Remove paper for cost and environmental gains

Kevin Misselbrook is customer services director at Access Accounting. He is also a member of the ICAEW’s IT Faculty Committee, in which capacity we were discussing environmental matters. In passing, he mentioned how few SMBs issue electronic versions of their invoices and statements, despite the unquestionable advantages for both the bottom line and the environment.
For example, if you don’t print stuff then you avoid paper (client’s copy and your copy), ink, folding, envelope stuffing, then franking or stamping. And, while not strictly your concern, the postal service delivery vehicles and sorting equipment all contribute their bit to the energy and environmental costs. Then, of course, further savings can be made at your client because they won’t have to open the envelope, handle the paper or rekey its contents.
If you issue documents in a special format called XML, they could go straight into your client’s system and automatically become part of the workflow. But, even if you take the easiest route and ‘print’ invoices as .PDF files and email them, then you’d still be taking a great step forward. This is readable on just about any machine these days. And the capability to output invoices in this way is provided in many accounting packages.

But, even if your package doesn’t provide for this, or you’re using a database, spreadsheet or word processor to prepare your invoices, all is not lost. You can get a printer ‘plug-in’ – sometimes at no cost – which will ‘print’ your document to a .PDF file. CutePDF Writer is the one that both Alex Bellinger (the boss of SmallBizPod) and I use. You might prefer to go to Adobe itself, Scansoft or other companies that offer more sophistication.

STOP PRESS: Would you believe it? Microsoft has just made ‘Save as PDF’ one of its file save options in Office 2007 Service Pack 2.

STOP PRESS 2: Would you believe it? I just tried saving one invoice from Access 2007 and it outputs a completely different one. I don’t *think* I’m stupid, but I’m willing to get a second opinion.

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