Making the jump to a paperless office can be relatively easy if you have an existing paper process that is well-documented.
Unfortunately, I have found over the years of working with companies on going paperless that this documentation is either non-existent or very poor, making the process of going paperless more difficult.
If this describes your company, then before you can design and implement your paperless office, you need to define and document your paper processes. Once you have documented your paper process, here are four tips on moving from a paper rich environment to a paperless (less paper) environment:
1. Bring stakeholders and primary users together to discuss the process of going paperless: To create an effective plan or process on going paperless, it is imperative that you meet with the key users and the stakeholders. What I have found in many cases is that when the stakeholders are left alone to create the process, they often think processes are completed a certain way. The problem that we find is our normal day-to-day activity is executed differently. Having the key people meeting to discuss the new paperless process will help execute the project more effectively.
2. Determine what your technology needs will be: I find this step to be very important to your ultimate goal of being paperless. Too many times I have worked with companies that have not assessed their current technology and found that their document management system was clunky and inefficient. Is your server five years past its replacement date? Do you have an all-in-one printer/scanner/fax machine? Be sure to replace aging technology as well as equipment to help you capture your documents electronically. You will need to ask your stakeholders and key users how many people will need a scanner on their desk to execute the processes you put into place.
3. Make use of your existing processes: When you are moving from a paper environment to a digital environment, resist the temptation to change your processes dramatically. By utilizing your existing processes in an electronic format, the adoption or transition will become much easier. Define what you are currently doing and then replicate those processes in the paperless format. If you have followed the first step, then you may find there are a few slight changes in the current processes that should be changed.
4. Once the document management system is working, review the processes to enhance your paperless workflow: After a few months have passed and you determine that your document management system is working as it should, review your workflow processes once again to remove any bottlenecks and improve the efficiency even further.
Converting to a paperless environment using document management software will allow you to custom fit your processes to fit your specific requirements. Keep in mind that going paperless isn’t limited to one industry, so there is no need to limit your company to a proprietary system (meaning limitations).
If you’ve sat down with the key stakeholders and users and defined your processes, you are ready to take advantage of going paperless with a document management solution.