Nobody knows your business better than you.
You’d consider yourself to be an efficient, organized and detailed leader. You’ve always kept thorough records in a neat system, and it’s proven time and time again to be to your advantage. You’ve collected years of knowledge (a massive benefit to your company) into a thorough bank of documents in your office.
But, are your team members just as organized with the documents they are responsible for? How much time do you spend printing and copying each week? How much have you budgeted for rising paper and ink costs?
Some businesses that are still highly dependent on physical documents to complete day-to-day tasks believe that using paper in their processes and systems makes them more organized.
But, in reality, businesses that minimize or even eliminate their reliance on paper actually become more efficient—and enjoy various other benefits.
The Benefits of Going Paperless in Business
If your business is still swimming in paperwork, it’s time to consider making the transition. Here, we’ve outlined six benefits of going paperless in business, plus a few tips on how to start the transition for your business.
1. Improve Document Organization
If you have rows of pristinely labeled and alphabetized file cabinets in your office, you may be wondering how digital documents could be any more organized. Looking at your desk or at the desk of a colleague, however, may provide all the proof you need.
Even if everyone in the office is fastidious, physical files and documents can go missing. Documents are easy to misplace or transport with no one knowing where they are at any given moment.
Duplicate documents present just as much of a challenge. Did the client sign the current version, or the one with the change on page 3? Did the CEO grab version two or version three of the report for the board?
Going paperless in your business means that files are in the same place and easily accessible. Storing virtual files on a server—locally or in the cloud—ensures the information is available and that versions can be kept together and clearly marked.
Plus, network access makes these documents electronically searchable and available from nearly anywhere, so team members can retrieve files evenwhile travelingor working from home.
2. Better Backups and Disaster Recovery
As with any physical media, paper can get damaged or destroyed. Fires, floods and other disasters can cause the business to lose years or decades of information in a matter of hours.
Paper backups of documents can be expensive to produce and store. It’s unlikely that both your main building and offsite storage would get destroyed at the same time, but putting the appropriate amount of distance between them to prevent this also makes the backups difficult to access.
Paperless cloud solutions can be employed to protect business documents, keeping localized natural disasters from destroying critical files.
It’s inexpensive and simple to keep multiple copies of files digitally, and backups can be scheduled to occur automatically. Well-designed disaster recovery plans can includeprovisions for important filesto be stored where they can be accessed immediately and for less essential files to be archived.
3. Environmentally Friendly
Many companies today have initiatives to go green and improve their carbon footprint. One of the greatest benefits of going paperless in business is that it moves you in the right direction to meet those goals, since the average U.S. office worker uses about10,000 sheets of paper a year.
Environmental considerations are increasingly important to customers vetting vendors and suppliers. Going paperless is a clear indication that you take the commitment to going green seriously and are changing your operations to reduce your carbon footprint.
4. Streamlined Business Operations and Faster Payments
Paper-bound processes are slow and fraught with risk, and the management of documents can be a waste of time. Employees spend hours printing, filing, organizing and searching through paper documents each year.
While it may seem to be just a few moments each day, collectively, it can be a large amount of time that could be spent on more productive and revenue-generating tasks. Automated workflows can be created for digital documents, shifting the focus from team members managing pieces of paper to automation.
Sticking with paper may also be slowing your cash flow. If you’re still sending out paper invoices and not accepting digital payments, you’re adding days (possibly weeks) to the payment process.
And if your company has transitionedyour team members to a remote work environment, digital documents can also streamline collaboration and business processes.
Going paperless in business processes like this will result in realizing revenue sooner for—not to mention create a more pleasant experience for your customers.
5. Cost Savings
Hand-in-hand with slowed cash flow is the increased cost of continuing to rely on paper. It’s easy to point to the cost of materials, like paper and ink, as proof of savings, but going paperless offers even greater savings than reducing how many reams of paper you buy a year.
When fewer people in the office are printing documents, fewer printers are needed. Plus, offsite storage fees are reduced with the reduction of physical space needed.
You’ll likely save space as well. As a benefit of going paperless in business, there is no longer a need for aisles of file cabinets. Instead, floor space can be reclaimed for desks or other work areas.
6. Compliance and Data Security
It can be difficult to track who has possession of a document or file and equally challenging to control that access.
Document management systems can keep a record of who accessed a file and when. Moreover, a digital-based system can set access security at the file and even document level.
Individuals can be given access, or role-based security can be used so that departments or groups can be granted the appropriate access permissions. For companies considering a cloud-based document storage solution, most providers have strong protections in place, role-based access controls, and can meet most regulatory requirements.
This can streamline the audit and compliance process significantly. With digital documents under access control, and with logs available showing who has accessed files and when, proof of compliance with SOX controls, HIPAA regulations and GDPR mandates become much easier and far less stressful.
How to Go Paperless in Your Business
So, once you’ve decided to go paperless in your business, where do you start?
1. Identify Your Reliance on Paper
The first step should be to assess how you’re currently using paper. Identify who is printing what materials and how often, as well as how they are being distributed or stored. Knowing what your current reliance on paper actually is will help you effectively go paperless.
2. Identify Opportunities
Unless your office is small, going paperless all at once probably isn’t feasible. It’s much more reasonable to make the transition gradually. Use what you’ve learned to identify where your business could potentially go paperless with the greatest benefit.
One strategy is to find a particularly paper-heavy process and define the services or solutions that would be needed to migrate that single process to a paperless one. You can then expand from there, tackling a single business process at a time.
Another approach is location-based. For instance, start with your reception desk. Convert all paper-based processes, like visitor logs and phone messaging, to digital ones. Additions like a tablet-based visitor system will get you moving in the right direction.
3. Choose Your Business’s New Paperless Tools
Options can seem endless when your business decides to go paperless, but it’s important to take the time to identify the right digital tools and systems that will meet your company’s needs.
4. Make a Transition Plan and Timeframe
Think through what the process of going paperless may realistically look like for your business. One of the most important aspects is timing. Taking advantage of the right time or season can be helpful when going paperless.
Have you just finished your annualSOXaudit? Now might be the perfect time to start fresh, moving the most sensitive documents and files over to a digital document management system so that your next audit will be seamless.
5. Promote a Paperless Culture
Before you launch your business’s new paperless processes, don’t neglect employee training. All of your planning for paperless processes will mean little if your team members are still printing everything on their own. Engage company leaders in promoting a paperless culture within the business and offering appropriate training.
Provide your team with the right education for accessing, storing and sharing digital files. You may also consider additional training about your company’s overall cybersecurity and data privacy.
Eliminate paper approvals and reviews at the highest level, and put policies in place that encourage digital document sharing. Promote the use of paperless note-taking in meetings, and encourage teams to use collaboration software, like Microsoft Teams or Slack, for communication instead of printing memos or reports.
The truth is that some of your processes, short-term or long-term, may still require paper. For those outliers, remind your team of the importance of recycling, and ask for suggestions on how to minimize the use of paper.
6. Implement Your Business’s New Paperless System(s)
Once you’ve laid the groundwork in the above steps for going paperless in business, it’s time to finally make the switch. This process will vary greatly depending on your organization, what tools you’ve chosen and which processes you’re transitioning to a paperless format.
Generally, this will include migrating your files to a digital format, setting up your new tools and making sure your new hardware and software integrates well with your other current processes.
7. Monitor and Adjust
Keep an eye on your transition to make sure that everything is going smoothly. You may need to adjust your protocols and procedures as you put your plans into action. Reviewing and making tweaks is essential to any effective use of technology—and going paperless in business is no exception.
Learn More about Going Paperless in Business and How to Make the Transition
There are many benefits of going paperless in business, but it can be a big transition for companies that haven’t attempted it before. The concept of completely overhauling your company’s procedures can seem overwhelming.
Of course, it requires close consideration to effectively digitize business processes that have long relied on physical files and print outs.
Start small and encourage your teams to eliminate paper whenever possible. Little by little, you’ll see greater efficiency, better security and an improved bottom line.
To learn more about how your specific business can benefit from going paperless,connect with a Warren Averett Technology Group Advisor.
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