Technology & Data

Digitalization in business: where to start

March 03 2021

Beyond the hype, digitalization is a real source of efficiency and automation of low value-added tasks. Businesses in the transportation and logistics sector have a lot to gain from this, both administratively and commercially.

Digitalization has become a hot topic and a bit of a catch-all. It would be a shame, however, to neglect the potential for productivity gains that it allows, especially in a sector with tight margins such as road freight transportation and logistics. Whether you are self-employed, a very small business, an SME or a CAC40 group, digitalization is synonymous with increased efficiency and the automation of a certain number of daily tasks.

It is possible to go digital with very simple changes, but it is not always easy to know where to start. Upply's digital experts have decided to share their advice and tips with entrepreneurs who wish to get started. This first article is devoted to the digitalization of management and administrative tasks. Next week in a second article, we will discuss the digitalization of customer prospecting.

1 / Creating a business digitally

To digitalize your business, you must start by putting your own house in order! The first step is therefore to digitize the company's internal documents.

Let's start with the (digital) creation of a transportation company in France. Three key elements are essential to carry out the process:

  • Obtaining the transportation Certificate of Professional Competence
  • Deposit of share capital with a bank
  • Articles of the Company

Most of these things can be done digitally. This reduces costs and processing time.

> On the first point, there is nothing better than the human brain for passing the exam! But it is good to know that it is possible to carry out the training totally or partially through e-learning.

> The share capital deposit can be made with a specialized “neobank”. Qonto and Shine, for example, are two French neobanks that allow a 100% online capital deposit. Everything is of course secure (these French establishments are subject to the same rules and regulations as other banks), it can be done in a few hours and costs as little as € 69 excluding VAT at Qonto. Traditional banks are also starting to offer this type of service, so do not hesitate to consult them as well.

> The creation of articles of association can also be done very quickly online via specialized legal sites such as Captaincontrat or Legalstart. These sites almost literally take you by the hand for the creation of the articles, the publication in the official journal and the filing of the articles. Once again, this is achievable in a few hours and for limited costs: € 200 for a French SAS (LLC) with publication in the Official Journal if you decide to file the articles yourself. In this case, it is then possible for you to deposit your business creation file with the Registrars of the Commercial Court online and obtain a quick response (generally within 48h / 72h)

Conclusion, 80% of the creation of a company can be done digitally from your computer. It's faster, cheaper, and allows you to focus on the next step: finding customers.

2 / Digitalize exchanges

Once the company is created, it is necessary to establish the right “digital” reflexes for the daily operation of the company.

> Scan all your internal documents and / or request digital copies (PDF, photo etc ....). Among the important documents to be digitized, we would think particularly of legal certificates, registration documents, identity cards, pay slips, invoices, etc. Be careful to respect the GDPR regulations for all documents containing personal information.

> Ask your suppliers or customers to send you emails with the documents attached. This allows you to keep a record that is easily archivable and it saves you time (by avoiding having to scan the documents yourself.)

> Consider setting up an internal messaging tool, very practical if you want to share documents with your drivers who are usually on the move. The main advantage of these tools, compared to traditional emails, is the ability to sort subjects to be treated by team and / or by topic. For example, it is possible to create a discussion group linked to invoicing, another to procurement, etc. In addition, messaging is generally more informal and therefore faster! Two types of solutions are possible:

  • A complete solution that allows the creation of discussions, sharing of documents and management of live meetings. The best known in the professional sphere are Teams or Slack. Teams is marketed by Microsoft with its Office 365 Business Essentials (€ 4.20 / month) or Business Premium (€ 10.50 / month) subscriptions. Note that these subscriptions also include an email account, the Office suite (Word, Excel ...) and even a “Drive” for some. Slack is available for a cost of € 6.25 / user / month.
  • Less secure but practical and free solutions, such as Whatsapp or Messenger, are widely used today. You can chat with your driver regardless of the country they are in, exchange documents and call each other. It is possible to install Whatsapp or Messenger on a computer to facilitate the sending and receiving of files.
> Review the different business functions where digital solutions can save you time, for example in accounting, legal or human resources. Do not hesitate to call on specialized service providers, who have all developed digital tools that can easily be connected with your own IT tools.

3 / Store documents on a “Drive”

Invoices, quotes, proof of delivery, transportation orders, etc.: whether they relate to the internal life of the company or to relations with customers and suppliers, there are many examples of important documents to keep.

Digitalization now makes it possible to store them in a "Drive", instead of storing them in a file on your computer with the risks that this presents. A "Drive" is a document storage space on remote servers (the famous "cloud"). The best known are Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, but if you want to focus on a "Drive Made in France, you can turn to hubic.com from OVH (1 € / month for 100GB).

This digital service allows 2 essential things:

  • Maintain constant access to your documents. Wherever you are you can consult your documents, provided of course you have mobile data or wifi connection. A particularly convenient service when you have to provide a certificate while away from your office. In a sector such as transportation, where employees are by definition often on the road, this service is invaluable.
  • Protect against the risk of destruction, malicious acts or cyberattacks. Archives that are destroyed by fire or get lost, a hard drive that gives up the ghost, a computer that breaks down: will unfortunately always happen at the wrong time ... and not just to others. The data stored on a drive is secure. All of your service provider's servers would have to be destroyed for your data to be lost, which remains very unlikely.

The storage operation can be done in 3 different ways:

  • Via a computer using your web browser
  • Via a computer by downloading the supplier's “Drive” application
  • Via your phone by downloading the supplier's “Drive” application

The prices are relatively similar regardless of the supplier. It costs between € 1 and € 3/ month for 100 GB.

GOOD TO KNOW: a high level of security

Remote storage of data sometimes raises security concerns. However, the specialists who offer this type of service offer much higher levels of security than can be obtained by storing data locally on the company's computers or servers. They employ the best engineers and even “ethical hackers” who constantly monitor to maintain the highest possible levels of security.

From an operational point of view, access to your files can be configured to limit it to certain computers only for example. It is also secured by dual authentication with password validation + sending of an SMS to verify identity. The icing on the cake is that all files are incrementally backed up, which allows you to find a document deleted by mistake 3 days ago.

4 / Switching to automation

This is where things start getting serious and efficiency gains take on real meaning. Let’s take an example. I receive an invoice from one of my suppliers by email. A simple automation to be set up is as follows:

  • I set up my email inbox so that it recognizes that it is an invoice from the supplier “ABC Supply”.
  • This invoice is automatically downloaded and placed in the “ABC Supply Invoices” folder of my Drive.
  • In addition, the amount, name, payment date and many other elements of this invoice are automatically added in an Excel file that I use to track the invoices to pay.
  • At the same time, this invoice is automatically sent to my accountant.
  • Finally, a task is automatically created in my calendar to remind me to pay this invoice next Monday.

Such a sequence of automatic tasks can be configured in less than a day on Gmail, Outlook or most email providers.

Google and Outlook natively allow you to automate certain tasks. If you want to take it a step further, the kings of automation are companies such as Zapier.com or Automate.io. These solutions are free on a small scale (100 tasks per month) and cost around € 30 / month for more than 1,500 automated tasks.

We hope that the different steps that we have just reviewed will help you in your daily life. We’ll be back next week for our second “business digitalization” chapter dedicated to customer prospecting.

Do you have any questions? Want to know more? Do not hesitate to write us or contact us on the social networks.

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Graduated from Toulouse School of Economics and École Polytechnique with a PhD, Thomas specialised himself in digital platforms. His strong background in Data Science led him to join Upply at the start of the project, where he now occupies the functions of Data and R&D Chief Officer.