How (and Why) to Go Paperless
Does your office still contain piles and filing cabinets full of paperwork? Do you automatically print out everything “for your records?” Are you afraid that if you go completely digital, some documents might be lost?
You’re not alone. Many business owners still feel that it’s safer and more cost-effective to keep paper records. But here are a few facts that might change your mind.
Finding what you want in paper records takes longer.
Digital documents can be indexed, searched and retrieved much faster.
Paperwork costs more.
Digital records eliminate the need to buy printers, toner, maintenance service contracts and document storage space.
When paper is lost in a fire, flood or other disaster, it’s gone for good.
Digital records can be backed up and stored in a secure server location.
Paper clutter looks messy and takes up more space.
Your company’s entire records can be stored on a laptop. It’s easy to transport if you move to a new office. And you won’t need such a big office, saving on rent.
Paper communication is slower.
Emailed documents are there in seconds, not days. Plus, you’ll save on postage.
Paper manufacturing is bad for the environment.
Going digital saves forests, reduces air/water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and saves energy consumed by pulp and paper production.
Are you ready to save time, money, effort and trees by going paperless? Here are some practical things you can do to make the transition.
Analyze what your office prints out.
You may be surprised to learn how much paper your printer is spewing out day after day, most of it unnecessary. Print audit software is available to track who is using the printer.
Move to online software.
Cloud-based applications make it easy to share data with customers and suppliers. And they eliminate the problems with file format compatibility and technical support that you might run into if you maintain your own servers.
Some of the most popular applications are:
• Google Docs lets multiple people view and edit documents
• Dropbox lets you share files that are too big too email
• Basecamp enables project management and team interactions
• PayPal lets you receive or send payments
There are also applications for business processes such as banking, accounting and payroll. Xendoo uses one of these to seamlessly integrate with your business management software, thus eliminating many hours of data entry for you and your staff.
Scan existing paperwork.
Once it’s digitized in PDF format, you can get rid of the paper original. Any office supply store offers a variety of scanners; or your office printer may already offer that function. If you have years’ worth of paperwork to scan, hire a secure scanning company to do it.
Phase out old technology.
• If you still send and receive faxes, install software that converts them to electronic documents and emails them.
• Use digital signatures on contracts and other legal documents. In most countries, digitally signed documents are just as valid and binding as those signed with a pen.
Train your staff.
There may be a learning curve for employees who will be processing electronic documents, such as invoices and work schedules. But once they’re used to the new system, you can look forward to terrific time savings and improved productivity.
How fast you can go paperless — or whether it’s entirely possible —depends on your business and your team. Some types of business, such as real estate offices, will still require paperwork. And some employees may find a drastic change too stressful.
Even baby steps can have significant results. Print a multi-page document on both sides of the paper. Go paperless one department at a time, so that the entire company isn’t having transition pains at the same time.
The digital world is here to stay. With the growth of cloud-based and security technology, it’s more convenient and safer than ever. Businesses who wish to grow and thrive in the future will do well to take advantage of its flexibility, efficiency and cost savings as soon as they possibly can.