Since the birth of the digital era, people have been praising the concept of a paperless office. In this article, we will discuss the concept, why it is vital, and why most projects fail.
What is Paperless Office?
A paperless office is a work environment in which the usage of paper is eliminated or considerably reduced. This is accomplished by transforming documents and other paper-based materials into digital format. It is the first step towards digital transformation in your organization.
For decades, paper documents and file cabinets have served as the primary means of organizing information in any business. However, this does not imply that physical, paper documentation is the preferable option.
Paper documents are related to decreased productivity, efficiency, and internal corporate processes that are delayed. According to a recent survey, on average each employee wastes one hour every day looking for paper documents.
Going paperless implies that enterprises or governments will begin to reduce, if not totally eliminate, the use of paper documents in their business operations and will instead rely entirely on digital documents.
Because not all businesses can go entirely paperless for a variety of reasons, as we shall see in this article, these businesses that must still rely on paper are referred to as “paper lite” offices or less paper office.
The digitization of papers is the first step toward a paperless environment. Depending on the size of your document stack (the number of paper documents), this project might be difficult and time-consuming. However, after the documents have been digitized, companies may begin to use the potential of a digitally structured environment with document-centric automated procedures.
I highly recommend you to read the below two articles for an in-depth idea about these concepts
Brief Paperless Office History
The paperless office was first referenced in a Business Week article in 1975 when they published an article titled “Office of the Future,” which predicted that all documents will be digitized by 1990.
IBM and XEROX introduced the first laser printing devices to the office in 1976.
Since the early days of computing, there has been much discussion about what the “office of the future” will look like.
Organizations began to produce documents electronically and print them for additional processing and approvals with the advent of desktop computers into workspaces.
Between 1980 and 1995, the number of paper documents doubled as laser printing equipment and computers became more inexpensive.
Large software development firms began to build solutions, such as document management systems, to support the whole lifecycle of digital documents.
Despite this, many businesses are unable to fully transition to digital and must continue to rely on paper documents for day-to-day operations.
With today’s technology advancements and society shifting toward sustainable living and green computing, we are better positioned to break free from paper document reliance and attempt to achieve the long-promised paperless workplace objective.
So here we are in the year 2021… Is it possible to convert to a paperless office?
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Why Most Paperless Office Initiatives Fail?
Many companies throughout history have begun establishing a paperless workspace where business operations may operate smoothly, productivity rises, and document lifecycle management is facilitated.
However, only 25% of these businesses have truly prospered. It is quite disappointing to witness all of the work, money, and time engaged on such a key aim go unrewarded, as we shall describe later.
The paperless office is still a fantastic concept, and all enterprises should strive to minimize paper consumption in all divisions. At the very least, they should strive to decrease paper documents, transition to digital wherever possible, and achieve less paper office.
Let’s take a look at the most significant problems that businesses face when attempting to establish a digital presence.
1- Setting Unrealistic Paperless Office Strategy
We all know that failing to plan is planning to fail.
Before going to battle, you must plan to minimize the danger of losing it. The same approach should be used in any organizational endeavor, large or little.
Organizations should identify and develop a good paperless office strategy and work procedures that take into consideration many factors like as
- Quantity of documents
- How documents are generated, stored, secure, shared, and managed
- What technologies should be used, and how much money is needed?
- What abilities are required for paperless environment?
- How to handle Resistance (should be part of change managmemnt)
- Who are the most important workers to train?
- Who should be part of the implementation team
- And so on
2- Resistance To Change
We are resistant to change because of our human nature. When was the last time you stepped outside of your comfort zone?
People are accustomed to routines in their daily lives, and the same is true in companies. I’m not suggesting routine is bad, but we should strive to adapt in order to be in tune with the environment around us.
When organizations attempt to implement the paperless office idea, people whose occupations rely on paper documents will feel endangered.
This might be met with good change management and training, as well as getting them excited about the shift and how it would benefit them both professionally and personally.
3- Lack of Training
It is critical to design a training program to prepare employees for new procedures and to get input from them for future improvements.
Organizations that engage in educating their staff will pique their interest and allow them to expand their skill set.
4- IT Costs
Although paperless offices are less expensive, there are still certain operating costs to consider.
Scanning devices, as well as solutions for collecting, indexing, processing, and storing digital documents, may be required to set the ball rolling.
Before you go on your journey, the first budget should be determined and accepted.
5- Business Requirements
We have to face the fact, and I hate to admit it, but certain companies still need to rely on paper documents for particular document kinds.
Because not all counties and industries accept digital documents or digital signatures, these organizations should take a less paper office strategy in some cases.
Less paper in the office is still a significant advancement when compared to conducting business on paper documents. Begin with that, and when the time comes, it will be much easier to transition to a completely paperless environment.
6- Consumer Habits
Newer generations, particularly Generation Z and millennials, are accustomed to technology and doing things digitally.
However, not all generations are at ease with solely dealing with electronic files. Some customers, for example, still want to obtain a paper receipt for their purchases. This, believe it or not, provides them confidence in a successful purchase.
Consider the last time you used your credit card to pay for something. When you swipe your card or enter your pin code, the cashier will still give you a paper receipt confirming the transactions. While a simple SMS message or a push notification to your mobile app might also confirm it.
Another example is the practice of physically signing documents. This is a major show stopper since in order to obtain an approved signature, you must print the document, sign it, then scan it back into the system.
The majority of document formats accessible now enable legally digital or electronic signatures. Click on the link below to learn more about this topic.
This problem will fade away with time, but for the time being, we should prioritize our consumer base.
7- Incompetent Digital Solutions
Organizations should exercise caution when deciding which digital solutions to implement.
Organizations end up with solutions and technology that make their lives more difficult for a variety of reasons, such as a lack of funds or insufficient research.
As technology plays an essential part in converting to a paperless office, this is a make-or-break situation.
Make sure your digital solution can scale up or down based on usage; this will save you money in the beginning, and if you have successful implementations, you can scale up to cover more departments.
8- Lack Of Management Support
Management support is critical to the success of this project. Higher management should accept and encourage the use of digital documents, and reward departments who are currently ahead of the curve on this front.
It will not succeed if your immediate boss or supervisor still insists on doing paperwork in the traditional way.
How Do I Make My Office Paperless?
There are 7 actions you can do to start pushing the paperless office initiative in your organization.
- Begin scanning and digitizing paper documents. This is the beginning of the journey.
- Verify that you have a system capable of regulating the whole lifecycle of the digital documents.
- Prepare your employees for the changing ways of working. Dealing with digital documents differs from dealing with paper documents.
- Confirm that upper management completely supports this project. You don’t want to have to print documents again for approvals.
- Begin by minimizing the number of printing machines in your company. This strategy helped to reduce printer paper usage once again.
- Begin automating your document-centric operations, such as leave requests, document approval, and so on.
- Consider using a digital signature instead of a traditional wet signature.
Is Paperless Office Possible?
It is difficult to establish a completely paperless office, but it is possible. It is dependent on businesses’ readiness for a fully digital experience. Estonia and Dubai have claimed that their offices are completely paperless. Organizations have no excuse not to succeed if governments and capitals can.
If a company is unable to completely eliminate paper, they should strive to minimize and achieve what we call a “paper-light” workplace.
Why Paperless Office is Important?
Returning to the motivation for attaining the ambition of transitioning to a paperless workplace, we can certainly see the need for a paperless workspace.
“Is going paperless worth it?” I’m frequently asked. In a nutshell, YES IT IS. In fact, in current digital age, it has become necessary to operate using paperless ways. Going paperless provides your business with the agility and flexibility it requires to function more quickly and smoothly.
A completely paperless office may provide several benefits to enterprises, including lower operating expenses, increased productivity, improved security and compliance, speedier business processes, enhanced customer experience, and faster data access.
Let’s look at how a paperless workplace might benefit businesses.
1- Reduced Operational Costs
Documents that have been digitized are less expensive to store, manage, and delete. Furthermore, firms can automate procedures to attain the most efficient company operations possible.
The cost of printing and document searches will also be significantly lowered.
2- Increased Productivity
Employees will be able to find documents in seconds rather of spending 30% of their time hunting for maul documents.
Document collaboration is done electronically, with the option of automated versioning and locking to prevent overriding other modifications.
You may also save time by integrating applications. For example, by combining document management systems, invoicing, and customer relationship software, you may minimize task silos and maintain the seamless flow of information.
3- Improved Security and Compliance
It is in your best interest to secure your data. If you don’t, you risk losing business-critical data, which might jeopardize business continuity and client relationships.
With today’s technology, digital data can be safeguarded, reducing data breaches and papers getting into the wrong hands.
Physical paper might be a major liability for your business. Files containing sensitive information can be readily hacked, and documents can be misfiled, destroyed, or stolen. Your consumers’ confidence in you should be based on more than a secured file cabinet and shredder.
Furthermore, with automated document preservation and archival, you may achieve higher compliance with various norms and regulations.
4- Easy Access to Data
You must be able to conveniently access these documentations anytime you are in order to execute rapid actions and make smarter business judgments.
A digital office may assist in routing information to the correct person at the right moment, saving us a lot of time and helping management to respond to diverse situations as quickly as possible.
5- Automatic Document Retention
When working with digital documents, your business may automate the process of document retention, which most firms miss.
Document retention may help your business save a lot of money by ensuring that it is in compliance with various laws and regulations enforced by the industry or governments.
6- Digitizing Paper-Based Processes
Paper-based operations are associated with organizational inefficiencies, workplace bureaucracy, delays, and a lack of transparency.
When document workflows are automated, it improves your organization’s operations and allows you to complete more work in less time.
Check out this post for more information on document workflow.
6- Going Green
All organizations, regardless of industry, should work to enhance their sustainability and environmental impact.
Manufacturing paper products emits greenhouse gases, which contribute to deforestation and global warming.
Ink and toners include volatile components as well as non-renewable ingredients that are harmful to the environment.
Paper documents cost us a lot of trees, carbon emissions, and the total climate change effect.
Why Do Companies Still Use Paper?
Companies are still utilizing paper instead of becoming digital for a variety of reasons, including:
- They are still used to conducting business the traditional way.
- They work in an industry that still requires paper documents and wet signatures.
- Changing and innovating are not part of their mission.
- They just do not understand the significance of becoming digital.
In order to be agile, efficient, and competitive, businesses must switch to a digital business model.
The only way to truly understand your consumers, know how your products are doing, and gain insights into how your business operates is to employ one of your most valuable assets: information.
Taking care of your records will aid your organization’s future success.