Written by Tina Martin from Ideaspired.com
Why Businesses Should Be Going Paperless
Going paperless is something 80 percent of all businesses are interested in, according to a Xerox study. It’s not surprising: Paper-centric processes are expensive, complicated to maintain, and also difficult to work with. In contrast, digital is faster and easier, not to mention boosts employee productivity.
Then there’s the sustainability angle: Our paper use has quadrupled in the past few decades, and future demand may be hard to meet. While digital is not a perfect green replacement – it has its own carbon footprint – it is still readily available.
Of course, going paperless is easier said than done. It may require an extensive reworking of existing processes and sometimes serious digital know-how. To help you out, Steps of Impact offers this mini-guide for businesses. We cover some reasons why you should consider making the shift to paperless and offer easy-to-implement tips on getting started.
The Benefits of Going Paperless
Going paperless, in the “instant” digital era, is not just a fad but the need of the hour. Paper-based processes are quickly becoming outdated. Here are some reasons why digital is the superior option:
- Less error-prone: Paper is worked on by humans, which leaves room for human errors. Digital has fewer errors because it can be automated. Furthermore, digital tools make error-checking easier.
- Convenient: Digital is much more convenient than paper. Entire teams can access and work on the same document remotely, from anywhere in the world. You look up information easily, using keywords.
- Fast: Paper can be glacial. Sending a document to have a customer sign it, for instance, can take days or even weeks if multiple people are signing. The same thing can be accomplished in minutes in the digital way.
- Compliant: More data privacy and storage-related laws are being introduced regularly. It’s easier to make (and keep) digital systems compliant than paper-based ones.
- Productive: Last, but not least, is that paperless processes make employees more productive. Finding the information (and documents) they need and working on them is easier.
Going paperless isn’t always a good idea
Before you try to go paperless, keep in mind that getting rid of all your paper isn’t necessary, and likely not a good idea. There is a cost-to-benefit ratio in implementing a digital system, and no organization can survive without at least some paper system. You should get rid of paper only when (and where) you stand to receive significant advantages from doing so. Business 2 Community recommends a “paper-light” approach instead of a paperless one, for example.
How to Get Started
Here’s how to determine where to go paperless and how to get started:
1. Get an overview of your paper-based processes
There are multiple paper-based processes you could digitize. These include filing, billing and invoicing, collaboration, document sharing, and more. Additionally, your organization likely uses a file-management system of some kind. You can create a digital equivalent of your filing cabinet too.
2. Do your research and talk to experts
Are the other businesses in your niche going paperless? How have they implemented their system, and what are their results? It’s a good idea to do some market research before you begin. Also, consulting with an implementation expert may give you insight into how best to move forward.
3. Talk to your employees and get them on board
You will need support from your employees to both implement the system and keep it going. It may represent a big departure from the usual routine for some employees, which may cause some resistance. Communicating your plan and getting everyone’s input may be necessary.
4. Convert your paper documents to digital
You will likely need to convert some of your paper documents to digital format. This will involve sorting your existing documents, scanning them manually, and uploading them into a digital document management system. Depending on the number of documents you’re converting, this could take days or even weeks.
5. Utilize helpful software and tools to go and remain paperless
Apps can simplify your move to paperless. There are countless paperless utility apps out there that already automate several work processes, from product development solutions to customer care tools. You just have to pick them up and use them. Also, most of them are compatible with file-management solutions.
An online invoice generator is an excellent example of a paperless app. A good one will allow you to create professional-looking invoices that suit your brand (and are just as good as paper ones). You can include your logo and conveniently email them, instead of sending paper copies out. Select a pre-made template and customize it by adding your logo, name, brand colors, and payment-related information.
The technology for going paperless is advancing rapidly. It’s not only becoming more feature-rich but also more affordable by the day. While going (semi or fully) paperless won’t be easy, it will be a worthwhile investment that will pay for itself in time.