Not long ago, bookkeepers were held captive by the physical realities of their trade. Monstrous file cabinets and half-ton boxes of receipts were like balls and chains that tethered bookkeepers to their crowded offices. Nowadays, the only ball and chain holding bookkeepers captive are custom and convention.
Despite the amazing flexibility and efficiency that digital documentation allows, many organizations are still held prisoner by fear of the unfamiliar. And as a result, bookkeepers are still being needlessly chained to cluttered offices and rusty file cabinets.
But the barriers against digital documentation are steadily eroding.
Every year, documentation that formerly necessitated physical paperwork is being made available in digital formats. An excellent example of this is the creation of digital tax documentation. Today, every single IRS tax form, and their respective instructions, are now available for download from www.irs.gov. That’s over 2,000 forms that are now available 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, from anywhere on Earth. How’s that for flexibility?
But digital documentation offers far more than just flexibility. Doing away with paper also saves your organization money, space, time, energy, and physical resources. Consider the question of space, for example —
A single 100 gigabyte hard drive can store roughly 2 million pages of text. That many pages in their physical form would fill more than a thousand filing boxes with paper, and occupy over 1,000 cubic feet of office space. Meanwhile, that 100 gigabyte hard drive measures just 6 inches by 6 inches.
For organizations with the time and resources available, it’s possible to do away completely with those old filing boxes, by migrating your physical paperwork to a digital format. Scanning (and then shredding) old paperwork will save space, and make it much easier to store, catalog, and retrieve information. Plus, digital copies are easily duplicated to provide added protections against loss.
However, this process can be time consuming and costly…not to mention tedious. For those who can’t afford (or stomach) such an undertaking, the next best option is to make all new documentation natively digital. That means you never even have a physical copy of the document to begin with. It is created digitally and remains a digital file.
To this end, e-mail is your friend. For instance, more and more retailers are now offering the option to receive receipts via e-mail, rather than in print. Opting for the e-mail receipt spares you the clutter of paper, safeguards against loss, and provides you with a complete digital record of the expense. When e-mail receipts aren’t an option, applications like Expensify and Shoeboxed allow you to snap a picture of your paper receipt with a smartphone or tablet. Those images are then coded and submitted in an expense database for easy reference and retrieval later.
And, yes, that means you can throw away the paper receipt….
Not only do digital receipts cut down on clutter, they also limit the risk of damage, loss, and decay. Anyone that has worked with paper receipts knows that ink fades, paper tears, and stains obscure. A digital receipt, on the other hand, remains crystal clear for as long as the file is maintained.
Going digital can also streamline your payroll process. By embracing direct deposit and discouraging the use of checks, you can reduce costs, save time, and get your employees paid more quickly. What’s more, banking and bookkeeping software makes it incredibly easy to keep neat, thorough digital records of your electronic disbursements.
The same technological advances that have made digital documentation possible have also fueled the remote workforce revolution. Together, these two developments have made it so a bookkeeper can now manage your finances from over a thousand miles away, with no loss in efficiency. As a result, more and more organizations are able to work with virtual bookkeepers rather than full-time, in-house employees.
So, if you haven’t yet fully embraced digital documentation, it’s about time you got on board. The cost savings and added efficiencies alone should be sufficient motivation to make the change. Add to that the possibility of using a virtual bookkeeper, and digital documentation stands to make your organization a whole lot leaner.
With digital documentation, you can do a whole lot more, for a whole lot less in time, money, energy, and resources.
BELAY offers expert-level options for organizations looking for bookkeeping, content marketing and administrative support. To learn more about our virtual solutions, go here.