Abandoning paper-based processes can improve productivity and profits.
The more a task can be automated, the greater the increase in productivity and the greater the reduction in employee overtime and management frustration. Even though technology can speed up operations and reduces costs, far too often owner-managers continue to embrace legacy behaviours that keep their businesses from being as productive and profitable as they could be.
Implementing some or all of the following suggestions could be the first step to increasing productivity and making the workplace more efficient and more enjoyable.
Track Your Behaviour
Before you adopt a new technology, make sure you understand how the job to be automated is currently being done and how technology could make it cheaper and/or more productive.
Analyze and review existing work patterns.
Determine how the available technology will improve the process.
Use time-tracking software to understand what you do, where you do it, and the time spent on task.
Keep track of your activities and the activities of employees through a typical accounting cycle (i.e., invoicing, purchasing, payroll, government remittances, payment and receipts, reconciliations, business reports, job-site reviews and quotes) to determine where and how much time was spent at various stages.
Analyze your work and personal habits to determine potential behaviour or procedural fixes for not only employees but also for yourself.
Determine whether time is being wasted at any stage.
Determine whether the individual doing the task is cost effective (e.g., should a skilled machine operator spend time changing a tire on a company vehicle?)
Examine the communication protocols in your business.
Use Digital Communication
Consider examining the communication protocols in your business.
Should communication occur using email, text messaging, productivity app, video conference or telephone?
When does communication need to be encrypted?
If communication is written, should the recipient confirm receipt?
How are mailboxes to be set up for access by interested parties?
Use teleconferencing to keep everyone up to date, for example:
Set up webinar or web conferences to reduce travel while maintaining contact among all employees ─ including you.
Determine whether online training would be a possible solution for training needs.
Use the Cloud to share data and files, but ensure that strict access rules and passwords are in place to avoid breaching confidentiality of employees and intellectual property.
Install remote access software on your tablet or smartphone to provide access to office computers so you can be updated at any time.
If you are still on a largely paper filing system, consider moving to digital.
Hire a records-management consultant to examine your filing needs.
Design a digital filing system for the business.
Ensure everyone files data the same way so files can be retrieved quickly and never go missing.
Go paperless by insisting that paper documents be scanned and stored; shred the original unless needed. Where possible, digital documents should be stored in the same digital format in which they were created.
Establish protocols to ensure email is filed correctly for all customers, tax and regulatory authorities and employees.
Avoid faxed documents where possible. If fax cannot be avoided, set up a virtual fax-to-email number that will allow those that will accept fax communication and transform it to an email PDF.
Streamline Business Transactions
If your business does not have sufficient employees to justify the cost of new software, develop standardized spreadsheets that staff complete for time and expense reports and create an online process for employees to submit data in a timely fashion to the bookkeeping department.
All businesses need an accounting system that incorporates sales, purchases, payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable and job costing. Even if you do not have the expertise or the need for a full-time bookkeeper, you can use remote communication software or an online accounting platform to enter records online that will provide you with the up-to-date information you need for everyday operations.
All tax data, financial statements, personal and corporate tax filings and enquiries exchanged between your office and your CPA should be encrypted before transmission.
Other uses of electronic technology include:
online invoicing from clients
accepting and making all payments (including taxes) through etransfers
online filing of all CRA and other regulatory forms
Marketing and Selling
Because your website is often the first contact a potential client has with your business, make sure it is attractive looking and the text is well written. That first impression may make the difference between getting and not getting a client.
Hire a specialist in website design to create your website.
Hire a specialist to service and monitor your website to make sure everything works all the time.
Update your website regularly with news concerning key employees, changes in the organization and new products or innovations. This will show that your company is an interesting and ongoing business operation.
Collect email addresses using an opt-in service to expand your email advertising or awareness campaign. Be mindful of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) when collecting and using email addresses.
Set up an online sales department for your business.
Check out the software packages that allow you to set up an online marketing system, track orders, track sales, change product suppliers and assist in up-selling by connecting the product purchased by the customer with one they may see as complementary.
Create pricing rules for discounts, individual and bulk sales.
Use Technology Wisely
Certainly a business can be overwhelmed with the ever-changing technology, but in the final analysis, technology is not about what is available to use, but rather how we use what is available to better our business and personal lives.
This article is reprinted from the newsletter BUSINESS MATTERS with the permission of CPA Canada. BUSINESS MATTERS is a bimonthly newsletter prepared by the CPA Canada for the clients of its members.
BUSINESS MATTERS deals with a number of complex issues in a concise manner; it is recommended that accounting, legal or other appropriate professional advice should be sought before acting upon any of the information contained therein.
Although every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this letter, no individual or organization involved in either the preparation or distribution of this letter accepts any contractual, tortious, or any other form of liability for its contents or for any consequences arising from its use.
Richard Fulcher, CPA, CA – Author; Patricia Adamson, M.A., M.I.St. – CPA Canada Editor.