Going completely paperless is no small feat and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. Once you finally get to that point, like most businesses you’ll discover that you’re still not 100% paperless.
More than a decade into the 21st century you would think that as a whole we would be a lot more advanced when it comes to paperless workflow – like the paperless society Frederick Wilfrid Lancaster envisioned in 1978. Unfortunately, businesses are lagging behind.
For example; earlier this year the Department of Veterinary Affairs in North Carolina announced that it was collapsing under the weight of the paperwork being stored on sight.
Literally collapsing, in fact. In August, the VA’s inspector general said the weight of paper files at the agency’s Winston-Salem, N.C., office had compromised the structural integrity of the building
To avoid that kind of extreme outcome business should be working toward paperless solutions sooner rather than later. Here are 5 cutting edge tips to help you trim down on paper reliance and work toward a paperless solution.
1. Digitize Internal Documents. Instead of making a trip to the printer for every document that needs to be shared, work with PDF forms that can be completed on the PC and sent electronically. Whether you use the internal network of the office of you store the files on a free service like Google Docs, you can work simultaneously with colleagues on documents, forms and spreadsheets.
Some systems even let you chat with others while you view, work on and proof documents. These types of shared document systems and paperless workflow solutions – especially ones you can have custom made for your work environment – allow you to do side by side comparisons that show the history of document changes, and can revert as need be. Project management and collaborative work systems like BackPack or even Office 365 provide an off-the-shelf solution for businesses in need of making a change right now. The best fit for internal document management and collaborative workflow of course is to have a custom system designed to for your team to work on and share projects with one another.
2. Paperless statements and billing. The more focus you put into online bill paying and invoicing, the less time you have to spend dealing with postage, envelopes, checks, mailing or the labor cost of having employees coordinate it all.
When you run office finances through the web, payments are more prompt and far easier to track. Banks and merchant services make paperless online invoice and payment solutions for your customers, and there are even free apps that let you accept payments using mobile gateways. This means sales reps in the field can take payments immediately without having to wait to generate an invoice back at the office or write out invoices in the field. Receipts for any completed invoices and payments can also be handled electronically to save time and money.
3. Share presentations easily. It’s common practice to print out the slides or presentation notes from a presentation or meeting for everyone in attendance but this wastes a lot of office resources – especially if you’re a meeting-intensive organization. Storing these documents on an internal web server that everyone has access to gives them the ability to quickly grab digital files before or during the meeting. For outside individuals without network access, digital presentation files can be sent via email or stores on an outside file sharing service like Dropbox.
4. Storage and file sharing. Going paperless means getting rid of all the file cabinets, or cutting back on them as much as possible. When doing this you still have to keep accessibility in mind. File sharing services provide secure access from any remote location where web access is available. Dropbox, referenced in the previous tip, is a perfect example of a file sharing service where permanent or temporary access can be given to the entire database of files or just select folders based on the permissions you give to individual users. You can even create group folders for different members of your office so you can quickly disseminate reports and files. Best of all, if critical files have to go with you in your travels, you won’t need to print extra copies or handle master copies with care.
5. Scanning and Faxing – A lot of companies still rely on scanning and faxing despite the prevalence of online solutions. There are numerous apps like eFax that allows you to receive digital faxes in your inbox without having to pay for paper.
Technology provides us with a host of smart tools and applications that help businesses go paperless. From custom PDF forms to software solutions, every step you make toward a paperless environment will ultimately save you time, money, storage space and clutter.