American companies waste $8 billion annually just managing paper. The numbers speak for themselves:
- Filing a document costs about $20.
- Finding a misplaced document adds up expenses of $120.
- Replacing a lost document costs an average of $220.
Reducing the amount of paper in your company can help you to cut down costs while making communication between departments easier and increasing efficiency. Furthermore, as you get rid of all that clutter, you can reorganize your offices to improve working conditions for your employees.
Digitizing your processes to turn your paper-based operations into automated workflows is a challenge for any company large or small. You must scan all your existing documentation, implement a document management software, find cloud storage solutions, and train your employees best practices for document management and file sharing.
Here’s a simple guide to a paperless office that allows you to optimize operations without headaches.
Define the Scope of Your Project
Getting rid of paper doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long process that requires hundreds of hours of repetitive tasks and many resources. To understand the dimensions of such a project, you should first identify all the documents that need to be digitized.
Businesses handle many different documents on a daily basis, from invoices to orders and employee files. You can’t get rid of all of them at the same time. Analyze your critical processes and establish which of them can be digitized first. Prioritize based on your pain points and budget, to make the most out of each step of the project.
For example, if you register many late or missed payments due to lost or misplaced invoices, getting rid of paper-based invoices can be a right place to start. It all depends on your business capacity to embrace change.
Planning is vital when starting such a project, especially when looking to digitize the resistant departments — HR, legal, or finance. Set clear goals and milestones, and try to respect all the steps to make sure you don’t create more chaos in your system. Make an inventory of the documents you need to scan. Numbers give you a bright idea about costs and possible deadlines so that you can come up with a realistic plan and budget.
Identify the Human Resource
Whether you outsource document scanning or do it with your employees, you still need to name some employees for selecting, indexing and manipulating old documents. The higher the volume of paper you have in your file cabinets, the more people you’ll need to work on the project.
Name a project manager and make sure you have enough employees working on ordering and selecting your paper-based documentation to meet deadlines. Each department that will go paperless should have at least one team member handling documents. This way, you don’t risk losing vital information when transporting the boxes for scanning.
Initiate Document Scanning
Document scanning is the process of taking each paper document and creating a digital copy of it using a scanner — you already do it for a limited number of records. When you’re trying to achieve a paperless office, it’s the same thing, but at a larger scale.
Document scanning is tedious, repetitive work. For each piece of paper, you need to pull the staples out, unfold the bent edges, and scan it. Every order or invoice that has entered into your company must be scanned, indexed, and introduced into your ERP system. Depending on the number of documents in your file cabinets, this process can take months.
Discard Old Documents
As you go through each piece of paper existing in your company, this is the right moment to set aside old documents. It’s an excellent moment to eliminate all the documentation that has reached the end of the retention lifecycle.
As a guideline, it’s wise to shred all documents, to make sure you don’t leave any crucial information outside your company. If you don’t have a shredder, consider hiring an external provider to dispose of all documents for you. This way, you can guarantee data protection to all your business partners and employees.
Integrate Automation in Your Existing Business Flow
Quitting paper shouldn’t create any disruption in your current business operations. It should be a step-by-step implementation of the automated processes. This way, all authorized employees get access to the digital documents in time to do their jobs.
If you choose a cloud-based storage solution, you can give your staff instant access to all the documentation, with no need of advanced IT involvement. This way, you can have your system working in hours. All you have to do is train your employees about how to access the information they need safely.
Optimize Workflows with Document Management
After scanning the documents, you need dedicated software to organize them to maintain consistent workflows. In a nutshell, you have to index and store every piece of scanned paper, make it easy to find in the system, and create clear rules on how employees can use each document.
With document management, you get to create new documents every time you receive invoices or orders. Better yet, you can approve every document that enters in your ERP system automatically as long as it complies with the rules.
Document management software also allows you to share documentation with specific users, for signatures and approval for payments. Moreover, you can use the system to archive documents at the end of their active life.
Getting Rid of Paper is Just a First Step
Paper-based workflows require long processing times, reducing productivity. Furthermore, the paper brings in a high volume of manual work, which is prone to human errors and can have adverse effects on your business relationships.
When working with paper documents, you’re more likely to experience delays, clutter, and needless expenses across multiple departments. Getting rid of paper is the first step to entering into the digital era. When you digitize your documents, you can kick off workflow automation, which cuts down costs and increases efficiency, helping you to step ahead of your competitors.