The modern business landscape is always changing. New technology brings industry adjustment at an increasingly rapid pace. Virtual machines and data storage have become more popular than their physical counterparts. It is not unfair to say that more of the actual paper in your “paperwork” is likely being replaced by machines. But what are the actual considerations, from a business standpoint? How can you run a business if you don’t analyze each option critically?

Instead of breaking things down into a list of pros and cons, let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks at each phase of the information flow. This article will address sales and marketing, processing an order, scheduling and inventory, fulfillment, financial and accounting. That way, you can determine what changes you are comfortable making in your own business. Every small business is unique.

Sales and marketing have a very specific goal. Marketing generates a lead and sales turns it that lead into a client. Having a real-time referenceable list of leads is a powerful sales tool. It allows comprehensive notes to be kept up to date by any associate handling the client. Conversely, losing access to a client’s contact information, due to system or network failure is rare, but can be debilitating to a delicate sale. A good compromise would be to keep a physical note of any important leads that turn into clients and then enter them electronically as soon as possible. Keep at least a phone number and an email address for important contacts.

Any client who places an order for either service or merchandise would already be in the system at that point. Processing and scheduling are more efficient with a paperless system. Paper requires copies be made for everyone involved in the fulfillment of the order, plus a receipt for the client. Scheduling can change rapidly. Trying to coordinate the itineraries of both employees and customers is greatly improved by certain single entry software. This technology can inform everyone associated with the order of any change in the process of fulfillment. Managing client and company expectations is what makes small business management so challenging and rewarding.

Finally, being able to record annual financial statements and accounting information is key to knowing how your company grows. Paperless calculates these numbers in a fraction of the time it takes to do with paper. But as in earlier phases, it pays to keep physical copies of everything.