Making the transition to a paperless office has never been as easy as it is today. Businesses have a multitude of software solutions to help them. From document management and file sharing solutions to customer relationship management and collaboration software, these systems make the process much easier and the goal attainable. Going paperless provides many benefits but knowing where to actually start the journey can be challenging. The points below will help you with those first tiny steps and make the transition to a paperless office a little easier.
One of the very early things you must do is review your paper based filing systems and also determine how electronic files are stored on your computers currently. This will help structure an electronic filing system that everyone is familiar with. To make the move to a paperless office successful, it is also important to determine which documents should be digitised now, such as historic paper based documents and files, and continually in the future, such as hand signed documents or contracts received by post.
When reviewing your filing systems, take time to review any retention policies that may be in place. Consider if these policies are still relevant. Review the life-cycle of electronic documents and files. How often are these accessed, viewed and used? Can electronic documents and files be moved from primary storage to secondary storage if they are not being used or accessed on a regular basis? If paper based documents can be removed from filing, ensure sensitive documents are shred and destroyed – and ensure you retain proof that they have been! Similarly, check that the deletion and removal of digital files are also audited and proof exists that files have been deleted.
Study the everyday workflows that exist and how documents are moved round your organisation. For example, it may be someone’s responsibility to open the daily post and decide how this should be dealt with. Invoices may be handed to purchasing, orders to a sales department and contracts to a legal team. How will these business processes be managed and handled by systems in your paperless office?
Think about the access employees have to documents and paper based files now. When all documents are transferred to a digital platform, how will staff access these documents? Should all employees have access to every document? Determine which documents can be accessed and viewed by staff and who can file them. Think carefully about the practicalities of sharing these electronic files! There will certainly be some departmental files and documents that will definitely require restricted access permissions; Human Resources, Accounting, Payroll and Directors’ correspondence are some of areas where access to documents and files are regulated commonly.
Think about how paper documents will be converted to a digital version. Today most photocopiers offer multi-functional processes. Apart from printing, they may also offer copying and scanning functions. Check to see if there is sufficient capacity for your devices to handle the paper based documents that will need to be converted. If there are large quantities of paper documents that need to be converted to digital, then it may be worth considering a dedicated desktop scanner. Today, these scanners are able to scan large numbers of paper documents, converting paper files to digital documents in a very short time. If there are a large number of historic documents to be converted, then it may even be worth considering the use of an external resource to convert those historic paper files to a digital form.
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