The pursuit for the paperless office has been a much-debated topic for decades. Despite the progressive decline in paper usage, there is still a steady demand for hard copy documents. It has never really gone away. Until now!
The pandemic has forced many changes in the workplace, from the massive increase in online business to the complete devastation of the high street. Now, with millions of people working from home, they are obliged to use electronic communication virtually 100% of the time.
This shift in working patterns has manifested itself in many ways – and there is a revolution underway now! With the increased use of Zoom, Facebook, email, phone apps and text messages as the primary communication tools, it has forced a significant reduction in the use of paper and printed documents over the past year.
Document Management Systems
Whilst the use of electronic communication has grown exponentially, the use of Document Management Systems (DMS) has also helped companies reduce their administrative processes through digitising their workflows.
A document management system is used to track, manage and store business-critical documents and legacy items, with a range of online management and retrieval options. It also offers digital transformation solutions and streamlined workflows, data and document scanning which is cloud-based.
It is viewed as a component of a wider digital asset management solution, which includes document imaging, scanning, content management, workflow systems and records management processes to manage paper-based documents.
Is it realistic to replace paper in an office?
Many businesses, particularly SMEs, still use paper-based systems, but emerging from the pandemic is an ideal time to consider reducing paper consumption. Turning an office into a virtually paperless environment is now possible, and through the use of technology, it can be undertaken relatively easy.
There are many DMS software solutions available in the marketplace, but it is important to get the first steps right, by doing some basic housekeeping.
Here are a few helpful tips to get started.
‘Paper Lite’ approach
Businesses in regulated industries still need to produce documents for signing or need a paper trail for audit purposes. A good strategy is to set an end point to implement plans to digitise as many processes as possible.
If using paper is still a requirement, it is possible to develop a ‘Paper Lite’ programme that makes practical changes to reduce the paper in use where this is practically possible. Reducing the amount of paper that you have to manage can be achieved by putting in place a number of easy-to-follow steps.
Perform a paper audit
You can’t reduce the amount of paper you are using without knowing your current paper usage. Don’t just look at the volume of paper being consumed but look closely at why that amount of paper is used.
Reduce the ability to print
If your office has several printer/copier workstations, reducing these to an absolute minimum will discourage printing and copying, unless it is absolutely necessary.
Where they need to be retained, set up Multi-Functional Devices (MFDs) to print on both sides of the paper. Also, print in mono rather than colour where possible. It is surprising how few businesses have their MFDs set up to offer this rules-based printing approach.
Move to paperless billing
Look closely at the amounts of paper that come into your business. Move to paperless billing for utilities, bank statements and any other services your business uses, and use scanners to redirect incoming mail.
Digitise as many paper-based services as possible
One of the main reasons for printing documents is to get them signed. Using services such as ‘Docusign’ offer secure document signing and normally much quicker to process.
Unbelievably, some organisations still use faxes, particularly in the Public Sector. Moving faxes to email services further reduces the paper coming into your business.
Access to documents from ‘everywhere’
Having a paperless environment will help you manage documents from different sources. Several users can work on a document at the same time, making it much less of a hassle under time constraints. This helps eliminate common office tasks by getting rid of problems that are related to paper-based documents!
Once you have the basic elements of the Paper Lite programme completed, the next stage is to consider what DMS solution is right for you. Auditel’s document management experts are available to help you with this choice for your business if required.
Reducing the need for printers & copiers
As more people are homebased, this structural change has also seen a reduction in the use of physical office space. One of the major consequences of this means that companies have been forced to contend with the burgeoning costs of equipment sitting idle in empty offices.
Without a doubt, the volumes of office printing and copying will never return to pre-pandemic levels, some forecasts estimate that this will reduce by as much 75% in the new normal, which means that companies will be paying unnecessarily for expensive yet redundant equipment. This is where Auditel can help.
Auditel’s expert document management team can advise clients how to eliminate paper consumption, as well as restructuring and eliminating expensive, unused MFD/copier fleets. We can assist in this complex contract area and ‘unpick’ complex contracts to save money and reduce costs.