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7 Simple Steps to Going Paperless

top-picPaper documents and filing cabinets have been the way to organize information in an office for decades. But that doesn’t mean they’re the best option. Many offices worldwide are transitioning from physical documents to electronic document management systems. Why? Well, there are many reasons.

More and more businesses are realizing that paper is an expensive and inefficient way to manage their information, and so they turn to electronic document management. But going paperless isn’t something that happens overnight; it is a process that takes time and effort, and many business owners are intimidated by the prospect of making the switch.

As intimidating as the concept may be, switching to paperless information management systems is a necessity if you’re going to compete in the modern business world.

To make it easier, here are 7 simple steps you can follow to get your company to make the switch.

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Step 1: Lead the Way

What do you think is the number one reason companies don’t go paperless? The answer may surprise you.

47% of employees surveyed said that one of the top three reasons for not going paperless was a lack of management initiatives or mandates. Essentially, they’re ready and willing to go paperless, but nobody is leading the way. This means your company needs you to take initiative, step up, and lead the way to becoming paperless.

Set goals for each department and for the company as a whole that encourage everyone to transition to an electronic document management system. You may even want to set up some kind of reward initiative for when the goal is met to encourage employees to participate in the efforts.

The important thing to note here is that you lead by example. If you have your own filing cabinet of documents, take responsibility for transitioning those to an electronic system. Set goals for yourself, and take ownership for meeting those goals. If your employees see you leading the way, they are more likely to follow.

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Step 2: Get Everyone on Board

No matter how strong the paperless example you set, your company won’t make the transition unless you have your employees on board. A recent survey asked businesses which departments were most resistant to a paper-less work environment.

As you can see, Legal and Finance departments tend to be the most hesitant about going paperless. So how can you get them and the rest of your teams on board?

  1. Show them how it benefits them: Demonstrate to your teams how going paperless will make their jobs easier. If they see the time and effort they can save, they’re more likely to be on board with the change.
  2. Address compliance concerns: There’s a reason Legal and Finance departments are the most resistant to change: they’re worried about compliance issues. The truth is, going paperless can actually help you to become more compliant. Paper processes expose your company to potential liability due to lack of security or lost paperwork. On the other hand, electronic document management software possesses security measures and other features that ensure vital information is protected. Demonstrate these features to your team members to show them how going paperless not only doesn’t create compliance issues, but can actually eliminate potential issues in existing paperless processes.
  3. Show how it benefits customers: The majority of consumers today prefer electronic correspondence to paper correspondence because they are easier to handle and are more secure. Being able to provide these kinds of perks for your customers can get a lot of your team members on board with the switch.

Step 3: Organize the Paper

Now that you’ve set up some initiatives and gotten your team on board, it’s time to start the dirty work. Before you begin scanning your physical documents into an electronic system, you need to organize what you have—and odds are, you have a lot.

To tackle these mounds of papers, you should divide the work and utilize your teams appropriately.

Here’s how you can quickly and easily get your stacks of paper organized and ready to be entered into an electronic system. Once the paper is all organized, you can prepare to take your office into the paperless era.

Step 4: Get Software and Get Training

While your employees are preparing the files for entry, you need to find the right document management system. There are many document management systems out there for you to choose from, so you need to do your research and compare your options before making a decision. To help you during your search, you should sit down and make a list of the things you need in your document management software, as well as the things you want that aren’t absolute necessities.

Picture6Once you’ve created your list, figure out your budget for the new software. You may need to consult with Finance about this. Then, with your list in hand and your budget in mind, you can start comparing software. You should aim to find something that meets all of your needs and at least a few of your wants while still staying in your budget.

Get as many demonstrations and trials as you can so you can see how the software functions. You may want to let other employees test the software too, to ensure that it is usable and easy to learn.

After selecting your software, you need to select the employees who need to be trained on how to use it. Depending on your situation and your business, you may want only certain departments to learn how to use the software, or only the leaders of certain departments. The important thing is that all employees who handle, file, and need access to information will be able to do so electronically.

Step 5: Start Scanning and Filing Electronically

With the necessary employees trained in the software, you can start scanning in your documents and filing them electronically. This is also a good time for you to assess how to handle incoming documents while catching up on your backlog of existing documents. From the time you scan your first document, all incoming paperwork should be filed electronically. After all, you don’t want to be constantly playing “catch-up” when it comes to being paperless; you want to move forward with paperless processes already in place.

step5Start with the documents you get today, and move forward. Once your team is familiar with the software and the paperless process, you can worry about the backlog.

If your team finds it overwhelming to scan the backlogged documents while handling their current incoming documents, you should look into hiring an additional resource, such as an intern or temp. They can work on scanning the backlogged documents while your full-time employees move forward with your new paperless processes. This enables you to get caught up more quickly so that you can become a completely paperless business.

No matter who you delegate this task to, consistency is key when making the switch to paperless, so it is vital that everyone who is organizing and entering information is following the same steps and using all of the same guidelines. Set a clear goal of when you want all documents to be in the electronic system. Break this goal into benchmarks so employees have a short-term goal to shoot for.

Above is an example of one company’s game plan. Posting something like this in a highly visible area in the office can help motivate employees to meet the benchmarks and achieve the end goal. Try to have a reward in place for each benchmark along the way, as well as for meeting the final goal. Going paperless takes work, and your team should be rewarded for getting the job done.

Step 6: Tell Clients and Share Electronically

Once you have your current documents switched to electronic copies, you can’t stop there. Tell your clients about the switch you’ve made. Make sure to send out an email addressing any concerns regarding security, and tell them about all of the benefits they’ll experience from the switch. You’ll also want to introduce them to electronic sharing as well. If your clients share documents with you and sign documents electronically, your company will save even more time and money.

Make sure your clients are familiar with whatever version of electronic sharing you choose to use—email, online sharing, etc. Introduce them to electronic signatures as well. Getting your clients on board with as many paper-free processes as you can will help your company to keep your paperless systems consistent, efficient, and organized.

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Step 7: Enjoy the Benefits

As you continue to make your processes paperless, you’ll see a number of benefits in your office. With savings in time and cost, as well as increased document security, your employees, your customers, and your business as a whole will benefit from making the switch to a paperless office.

By following the steps outlined above, you can get your business’s document overload under control and become a better, more efficient company.

Sources

1. http://www.loyola.edu/department/paperless/resources
2. https://www.fpb.org/business-support/top-10-benefits-paperless-office-can-provide
3. http://www.thepaperlessproject.com/facts-about-paper-the-impact-of-consumption/
4. http://www.informationdynamix.com/going-paperless-better-processes-less-paper/
5. http://www.quepublishing.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1393497
6. http://www.xerox.com/assets/motion/corporate/pages/programs/information-overload/pdf/Xerox-white-paper-3-25.pdf