Monday, January 9, 2012

Going Paperless in Office: Your 2012 New Year Resolution

There is more to going paperless in your office as a New Year resolution than just saving trees - it saves on work and storage space, and if done correctly will also improve efficiency and accuracy. Most of all, however, it will save money. How many reams of paper do you go through each year?

Here are some benefits of going paperless, and a brief résumé of the steps needed to achieve it.

The Benefits of Going Paperless

Going paperless would be good for your business, and it is not difficult to achieve if you and your staff are committed to doing it. Here are the main benefits of a paperless office:

1. Time Savings: Documents are more easily filed and retrieved electronically. There are also savings in time taken to print and photocopy documents for filing and distribution. Incoming paper documents can easily be scanned and then filed for easy retrieval for emailing to recipients.

2. More Logical Filing: Documents can be stored using multiple keywords for easy keyword-based retrieval. All documents can be reviewed in one location, and copies of documents are easier to store in multiple directories. For example, all documents relating to one client can be stored together, and copies can also be stored according to document type (e.g. invoices filed under 'client' and under 'invoices'). This can also help improve customer service and rapid review of client records, order history and payments.

3. Better Security: Documents can be stored on remote servers, even in remote locations so they are not lost in the event of catastrophic damage to the entire office or plant. Sensitive documents can be protected and made available only to those authorized to read them using secure passwords or biometric recognition systems.

4. More Space: While it is unlikely that filing cabinets will be made redundant, you will certainly require less of them. This will free up space, making your office less cluttered and a better place to work in. Your desk will also be clearer without all these sheets of paper lying around.

5. Easy Audit Trail: Depending on your type of business, it is easier to conform to the increasing number of compliance regulations using a paperless filing system. Your electronic files can be given unique reference numbers with dates, and it is much easier to follow a logical audit trail than seek out physical documents.

Going Paperless: Making the Change

There are many more advantages of going paperless, and having made the decision to do so, how do you go about setting up a paperless office? It will not be easy at the start because there will be resistance from those used to using paper documents, and that would be your first step:

1. Convince Staff: First you must convince your employees that going paperless will ultimately benefit them and the company. Speak to them as a group and then individually and answer their concerns. They must buy into it, so don't just make a statement and then expect them to conform. It will work much better if they have the 'paperless' mind set.

2. Hardware Audit: Check your computing equipment and make sure you have what is needed to run the system and store the files. You will also need a back-up system as security against loss of data.

3. Plan and schedule: Plan what you wish to accomplish. Categorize your documents and document types: which of them need extra security, levels of access by staff, which are used most often, which are unnecessary and so on. Draw up a schedule and timetable or Gantt chart.

4. Start Small: Start with a single department or office. Speak to all involved and ask them for ideas. Starting small will be easier to plan, and easier to resolve issues as they arise. What you learn with one department can eventually be applied to the whole business as you roll out the transition.

5. Choose the Equipment: Determine what equipment you will need, such as servers and terminals, back-up equipment, scanners and so on. Try to select user friendly software that will integrate with your current systems.

6. Processes and Procedure: Set up an overall procedure for running a paperless office, and the standard processes that will help facilitate that. The processes can be adjusted as you learn from transitioning the initial department. You should also set up regular review meetings to discuss progress, problems and remedial actions.

7. Roll out the transition to other departments.

Going paperless will initially take time, but once staff sees it as an advantage, and not as an imposition, there will be less resistance. It is difficult to calculate an ROI for a paperless office since the benefits are not generally those that will have been historically costed. However, those companies that have carried out such an exercise estimate about 6 months, though that will depend on how much extra equipment you need.

Remote Document Management Services

You could also consider subscribing to a web-based document management company. Then you would have no servers to maintain, no software to install and no back-up systems to worry about. All documents would be held at a remote site with security access as decided by yourself, and all you would need would be virtual access units.

Whichever way you choose to go, going paperless and making the transition to a paperless office will not be an easy task initially, but once your staff has bought into the idea you will find it much easier to achieve.

Many businesses are going paperless and reaping the advantages that such a change can offer. More information on this and other important business topics is available on B&M Financial Management Services, LLC website

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