Document mgmt. series: The dream of a paperless office

Document mgmt. series: The dream of a paperless office

Personally I hate clutter and mess – I am a bit of a neat freak as my friends will attest. I especially can’t stand clutter on desks, I think that the in/out paper trays that frequent so many office desks are just a huge waste of money and space – I’ve never seen a document that is put into one of those trays ever be taken out of it and used or filed anywhere else.

One of my colleagues is legendary for the state of her desk – There is piles of paper, files, letters and notes everywhere to the point where you cannot actually see any desk. She once went on holiday so a colleague and I took the opportunity to empty all the rubbish off her desk – we kept anything that was 2 years old or less and we still filled 3 bin bags! Most companies dream of the paperless office but situations like this make it seem like it is impossible to achieve. So why do people still cling onto paper? there are lots of reasons: –

  • Old processes/ ways of doing things – Processes are less resistant to change than people are, as such the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality still exists even when the processes and technology have moved beyond that old way. Historically everything was done on paper and neatly filed away, the issue regarding change means that some won’t move beyond this.
  • Fear of losing an important document – Tangibly having a document on your desk or in your office somewhere can be a tremendous security blanket to some, some documents are obviously really important and the fear of losing it could have real consequences. Obviously such documents should be kept securely in, for example a safe but that still doesn’t mean you can’t have a digital copy for day to day use. This in fact means the original document is actually safer.
  • Historically some processes would only deal with paper copies – This has now been largely phased out as technology has improved but previously a lot of processes simply couldn’t be performed digitally. This meant you had no choice but to use paper copies. A company I used to work for got randomly inspected by HMRC a fair few years ago, at the time we stored all of our invoices digitally on our accounts system which was neatly split by customers/ suppliers and into relevant months and years – the auditor simply refused to engage with the system and insisted we printed out all the invoices, a waste of our time and money, thankfully digital copies are now (largely) accepted for scenarios such as this.
  • Some people are just like keeping stuff and don’t like to throw things away – Just like my colleague above. They know where everything is within the organised chaos and they have a system for finding and dealing with the important documents. The problem is that only they know what this system is and it’s only in their heads, so anyone else hasn’t got a chance of finding that important document.

So how can you combat this?

  • Use Online drives – such as OneDrive or Google Drive. These allow you share documents with colleagues.
  • Digital signatures – use software that allows documents to be signed digitally, Adobe Reader has this function built into it using the excellent Fill & Sign feature. This means documents do not have to be printed out, signed and sent back, cutting down on time, printing costs and the mundanity of rescanning documents so they can be emailed back to the sender.
  • Buy a document management system – A fully functional document management system will allow you to fully control your business documentation with your colleagues and your clients. It allows you to store documents centrally, you can grant permissions to the correct audience and you can use permissions to prevent the editing and printing of documents.
  • Online banking – Many are moving to online banking for the ease of access and convenience. Going Online also gives you the option of requesting paperless statements. With many you can also set up alerts to notify you when a new document is available
  • Phase out old tech that relies on paper – I’m looking at you, people who still have fax machines!