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5 Steps to Digitize Your Business and Stay Ahead of the Competition

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Records Management

5 Steps to Digitize Your Business and Stay Ahead of the Competition

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Follow these 5 steps to digitize your business and be ready for a post-pandemic transformation.

With COVID vaccines now rolling out, we can start to envision a day when the workplace will return to normal — whatever "normal" means.

To say the pandemic has had an impact on our lives would be an understatement. From the way we interact with friends and family to our everyday routines and workplaces, there’s not a part of our lives that hasn’t been touched by COVID-19.

In the past year, people have not only found new ways to regularly communicate with far away friends but have discovered ways to be productive outside the traditional office setting. After almost a year of working remotely, many employees and businesses may no longer see the need to come to the office everyday.

With large scale return to offices still a quarter or two away, now is the time to begin forming and implementing plans to make the new normal better — before your office returns to regular activity levels again. Doing so now will put you ahead of the competition that's still languishing in a world of paper.

Well before the pandemic was on anyone's radar, research showed 70% of businesses already had digital transformation plans in place. In 2019 alone, companies had earmarked 2 trillion for digital transformation.

In addition to providing instant file access for remote employees, there are environmental, space, compliance and cost benefits to getting rid of the paper.

To help set your team on the path to creating a tailored digitization plan, here are the five steps we’ve put together:

Set Goals for Digitization

Digitization for the sake of digitization isn't good enough. You need to know your reasons before proceeding. Identifying why you want to digitize can help you better connect with the partners, vendors and stakeholders. There is no one correct answer; it'll be different for each business. For example, a plan that is rooted in sustainability may have different digitization goals from a cybersecurity-driven approach.

Don't Save Everything by Default

"Digitize everything" isn't a plan. First, you need to decide what your organization needs and conduct an in-depth audit. Maybe you'll decide you do need to keep everything. But if you have stacks of paper invoices since 1977 marked "paid" and there's no chance you'll need them again, then you'd be wasting time, money and gigabyte space digitizing them.

You want to do a deep inventory of the paperwork your business already has and decide what needs saving first and what doesn’t. Anything your team does not want to keep should be securely disposed of. Following this inventory, you’ll then need a plan for an imaging process. An audit that digs into the past will help you consolidate for the future.

Establish Processes and Procedures

Your post-COVID, post-imaging business life needs to have firm processes in place. How will paperwork be imaged? What happens to the paperwork after it is digitized? How long are different items stored digitally, and what is a safe process for getting rid of them? For instance, if your business takes orders by credit card, maybe you decide orders are saved for three years, tax-related documents for five years and contracts for 10 years.

Without addressing how your business wants to discard out-of-date or unused paper files, you’re putting confidential information at risk. By setting forth clearly outlined digitization processes from the onset, your team’s digitization effort will be more successful.

Plan for Security Needs

Despite the headlines we hear about hackers and data breaches, digitization with a robust security plan is key. And, increasingly, it is also the law to protect client’s private information. Yes, hackers can access poorly defended data. But a disaster like a fire can incinerate years of data, and your business could be gone forever. Once a paper is gone, there's no getting it back.

With digitization, the chances of that type of failure are remote. So, as your business refines its digital plan, a cybersecurity blueprint should be constructed concurrently. For safeguarding extremely sensitive data, an off-site, air-gapped storage option may be the answer.

Know the Data Laws

If you keep credit card information, medical data or financial information stored in unsecured document files, you aren't just making a poor security choice — you are also exposing your company to potentially hefty fines and penalties from regulators. An increasing number of entities are imposing laws that protect consumer privacy. The days of being lax with data are over.

Don't Skimp on Training

Lastly, you can't implement a digitization plan and just expect everyone to instantly fall into the new routine. Employees will need to be trained, tasks must be delegated, and everyone will need some time to get comfortable with the new system. Your company will also need to assemble a team of vendors, software and stakeholders to make your plan work.

Digitization is a way of providing a road map for data to travel. Now that you have the steps to begin your company's digitization journey, start planning today and you'll find a post-COVID world that isn't just normal, but better.

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