The paperless office is no longer just an eco-friendly pipe dream for business owners. With the abundance of ever-growing technologies and the constant desire to operate more efficiently, companies large and small are beginning to automate their business processes and eliminate their paper burdens.
It is important to note – while going paperless comes with many ecological benefits, paperless companies are doing much more than simply helping the environment…they are helping their businesses succeed. A paperless office experiences significant cost savings, increased document security, process improvements, and much more. Reducing their paper “footprint” is just the icing on the cake.
Going paperless and automating your paper-intensive business processes is not an easy task – it requires strong commitment and a clear view of the big picture. In an attempt to help you prepare for the paperless revolution, and all the benefits that come with it, we have compiled these 7 essential steps to take in order to go paperless (and bring your business into the 21stcentury).
7 Steps to Going Paperless
1. Explore the benefits:
Before you commit to going paperless, you should research and explore the true extent of the
benefits.According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, paper waste makes up 35% of our waste stream, and only 48% of that paper is recycled. Without any additional thought, it is clear that reducing paper waste will ultimately have a positive effect on our current waste habits. However, going paperless will also:
- Eliminate storage space
- Reduce expenses
- Increase productivity
- Enhance vendor and customer service
- Increase security & disaster recovery protection
- Improve the accessibility and auditing of important files
These benefits illustrate the importance of a paperless office and the ROI that comes with it.
2. Make the commitment:
Once you have decided to go paperless, it is important to stay committed. Going paperless can be a long and arduous task. It will require an intense period of organization, prioritization, and a shift in some business processes. However, once you achieve an automated paperless office you will find your organization running more efficiently while helping the environment (and your bottom line).
In addition to keeping the course, sticking with a service provider is also important. According to Jill Duffy’s article Get Organized: Tips for Going Paperless, “No matter which service you choose to use, pick one and stick with it.”
Digitizing your business is the first major step in eliminating paper. Business process management is critical to maintaining and improving the efficiency of every department within any organization. Digitizing your company processes may involve automating your invoice processing, implementing document management software, file sharing/cloud storage solutions, sales/customer retention programs, etc. By improving and/or automating your business processes with management software, you will save money and time whether you choose to go paperless or not.
4. Assess your current paper:
Assessing your current use of paper is a critical step in creating a paperless business. Make sure that every paper process is evaluated. How long does it take to retrieve a file? How much office space does your current paper occupy? Do you send/receive paper mail? Are there any critical or important files? Are there any unnecessary files? How is all of this paper stored? Are your documents safe?
Analyzing the current state of your organization is important. According to Christopher Null at PC World, “Sifting through nearly 200 pounds of paperwork is a Herculean task…this first step is easily the most difficult but also the most rewarding part of the process.” For Chris, this included sifting through FedEx shipping receipts, nondisclosure agreements, and pay stubs. For companies, however, this might include employee records, invoices, engineering drawings, etc.
Organizing your current paperwork will begin to illustrate how going paperless can enhance your organizations processes, accuracy, and security all while illustrating the potential to reduce costs. Additionally, this analysis will help you organize and prioritize your paperless strategy moving forward.
According to Diane Dannenfeldt’s article How Paperless Home Offices Work, there are a number of questions to ask yourself as you plan on going paperless. According to Diane, some questions include:
- What paper can you handle electronically?
- How can you convert incoming paper?
- How will data management be handled?
This is the most difficult task for most companies – converting current paper documents into electronic files. The simplest way to do this is by scanning and archiving your records. By scanning and filing your current documents, you will instantly free up valuable office space, increase the accessibility of your files, and much more. While companies can in-house the scanning/conversion process – most will outsource this process to better equipped scanning/conversion organizations.
Regardless of the scanning/conversion method you utilize, make sure you have a great document management software to store and access your new digital archive.
6. Stop incoming paper:
The next step in crafting a paperless workplace is eliminating incoming paper. While it is impossible to eliminate 100% of your paper burden – there are many steps that you can take to reduce inbound files. One such solution is to virtualize your mail. Inbound mail, such as invoices, can be sent to an outside service where it can be scanned and transferred directly to you. Additionally, signing up for electronic statements and opting out of paper mailings will also help to reduce and prevent paper from piling back up.
7. Stop outgoing paper:
The final step in your journey involves eliminating your outbound paper. There are many methods in which an organization can reduce its own paper usage. The easiest method is to promote the use of electronic devices (tablets, phones, etc.) and cloud technologies to manage any and all documentation. Utilizing cloud based collaboration software will not only eliminate the need for paper – but enhance inter-office connectivity and productivity.Interested in learning how we can take your company paperless?