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Take your Business into the Digital Age with a Paperless Model.

Buried in paper?

Look around your office - how much space is currently occupied by clusters of documents and folders filled with bills, contracts and other paperwork for safekeeping? How much time have you spent in the last week manually scanning through countless pages looking for that one document? 

You are not alone; many businesses are now investigating ways they can reduce their paper footprint. It comes as no surprise - the reported annual cost of filing, storage and retrieving paper libraries in the U.S. alone is between USD 25 billion and 35 billion, money that could well be spent on more important operational needs.

Increased cost is not the only issue of using large volumes of paper. Other problems include: 

  • Reduced efficiency with no streamlined process – duplicate work and time spent changing media (scanning and printing the same document throughout your work process);
  • Detriment to the environment  UK office workers are estimated to use 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year, 6800 of these are considered to be wasted;
  • Limited storage capacity  physical space constraints and necessity of manual work to file and search for documents;
  • Vulnerablity to damage and irreplaceable loss  documents may be lost in a fire, damaged by water from sprinkler systems, etc.

What can you do?

One possible solution to the problem of paper is to reduce the amount of paper used on daily basis by practicing paper efficiency, printing responsibly and careful proof-reading. The problem with that solution, however, is that, as you incrementally cut paper out of the workspace, you will reach a point where you realise you cannot cut paper out completely. You will still have to rely on paper for signing agreements or making edits to physical documents. 

This is where you may want to consider taking the next step - implementing a paperless model. It is key to understand that this requires more than just using less paper, but also leveraging technology to make paper obsolete in the workplace. To achieve that, it is critical to start relying on digital storage and editing through the integration of innovative software.

Steps to go paperless

The key to going paperless starts with being organized and having a clear implementation strategy. Here are some important steps to consider on your path to a paperless business. 

Step 1 – Identify if your business would benefit from a paperless model 

Investigate the scope of the problems you currently face -  how much time and money do you spend working with paper in your business? Reflect on whether the estimated increase of efficiency would be worth the time and effort you could otherwise invest into growing your business. Is the cost of adopting new technology less than what you currently spend on paper? It is likely that you will find the prospect of going paperless is more beneficial as a long-term goal. 

Step 2 – Audit your current paper usage and existing paper files 

Once at the conclusion that working towards a paperless office is in best interest of your business, the next step is a full audit of your files. Documents that need to be kept should be scanned onto cloud software and unnecessary ones should be removed. Find out the ways in which paper makes it into your office and try to eliminate them.   

Step 3 – Investigate technology solutions 

This step is to consider what paperless technology you already use and how you can take it further. If you currently have a document management system (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox or SharePoint) in place, find out if it is robust enough to support your team in a paperless environment. If not, what are the gaps in your current system? Most of the time these gaps can be covered effectively by specific software. Need a way to sign documents electronically? There are now applications tailored towards digital signatures that uphold the integrity of the process.  

If you don't use a document management system or you have decided you need an updated program, it is essential to find one that is suitable for your scale of business.

The goal is to create and nurture a digital space that fully integrates all aspects of your work.  

Step 4 – Implement your plan 

This step is best managed in stages with key goals such as ‘less paper’ targets over a time to bring you closer to the overall end goal. Now equipped with clear plan to forge ahead, this stage is where you may encounter hiccups within your new paperless system. In a large office environment, you might consider assigning a team of early adopters to test the viability of your proposed changes and work out the remaining limitations before introducing your new model dedicated to working paperless company-wide. 

Remember…  

A paperless remodel doesn’t have to be done all at once, nor should it be forced into the workplace haphazardly. A planned, staged process will be more palpable and conducive to the long-term success of your goal to create a paperless business.  

Liam Dransfield