using paper in your expense process.  And stay out of the mini-bar, for Pete’s sake.

Bill.com

Similar to Expensify, Bill.com is also able to intelligently scan and decipher documents you send to an assigned email address (or from your smartphone).  Except this time the documents go well beyond just expense receipts.  Here, we’re talking every accounts payable bill or invoice your company is receiving.  Bill.com will take the data automatically from a scanned document, code it to the right account (based on your prior instructions) and automatically set up a day’s worth of vouchers for your accounts payable person to approve and send to your accounting system.  The vouchers, by the way, will also include payment instructions so Bill.com can authorize when bills are scheduled for payment and you can get better at predicting your cash flow.  There are user roles, approval workflows, unlimited document storage and even a business payment network where you can connect and collaborate with your vendors and customers who also work with Bill.com. The company also has an accounts receivable side too, where incoming invoices from your customers are automatically scanned and imported into your accounts receivable system and set up for the cash coming in.

Paperless? Not yet. But we are getting there.

 

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