Taking the First Steps to a Paperless Office
5 min read
September 8, 2014
Last updated: May 23, 2019
You're ready to start moving to a paperless office environment, but you're not quite sure how to do it. Do you throw away your files? Force everyone to use iPads? Burn your reams of copy paper?
Here are the right first steps you need to take.
Create a Plan
Going paperless is not something you want to do in a haphazard way. Get the key people in your business together. Create a map of the workflow and dependencies that happen in your business.
You need to know the dependencies, because shifting one area of the workflow will affect all the areas that depend on it. Get input from your senior team members so that you don't miss important parts of the process. The goal is to have a thorough picture of how the work happens in your business, which will allow you to make smart decisions about how to change it.
Get Your People on Board
If you're working with younger employees, chances are that they are already adept with digital tools. They probably prefer them to paper-based systems. But not everyone is comfortable with the change to paperless, and it's important to discuss what will happen and how it will happen.
Reassure the nervous or uninitiated that they will receive the training they need, not only in the initial change, but as work continues. Ongoing support and swift response to questions will help ease people through transitions.
Find Your Experts
Who are the people in your business who live a largely digital life, already? These are your built-in experts, and they can help make the transition easier for everyone. Have a talk with your in-house pros, and get their help in any or all of the following:
● Deciding which paperless and cloud-based services are best for your business
● Figuring out which area of the business to transition to paperless first
● Training staff members in the new digital system
● Doing the actual conversion needed: scanning and saving documents, installing software, setting up user profiles, and so on.
Back Up and Secure
Before you start scanning documents into your new system, make sure the system itself - your data, software, and tools - are backed up in case of any problems. Security is important, of course; you need encryption on your files, especially as you add more of them to digital storage.
Set a Timeline and an Order
A deadline, even a self-imposed one, tends to light the fires of action. Give your people a goal of moving to paperless by a certain date, and set up a reward to motivate that change. Then choose an order based on the workflow map you created in the first step. Your needs will vary based on the type of business you run and how you run it. Invoicing is a process common to almost every business, and it's usually a good place to start. Data storage is another; you could implement a new means of saving files (as an alternative to hanging paper files) and implement it for all new data created.
You, and your people, are already busy doing the work of your business. If you can, hire in a consultant or firm to assist in the transition. This can not only save you a lot of hassle in figuring out what to do first, it can also ease the stress created by change and extra work on your team members. If hiring a consultant is not an option, strive to reduce the normal workload on your team members while your business is transitioning to paperless.
Test and Adjust
With each addition to the digital workflow, you and your team should be testing for the most common scenarios in your business use. You'll have a good idea of what these are from the workflow and dependencies map you created in the first step. Get your in-house experts to work, testing functionalities, accessing digital documents, sending, editing, calculating, doing whatever it is that your business does with the new digital arrangement. Expect that some things will not work perfectly; think of your digital workflow as a new machine that will need some fine-tuning to start purring along. Going paperless is a change, and all changes require adjustment. Don't demand overnight transformation. A slower, step-by-step approach will give all your team members time to learn without feeling pressured.