Going paperless comes with a host of business benefits – it’s environmentally friendly, for example – but there’s one particularly compelling reason SMEs in any sector to embrace digital transformation: digital data capture.
Data is a highly valuable asset. Without it, businesses can end up relying simply on their gut feeling or on a blind hunch when making critical decisions. Here are just five reasons businesses should consider digitalising their data collection and storage methods by Colin Crow, chief support officer at WorkMobile.
Collecting and storing analogue data can be extremely time-consuming. Not only must all documents be completed by hand, they must then be returned to the office and filed away into bulky – and possibly expensive – storage units. Businesses may also find themselves digitising certain data, with information manually transferred from paper documents into a computer system, or scanned to create a PDF, meaning that the data effectively has to be collected twice.
With cloud-based digital solutions, all data can be collected and filed at the point of collection, without the need for employees to physically be at the office. This improves productivity, as it gives field-based employees more time to attend a greater number of jobs in a day, while minimising the administrative burden.
Not only does digital data collection streamline operations, improving efficiency and productivity, it also has the added benefit of greatly enhancing the accuracy of data recorded. With digital forms and reports, it’s possible to limit the types of data that can be recorded to a specific selection, for example, or to make it impossible to submit a document without all fields completed. This can ensure that all the required data is recorded and, just as importantly, recorded correctly.
It also reduced the risk for human error, as all data only needs to be recorded once. Every time a piece of data is transferred to a new system or database, there is the potential for a mistake to be made. If reports are automatically loaded onto the company portal, this is far less likely to happen and the quality of the data is improved.
Regulatory compliance and health and safety requirements are key considerations for businesses in many industries. By relying on paper-based data collection and storage methods, organisations can find themselves facing a range of serious issues. In fact, our research highlighted that more than one in ten (12%) organisations have seen important documents misplaced or lost, which has then gone on to result in a series of compliancy and legal problems. This could be anything from a contract going astray, to a client order form being misplaced.
With paper-based data collection methods, there is always a risk of documents completed being incomplete or lost – and in turn, this could contravene professional standards, health and safety regulations and even put customers in danger.
By digitalising data collection, important files and information can be safeguarded against damage or being misplaced. And because digital documents are stored in the cloud, users can access the documents anywhere, at any time, from a mobile device.
Digital documents also enable businesses to keep a more effective digital audit trail. If an important paper document was to go astray, this could then result in the business being heavily fined, whereas digital documents are stored and backed up online, offering businesses protection from penalties and fines.
Accessibility and collaboration
Digital documents are much easier to store and access. Rather than large amounts of physical paperwork that has to be stored in bulky filing cabinets, or even in an expensive off-site storage facility, documents can instead be hosted in a central cloud-based system.
All files can be viewed quickly and easily by authorised employees anywhere and at any time. This makes it possible for employees from across the business, whether they’re based elsewhere nationally or even internationally, to be working from the same data as each other in real time.
Enhanced business intelligence
Perhaps most importantly of all, digital data capture solutions allow businesses to collect and have access to much higher quality data. Information is gathered more consistently, and with some solutions, photos, signatures, and other assets can be attached to a form, which greatly reduces the risk of additional documentation getting lost or filed incorrectly. They can also help businesses to access data that it would otherwise be almost impossible to collect, with it possible in some cases for example to GPS tag and time stamp documents.
Businesses should look for a data capture solution that can be connected to business intelligence tools, because this means that this high-quality data can be analysed quickly and easily, helping to identify patterns that will influence important business decisions.