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Going Paperless?

April 1, 2009 4 Min Read
Sassan S. Hejazi, Ph.D. Director-in-Charge, Technology Solutions

The arguments for tossing the piles of paper are strong. By eliminating paper in file cabinets, for example, a company can create more room and reduce off-site storage costs. By exchanging information electronically with vendors and customers, a business can make information quickly accessible, from anywhere at any time—and conversely more private and secure through the use of encryption and other security measures.

But the process of going paperless can be daunting. There are the costs of new equipment and software to consider, as well as that of converting paper records into electronic files. And there are decisions about how to make the move and when, how much existing paper to convert, how to handle paper that continues to flow in from vendors and customers, how to get employees onboard with the idea and trained in new systems, and how to simply keep doing business as usual during the conversion.

Add to that the fact that, no matter what, a company probably can’t be completely paperless. Some papers—like signed, sealed deeds and legally binding contracts, or paper records for audits and IRS tax filings—might need to exist in their original form for legal or financial reasons.

Transitioning to a paperless office

If you’re considering the transition to a paperless office—or at least a more paperless office, you may be wondering where to start and what you’ll need. Many companies offer document management systems, hardware and software to help improve electronic communication on the road to having no paper. Here are some decisions that need to be considered before transitioning to a more paperless office:

  • How much of your paper do you want to convert? How far back do you want to go in converting paper files?
  • How will you handle the paper that still comes in from vendors, partners or customers? Hat about legal or tax-related documents?
  • How expensive is new equipment or software, or both, and how does that fit your budget?
  • What’s your proposed process for going paperless and your time frame?
  • How will you inform staff and get them to buy into the process so they accept the changes you want and don’t slide back into heavy paper use?
  • How much help do you need from outside? (This could be a consultant to manage the conversion process, a vendor for new equipment and software, a firm to do actual data conversion, a hosting service to move electronic files off site, security experts, or employee trainers.)
  • How will you handle paper reduction on an ongoing basis? For instance, whose job will it be to scan and electronically file incoming paper?

Based on recommendations from experts and companies who have gone through the process, here are some fundamental steps for the transition process:

  • Commit to going to a paperless office, and convince staff to go along with it by explaining the advantages for each of them individually, and as a group, and involving them in the process.
  • Check your existing computer hardware to make sure it’s robust enough to handle added applications and file storage. Make sure you have a reliable back-up system for all the files you will add.
  • Analyze what you need and plan to accomplish. Think about what you’re likely to need in the future with a growing business, as well as now. Think about which documents need to be accessed often or quickly, which need extra security, and which could be weeded out after a certain time.
  • Develop a transition plan and a timetable.
  • Start small with just a single department or area of our business so you can address any problems before broadening your scope.
  • Research the available tools
    to help you (document management systems, electronic faxing, scanners, data backup systems, security systems, document conversion companies, process consultants)
  • Select and arrange to buy the tools you plan to use. For software, consider fit with your needs, ease of use and implementation, cost, and integration with your existing systems. And don’t neglect backup needs to keep electronic data from being lost.
  • Do a small test project; make any needed changes; and then move to the transition in your first department.
  • Develop a plan for ongoing company-wide use. Include
    a document storage plan for employees with specific guidelines.
  • Develop a plan for ongoing company-wide use. Include
    a document storage plan for employees with specific guidelines.

Enjoy the journey!

Sassan Hejazi can be reached at 215-441-4600, or Email.


Contact the Author

Sassan S. Hejazi, Ph.D.

Sassan S. Hejazi, Ph.D.

Director-in-Charge, Technology Solutions

Manufacturing & Distribution Specialist, Technology Solutions Specialist, Digital Transformation Specialist, Cyber Advisory Specialist, Microsoft Cloud Specialist

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