For the better part of half a century, people have been hypothesizing about what it would look like to run a paperless company in a world that’s inundated with paper in every phase and capacity. And while we’ve gotten tastes of it in the past, new technology, coupled with an evolving mindset on the issue, has finally made this dream possible. Now it’s just a matter of getting businesses to buy in and make the investment.
The State of Paper
Paper is synonymous with business and has been for centuries. And despite advances in technology, it seems that we’ve become even more reliant on it over the past couple of decades. Just consider some of the follow data points discovered in a recent AIIM survey:
- 31 percent of offices report being “piled high with paper,” while just 17 percent are “mostly” paper free.
- 1 in 5 businesses say their paper consumption is increasing rapidly.
- While just 3 percent of today’s businesses have successfully eliminated paper from every process possible, 33 percent say they’re “nearly there.” Approximately 16 percent are actively looking for ways to eliminate paper, while 40 percent have no consistency in terms of which processes are paper and which ones are digitized.
- 92 percent of companies surveyed say removing paper from businesses processes is a constant corporate objective.
- 28 percent of businesses achieve full ROI within 6 months, while 59 percent achieve it in less than a year. Approximately 84 percent achieve payback within 18 months of making an investment.
These numbers indicate that businesses are thinking about going paperless, but most don’t know where to start. Either they’re confused about the options, or don’t want to put forth the energy to complete a major overhaul.
4 Tips for Going Paperless
Is your business one of many that has considered going paperless, but doesn’t know where to start? The fact that you’re considering transitioning is huge. Now you just have to take action. Here are some tips to help you get the ball rolling:
1. Discourage Paper Usage
It’s impossible to go cold turkey. If you want to be successful with going paperless, you have to start by discouraging paper usage and gradually work your way into a more stringent policy.
Discouraging paper usage among employees can take on many different forms. In the early stages, one of the best strategies is to give each employee a cap on the number of prints and copies they can make per week or month. Once this cap is reached, their access is revoked. If they come in under their quota, they get some sort of reward.
It’s also smart to slowly phase out printers, copiers, and fax machines. In doing so, you make it less convenient. (This also lets you reduce the amount of ink and paper you purchase.)
2. Restructure Key Business Processes
Discouraging paper use on the ground floor is important, but in order to experience any lasting change, you actually have to begin restructuring key business processes so that it’s easy, effortless, and rewarding to use the digital alternative.
The easiest and most concrete example is the process of signing legal documentation. In the past, the process of signing documents has taken days or weeks. It involved emailing or faxing the document, printing it out, signing and notarizing, sending to the next party, and so on and so forth. It was cumbersome, to say the least. Today, it’s a breeze. Solutions like eversign make it possible to upload documents to the cloud and have everyone sign at their convenience.
It’s not just signatures, though. Processes like file sharing also need to be digitized. Instead of physically mailing or faxing documents, your business can use a service like Microsoft OneDrive to save files in the cloud and then grant access and authorization to the appropriate parties. It’s simple, intuitive, and cost-effective.
3. Lead by Example
It’s not enough to implement a bunch of rules and swap out old technology for new digital processes. If you want your employees to take your paperless initiative seriously, you have to lead by example.
When the leadership in your organization prioritizes digitization in their daily actions, it shows others that this is something you’re actually standing behind – not just an annoying program designed to save a few bucks.
4. Digitize Paper Files
Once you’ve curbed the flow of new paper into the business, you have to focus your energy on what will be the most monumental task of all: electronically filing all of the paper your organization has accumulated over the years.
There’s no simple way of doing this, but there are a handful of technologies that make it easier. In all likelihood, this process will involve individually scanning documents and loading them into an e-filing system.
Welcome to the Modern Age
As people, we tend to stick with what we know. When we use something for all of our lives and it seems to be working fine, we have very little motivation to change. We’d rather continue with the status quo than rock the boat. Unfortunately, this desire for stability and predictability often holds us back from innovating and modernizing.
While your business may be comfortable with paper, it doesn’t make good business sense to stick with it much longer. With all of the new technology and systems in place, going paperless – at least 99 percent of the way – is possible, practical, and profitable. When will you make it happen?