Achieving a Paperless Office

In a digital age where so much communication takes place across desktops and mobile devices, there are some who argue that paper is dead. In fact, the demise of paper has been predicted for over two decades, despite recent studies that indicate more than 80% of document work is still on paper. Contributing to paper’s thriving existence, particularly for businesses, are regulatory and legal requirements, affordability, permanence, and convenience. However, paper in the workplace doesn’t exist without its share of complications.

Too much paper can negatively impact an organization’s efficiency, and ultimately hurt bottom-line revenue. Traditional offices tend to rely on resource-intensive, paper-based filing systems, which often require equipment and supplies, like photocopiers, printers, scanners, filing cabinets, folders, and ink and toner cartridges, as well as the physical storage space needed to accommodate these assets.

Further, printing can be problematic for companies that create and maintain volumes of sensitive information, which must be readily accessible to ensure compliance with ever-changing regulations. This is because once computer data is printed on paper, it instantly becomes out-of-sync with computer database updates. Moreover, even when well sorted, paper can be difficult to search and retrieve, and paper data stored in multiple locations is often laborious and costly to track and update.

To confront the multitude of challenges associated paper use, many businesses have started to adopt a “paperless office.”

What is a Paperless Office?

The term “paperless office” refers to a work environment in which the use of paper is eliminated or greatly reduced. This is accomplished by converting documents and other papers into digital form. These electronic documents are then stored in a central repository, where they can be accessed and retrieved across the entire organization.

So, Why Go Paperless?

The potential bottom-line impact is staggering. A recent study revealed that business executives across sales, HR, procurement, and more, estimate that properly managing paper use in the workplace could yield a 36% increase in revenue, a 30% reduction in cost, and a 23% reduction in business/compliance risk. Going paperless also allows for greater efficiency and reduced clutter. Paperwork on desks and other work areas is both unsightly and inefficient. Replacing hard copies with digital files can help keep the office tidy, and provide employees with clear minds to focus on their tasks.

Digital documents can also be stored, retrieved, indexed and searched much faster than paper versions. This is of critical importance, as studies have shown that workers are spending more than a third of their time on administrative tasks instead of core work. Further, having a central repository for digital files can significantly benefit disaster recovery efforts. Documents can be stored in an online database, rather than rooms of shelving. In the event of a fire or flood, damage to important documents, such as invoices or employee records, would be avoided with digital storage.

Given the speed at which businesses move today, eliminating paper can give you a much-needed burst of speed. Traditional paper-based processes, such as document approvals and check requests, can be processed in a matter of seconds, rather than days. Even more, scaling your business is much easier when you’re not weighed down, quite literally! Changing offices is much easier when you don't have to bring several filing cabinets with you.

Going paperless is also environmentally friendly. Less printing means fewer trees cut down, which can help to reduce your company’s carbon footprint. You’ll also be putting money back into your bottom-line, by cutting down on printing, postage and other related expenses.

Paperless Solutions  

While completely eliminating paper may not be economical or practical for everyone, there are ways to significantly reduce your overall volume of paper usage. Here are 4 solutions to help cut paper out of your daily routine:

  1. Utilize Online Applications

Cloud-based applications, such as Google Docs, Evernote, Basecamp, and Yammer, let you easily share data internally. There's no need to worry about different file formats, and many of these systems allow you to work simultaneously with colleagues on a document or spreadsheet. You can download the files you create at any time should you need to email (or print them), and you can also compare or revert back to earlier versions.

  1. Opt for Paperless Statements, Billing and Receipts

Spend less on postage, envelopes and employee time coordinating invoices, checks, and mailings by requesting paperless statements from banks and other financial institutions. You can also pay your bills and suppliers online, and send email receipts for customers instead of printing them.

  1. Seek Online Storage and File Sharing

Consider investing in tools such as Dropbox or YouSendIt; both are good paperless alternatives for sharing and storing large files. There are also free services that offer plenty of storage and bandwidth.

  1. Scan Your Paperwork

Eliminate or reduce paper processes by scanning paperwork that you produce or receive from others. Document scanners are reasonably cheap and can convert hard copies into PDF, TIFF or JPEG format. Alternatively, there are applications like TurboScan, that allow you to use your camera as a scanner, and quickly convert captured images to PDFs for easy emailing. If your organization or department regularly produces and maintains large volumes of paper, then consider outsourcing your scanning, or purchasing an enterprise document management tool.

Today’s technology has given way to an abundance of tools that can help your office reduce or eliminate paper waste. Going paperless can have many advantages for you, your employees and your business partners - ultimately saving you time, money, storage space and clutter.

Ascend Software offers an enterprise solutions suite for end-to-end document management that includes the scanning, OCR, and storage electronic documents, in a centralized, secure, and Internet accessible database. For more information on our solutions, please contact us or submit an info request.

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