By Chris Flynn, Founder, Yes Workforce

UK SMEs throw away £2bn per year in unnecessary costs, or put another way, companies could save themselves up to £1,435 per year if they were to make changes to the way they work.

It’s my belief SMEs looking to address this unnecessary wastage should invest in emerging cloud-based technologies to help them cut down on unnecessary paperwork – such as timesheets, maps, customer forms and expense sheets. Going paperless will help them cut down on costs, improve efficiency and simplify teamwork.

According to recent research, office supplies rank second just behind energy as the area where SMEs can stand to make the most savings. The research shows that SMEs can make crucial savings by negotiating better deals for paper, stationery and other office supplies. However, SMEs can go one step further and effectively cut down on office supplies and paperwork by investing in technology.

Investing in cloud technology such as mobile workforce management, collaboration software and expense management software will help SMEs cut down on paperwork and operate more efficiently.

For example, mobile workforce management technology can make a big difference to SMEs whose employees are often on the road. SMEs in plumbing, tyre fitting and vehicle recovery services use mobile apps like Yes Workforce to exchange information (e.g. photos, vehicle diagrams and signatures) and coordinate jobs for multiple employees, all without the inconvenience of carrying documentation around and waiting for reports to be delivered.

UK SMEs are beginning to use a range of cloud storage and collaboration technologies to go paperless and reduce costs. Companies now use Box and Dropbox to store documents in the cloud and access them and collaborate on them remotely. Evernote is gaining in popularity among UK SMEs as a note-taking platform which employees use on mobile and desktop to collaborate with colleagues and organise important documents.

Employees using Evernote can, for example, save flight tickets as PDFs accessible on their iPhones and do away with big filing cabinets by saving instruction manuals, whitepapers and contracts into digital folders on the app.

For SME employees on the road, paperwork can be a real headache – and a drain on time and profits especially with the risk of losing something in transit. Technology is helping to remove issues associated with this. UK SMEs often now use Expensify so that employees can file expenses as they go without the hassle of carrying reams of expense reports and receipts. SME employees on business trips overseas also use Tripit, the travel organisation app, so there is no need to worry about hotel tickets, boarding passes and any other documentation.

One of the key advantages of such cloud-based platforms is that multiple users can have access to the software at the same time.

The future of the SME workforce in the UK is paperless. Scoring better green credentials is important for businesses, but the fundamental drivers of going paperless are the benefits associated with reducing costs, simplifying workstreams and delivering a better service to customers. Employees also like it as it saves them time and hassle, meaning there is a positive impact on staff morale.

Research from GE Capital found that UK SMEs will spend £22.8bn on technology in 2014, up 54% on expenditure last year. This rise in demand for technology is evidence that many UK SMEs are making the most of new apps and systems to increase efficiency by going paperless.