Each year, businesses in the United States waste about $8 billion managing paper alone. It’s a shocking statistic, given the amount of lip service business owners around the country pay to innovation. The age of 3D printing has been around for a while, yet the vast majority of businesses are still stuck on technology invented millennia ago.
One of the primary uses of paper in businesses is for creating forms that help collect information. Businesses of all kinds need to gather statistics regarding their customers and input it in their database.
Unlike eForms, handwritten forms tend to complicate things. Not only do they get lost easily, but they also become skewed. Moreover, handwritten forms are very susceptible to damage. It’s the reason more businesses are turning to electronic forms to gather and store information.
But what is an eForm? More importantly, how can electronic forms benefit your business? How do you make the transition from paper-based forms to eForms?
In this definitive guide, we give you eForm 101. Keep on reading to learn more.
What Is An Electronic Form?
An electronic form (eForm) refers to a computerized version of a form that’s paper-based. In various industries, eForms play a significant role in helping a company achieve compliance. They also help provide customers with a record upon the completion of a job.
How can eForms Benefit Your Business?
Most of the processes in your businesses rely on forms. By choosing to use eForms, here are six benefits you stand to gain:
1. You Get To Eliminate Paper from the Start
Eforms are much more than electronic versions of paper forms. They effectively capture and integrate essential data with critical business systems that you can use to run your organization. By capturing and distributing data electronically from the beginning, you can streamline processes, cut costs, and boost efficiency.
2. They Enable Quick Release Of Essential Business Information
The biggest percentage of the information you need to run your business is often trapped on paper. If you can capture all that information and move it into your core business systems, it becomes easier to shorten cycle times and lower your operating costs.
3. Electronic Forms Improve Data Accuracy
Certain features surrounding eForm information such as auto drop-down lists and completion guides help in capturing data accurately. Electronic forms can effectively auto-populate fields based on previously entered data. Since there’s no need to enter data manually from a paper form, there are hardly any data entry errors or losses.
4. Electronic Forms Make It Easy To Automate Workflow
Upon submission, eForms enable the implementation and automation of workflow depending on a company’s business rules. Applications by your personnel can easily be sent to the relevant HR staff for review. Sales orders can be distributed to the manager for approval, while the finance manager can promptly receive credit applications to review and approve.
Implementing an automated workflow in your business increases speed and accountability.
5. Electronic Forms Are Easy To Design and Set Up
You don’t need any programming skills to design, create, or publish eForm details. Currently, there’s a myriad of eForms software solutions that provide helpful features like prebuilt field validation controls, drag, and drop, and group controls. These features ensure highly sophisticated layouts that have hassle-free design and implementation.
6. You Get to Realize a Quick Return on Investment
Electronic forms typically deliver a considerable ROI within months, depending on the number of forms you process in your business every month. Eforms can radically reduce form completion, processing, and correction costs. All other paper-related expenses like supplies, transportation, and storage are altogether eliminated.
Where Can You Use Electronic Forms In Your Business?
Regardless of the type of business you run, there are many areas where you can embrace eForm technology. Here are some of them:
- Human Resources: You can use eForms for position changes, timesheets, vacation requests, and employee reviews.
- Accounting: eForms are ideal for expense reports, purchase orders, mileage reimbursement, and capital expenditure reports.
- Engineering Department: Use electronic forms for engineering change orders, defect tracking, and requests for product enhancement.
- Manufacturing Department: In this department, electronic forms can help in employee training certification, survey forms, safety inspections, quality assurance, and document change requests.
- Customer Service: eForms are perfect for survey forms, incident reports, customer service requests, and customer warranty requests.
Choosing the Right eForm Software
As mentioned earlier, there are lots of eForm builder software solutions for businesses of all types and sizes. To select the ideal one for your needs, consider the following factors:
- Cost – If you operate a small business, a cloud-based solution is best for your business functions. That’s because you won’t need to worry about purchasing or maintaining hardware, and the cost of the software will depend on how many people use it. For a bigger business with particular security concerns, an onsite solution may make more sense.
- Ease of Use – The primary goal of downloading an app is to simplify tasks. The last thing you want is a software solution that has a steep learning curve. Opt for a solution with a friendly and intuitive user interface, not a technical one that takes you ages to understand.
- Customization – Every business is unique, so your forms will be unique. Veer away from software that locks you into specific templates and designs. Choose forms that allow you precisely as you visualize them.
- Customer Support – Before choosing a form builder software solution, take a look at case studies and customer testimonials to get a good idea of what to expect. You can even call their technical or customer service contact to get an experience of how they handle their clients’ issues. Generally, you want an assurance that you can easily reach customer service should the need arise, and that they won’t abandon you as soon as you’ve purchased their software.
Time to Go Paperless
As more companies strive towards becoming entirely paperless, eForms are increasingly becoming the ideal choice for businesses around the globe. Not only does going electronic reduce costs associated with the printing, distribution and storage of paper, but it also improves workflow in your business.
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While only 1 in 100 small businesses get audited each year it is still a good idea to have top-notch accounting software to document your business activities.
If you are a small business, chances are you don’t have a degree in computer science or accounting, so how do you choose the right software for you? Read on to learn how to choose the right accounting software for your small business.
How to Choose The Best Small Business Accounting Software
If you are an entrepreneur, chances are you are looking to keep overhead costs low and profits high. You also have limited time and resources, so hiring a big accounting firm is out of reach. This is where accounting software can help.
Small business accounting software can help you keep track of your income and expenses and depending on the program integrate with your other company activities.
For example, Quickbooks point of sale integrates POS and accounting into one place making it easier for you to manage your retail company.
Step 1: Take the Time to Identify Your Accounting Needs
What kind of company do you run? Is it a brick and motor retail space with a point of sale and inventory needs? Are you a 100% virtual reseller that takes donations?
Regardless of your company set up, you do have unique accounting needs. Identify them so you can choose a software that meets them. Many of the software programs on the market have the ability to integrate with other programs, such as customer relationship platforms.
If you are already using some of these other programs make sure the accounting software you use integrates with them. You do not want to have to enter data into two locations, it takes valuable time and can create errors.
Step 2: Project Your Needs into the Future
You probably have a 2, 5 and even 10-year plan for your company, even if it is not written down on paper. As you are looking at accounting software, jot down your plans for the future. Then determine if the software you are considering will grow with your company.
Ideally, look for a software package that is scalable, meaning that it will grow with you. It is great to have all the bells and whistles up front, but why pay for something you don’t need? Scaleable programs will allow you to add features as you grow and need them.
Step 3: How Much Can You Afford
One of the fastest ways to eliminate choices is by price. Determine how much you can afford, and anything that is not in your price range, eliminate. Again, bells and whistles are nice if you need and can afford them.
Budgets often have some wiggle room but make it a rule that if a solution is more than 25% over your set budget, you’ll walk away.
Now that you understand how to choose the right accounting software, grab your computer and start applying this knowledge to your search.
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We take the time to learn your company’s mission and vision. Then, armed with our highly experienced and educated staff, we develop a clear, forward-looking strategy unique to your companies needs.
A plan is only as good as the activities you implement, so we translate that plan into the day-to-day activities you need to make that plan a reality. We can help with choosing accounting software, creating disaster recovery plans, and help with all aspects of program management. Contact us for the out of the box ideas your small business needs.
Businesses have always understood the importance of data and how it relates to their success. From the very beginning, companies knew they needed to understand the market and their customers to make money; the difference was, back then, collecting and accessing data wasn’t easy. That’s not the case today, as technology has helped automate many aspects of data collection, allowing companies of all sizes access to useful information. In fact, nowadays, we have access to so much data, the bigger problem is knowing which data to use and how best to interpret it.
For data to be useful, you have to be able to turn it into actionable insights, and this is where the challenge lies for businesses today. If your company can learn to make better use of its data, it can have huge benefits across your organization.
We make decisions based on the evidence we have available to us. In theory, the more evidence you have access to, the easier it is to make the correct decision, but this is not necessarily the case in real life. When you have an unlimited amount of evidence, it makes it far more challenging to find evidence that will lead you to the right decision. To find the most pertinent evidence to make more informed choices, your company needs people who understand data and know how to apply that data.
You can have all the data in the world, but if you don’t have employees who understand things like SQL join types and can interpret the data, it’s of limited use to your decision-making process.
Without the evidence that data gives you, it becomes more difficult to spot potential problems and find solutions to fix them. Even the most straightforward processes create data, and this data can help you when problems develop with that process. When you scale this up over an entire business, the data allows you to better understand and solve the issues affecting your organization.
Being able to see how we’re performing against our goals is a crucial element of business success. When correctly interpreted, data can allow you to see how you’re performing in key areas. The insights you gain will enable you to evaluate all areas of your business without any complications. The right people will be able to turn vast amounts of complex data into easy to understand performance metrics that everyone can use.
This information allows you to make the changes that improve processes across your business. Small changes can have a big effect on the efficiency of your business, and we all have access to the kind of data that can lead to these changes. The challenge is finding the right people to turn that data into actionable insights. The evidence you need to make informed business decisions is there in your data; you just need to be able to find it and use it effectively.
No matter what size your business is, data can play a crucial part in your success.
When speaking with groups, questions arise on how and where to get started on going into business for ones self. Often times a new entrepreneur feels he or she has done their due diligence only to learn later that they barely scratched the surface. They checked out the market, discussed the business idea with friends and family and feels they can come up with enough capital to set themselves up for success.
Unfortunately, often the amount of working capital needed to fund the project is simply not enough to account for all the expenses that arise with a new business. It seems that most businesses fail, not due to the validity of the idea, but rather that the project was under capitalized or underfunded from the start. The simple fact is that if you cannot preserve your working capital, “You won’t make it”. We have all seen great business ideas go down in flame because of working capital issues. Too often, the unforeseen – which were not budgeted for, will consume the cash that the business was relying on to bridge the gap between idea and implementation. If nothing else, budget and plan for the unknown – because if something can go wrong – it will.
Being in business for yourself, according to many entrepreneurs, is the greatest job most individuals will ever have . In doing so you have the potential to impact other people’s lives in a positive way while leading an organization to success. This can be both a blessing and a curse. If you are confident enough in what you are doing, and you have truly done your due diligence, you can have a prosperous business. If you don’t put in the time and effort to cover all your bases, you are not only setting yourself up for failure but you are doing yourself a disservice. A successful entrepreneur not only plans for the unexpected, but anticipates that it will invariably happen.
Ask yourself, “Why do I want to go into business for myself?” The first answer most of us give is that we want to be our own boss. A great perk is that most entrepreneurs can live and work wherever they want. Entrepreneurship, if done correctly, can not only be rewarding from a financial perspective but also from a quality of life perspective.
How someone with a limited amount of experience and resources thinks they can go into business and be successful is beyond me. Furthermore, what financial institution would ever loan this type of person any money? Does this mean there is little or no hope for young adults to make it as budding entrepreneurs? Not necessarily. Since most young entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury in making a lot of mistakes, they must go about this very differently. Having a partner with the experience and resources to make this idea or business a reality is a route these young entrepreneurs must take. Finding a business mentor can be the difference between success and failure. You may have to give away more ownership in this type of arrangement than you wanted, however, if successful, it should be well worth it.
About the Author
Randy Steele, author of The Entrepreneur’s Roadmap to Success, is a lifelong entrepreneur and has had tremendous success in the financial service business, real estate, real estate appraising, greenhouse growing operations, and the mortgage industry. Through these experiences, the knowledge he has gained is invaluable to someone wanting to start a business or someone wanting to take their business to the next level.
Automation will not replace jobs outright but augment and enhance them by streamlining and simplifying certain repetitive or low-value tasks. In the case of the machine operator, manual labor and routine tasks are most likely to be automated, while management, team-building, employee training and production supervision may now find themselves moved into priority roles. Likewise, our professional’s routine and computational tasks may find themselves automated, making room for other priorities like management, employee development and technology upskilling.
When used properly, automation doesn’t kill jobs; it rearranges their structure. And in the most outcome-driven scenarios, it improves their structure by creating more opportunities for human workers to focus on high-value tasks that cannot be automated.
Another way to look at automation is as a time-creation engine: automation manufactures time. Every man-hour it takes on is a man-hour gained. That man-hour can be subtracted from a company’s balance sheet and treated as a cost savings, or it can be reassigned to a high-value task that could not, until then, be budgeted for. Thus, each man-hour assigned to a machine creates an additional man-hour that can be assigned to a capable, high-value human worker. When we mentioned that automation should be additive rather than subtractive, this is what we mean: a hundred man-hours freed by an effective use of automation could be treated as a cost saving, but doesn’t it make more sense to maximize the value of that gain in one hundred man-hours, and reinvest it in the company? Apply it to solving a problem, improving a system, building a new revenue stream, designing the next killer app?
The lowest hanging fruit in the business world is finding ways to cut costs. This isn’t to say that running a lean organization doesn’t have its advantages. Cutting costs and trimming fat in ways that ultimately help companies perform better are always wins. But the reflex to cut costs just because you can isn’t necessarily the best way to drive towards market leadership. Sometimes, re-tasking resources from low-value to high-value tasks makes more sense than throwing them away.
A case in point: digital transformation, technology disruption and the monumental task of rebuilding businesses for a 21st-century digital economy are not the types of challenges that companies can hope to address successfully by cutting costs and cutting corners. Smart, agile companies know how to unlock their own parts and move them around at will. They are modular. Job descriptions and departments evolve. IT managers at these companies aren’t operating the way they were 10 years ago or 5 years ago, or even a year ago. Every aspect of the business is in a state of constant change and adaptation. Automation for these types of companies, which are typically digital leaders, isn’t used to shrink the number of employees. It is used to free up capital to hire more people, and free up human workers to focus on more high-value and meaningful tasks.
About the Authors
This article is adapted from HUMAN/MACHINE: The Future Of Our Partnership With Machines by Daniel Newman & Olivier Blanchard. Daniel is the principal analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Oliver is a senior analyst with Futurum Research, where he focuses on the impact of emerging and disruptive technologies.
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