If you took Business Studies at school, even many years ago, you've probably heard a lot about the idea of the paperless office. It's been a goal for decades, but it's one many businesses have still not achieved. If you're trying to modernize your business, these tips may help you.
Why Go Paperless?
In the 1980s and 90s, the paperless office was a necessity because most communication was done via snail mail or fax machines. Since the early 2000s, email and other online document sharing options have become far more common. This means there's no reason to rely on paper. Yet, in many offices, paper use is increasing, not decreasing. It's time for that to change.
Going paperless has several benefits:
Less money wasted on printer paper and ink
Less storage space wasted on documents
It's easier to search for old documents when required
Organizing information digitally is more efficient
The risk of data loss is reduced
Paperless offices are more environmentally friendly
If there's an error in a document, it's easier to correct it
Digital documents can create an audit trail
Clients see your business as being greener and more efficient
Making the Transition
The first step to becoming a paperless office is stopping the creation of new paperwork. That means using digital quotes and invoices, using groupware and online collaboration tools for internal communication, and logging as much as possible in databases.
There may be a short time period where long-term customers have some records in paper form and some in digital form. Advise all your team members of this possibility, so they know to check paper archives if a customer has a question about account activity prior to a certain date.
Once you've got that infrastructure in place, you can look at organizing your existing documents. Scan old documents, so you have digital backups of them. Be sure to merge PDF files to keep all related documents (such as information about a specific project/customer) in one place. Once you've combined your PDF files, you can move the pages around to get the content in the right order and use a document management system for ease of search and retrieval.
Getting Your Team on Board
Whenever you make a major change to how things are done in your business, you're likely to encounter some resistance from established team members who don't like the change. Counter the "this is how we've always done it" attitude by leading by example.
If your employees see you using electronic communications as a matter of routine and can see that your productivity is enhanced by that, they're more likely to try it themselves. Make a habit of sending out communications via electronic means and offering more than one way (intranet, email, chat) for people to get news. Make digital communication as easy as possible to stop any complaints about paper being better before they gain traction.
Paperless Businesses Are More Efficient
Going paperless is good for the environment and your bottom line, but it may take some planning to achieve. Use electronic communication software, merge PDFs to preserve old documents, and encourage all your team members to do the same to ease the transition.
Join your local chamber of commerce for more tips on going paperless.