The paperless office may seem like an elusive dream, but more businesses are taking the plunge and seeing success with efforts related to eliminating paperwork and migrating to entirely electronic workflows. From investing in scanning hardware to advanced data management systems, there are many pieces to the puzzle of how to go paperless, but not as much information on where to start. For businesses looking to take the first step, here’s a quick guide on beginning on what one would hope to be a happy journey to freedom from paper.
The first step when going paperless is to assess current operations and the need for paperwork. Many businesses need paper for a variety of processes, from invoices for services rendered to inventory control. However, most companies also use paper when it isn’t needed – internal office memos, employees printing information and the storage of client data. Eliminating these unnecessary uses of paper can be a good way to cut down on this resource, but doesn’t take a business entirely paperless. The assessment process allows a firm to gather the data needed to create a strategy and start trimming the fat off of its operations, so to speak.
Once a business has started limiting paper usage, such as by implementing a new enterprise content solution to facilitate the sharing of information between employees, it can then observe the effects and identify weak points in workflow. Are employees using paperwork because it’s necessary, or as a crutch simply because it’s familiar? Furthermore, how much paper is used? This data allows a company to return to the assessment phase, analyzing its information management needs and preparing for the true first step in going paperless.
The trick to eliminating paperwork is to cut it off at the source. Investing in conversion services to migrate records to digital formats at the same time as implementing document management software and the policies needed to eliminate the creation of new paperwork will streamline both processes and ensure a successful switch to electronic processes. This may mean converting hundreds of filing cabinets worth of archived information, or a few binders, but it is an essential step – otherwise employees will continue returning to paperwork for the information they need to look up.
Of course, the next step is to then safely and appropriately eliminate paper and paper-related resources from the office environment. This includes printers, fax machines, copiers, filing cabinets and even staplers. By removing the items that facilitate paper use, businesses encourage proper digital practice and help support employees in the transition.
Ultimately, the decision to go paperless is a single businesses to make, but investing in the right help through paper conversion services and other efforts will support the change over and align practice with the desire to reduce costs, be more environmentally friendly and enhance productivity across the board.