You’ve heard about the paperless office. It’s a mythical place the computer revolution was meant to deliver us to once computers became mainstream. Or when the iPad transformed the computing landscape.
While printer sales are slowly declining according to a recent report by Gartner, we’re still many years away from becoming truly paperless. However, it is possible to start your business’ journey towards a paperless office.
Like any IT-centric endeavour, going paperless requires three key elements in order to succeed: people, process and systems.
In order for your business to become paperless you need to get your people on board.
That means teaching them how to effectively use the alternatives you put in place, listening to their concerns and addressing them.
In short, engaging your staff in any program of change is the best way to ensure they will move with the change even there’s a period of initial discomfort.
There are two key things you need to address when going paperless.
No matter what you do within your business, you need a process for managing inbound paper. Your customers, suppliers, bank and other entities will still send you letters and documents on paper. You need to create processes and acquire systems to manage the flow of paper into your business.
Reducing the amount of paper you use is actually an easier task. But it will require working with your people to ensure you have systems in place to deal with tasks such as reading, reviewing, editing and sharing documents that don’t require hard copies.
The right hardware and software is critical for creating paperless processes. You can design the best processes and have a highly motivated staff but if the hardware and software make it all too hard then there’s little chance of your transition working.
When it comes to the hardware and software, look for solutions that work well together. While it might be tempting to buy the best scanner on the market for ingesting documents into the business it’s more important to use a scanner that has software that makes it easy to store and retrieve saved documents.
Similarly, there are dozens of different document management software solutions available but if they make it hard to save or find documents then people will find ways to avoid using them.
Pulling it all together
The solution you choose for your business’ journey to going paperless will depend on many factors. If you’re a small business with a handful of people, it might be cost effective to put a small scanner on each person’s desk and use a cloud-based storage solution that works with the scanner.
For example, the Fujitsu ScanSnap 1300i is just 10cm by 29cm so it takes up very little desk space so you can scan incoming documents without leaving your workspace. For mobile workers it can be powered via USB ports. It scan both sides of a page at the same time.
For filing, Evernote can receive content via email, drag and drop or directly from the ScanSnap scanner.
Electronic documents can be emailed straight to Evernote.
Incoming documents like letters, receipts and statements are scanned with the ScanSnap and the accompanying software sends the scans straight to Evernote.
Evernote makes it easy to share documents and notebooks (collections or folders of notes) so it’s possible to create personal and private notebooks for documents.
It’s worth noting the Australian Tax Office has ruled that it is acceptable to retain electronic versions of documents as a record (http://law.ato.gov.au/pdf/pbr/tr2005-009.pdf) as long as they are not altered or manipulated once stored; are retained for the statutory period of five years; and are capable of being retrieved and read at all times by Tax Office staff.
Larger businesses may find putting a scanner on every desk prohibitive. Large office multifunction devices make it easy to scan documents and save them in PDF, JPG or other file formats that can be sent to corporate document repositories that are held either on premise or in the cloud.