Do better business with less paper
Paper is everywhere. We hardly think about it, but businesses spend a lot of time and money moving paperwork around. Analysts have been predicting the arrival of the paperless office for more than two decades, yet more paper is produced every year.
It doesn't have to be this way. In almost all areas of business, it's now possible to get rid of paper entirely. Digital documents are simpler, easier to store and send, more searchable and more versatile than paper.
But many businesses have a long way to go before they become paperless. In this guide we'll look at the benefits of digital documents, and how you can reduce your paperwork to help you run your business more efficiently.
Why do we still use paper?
Before we look at the benefits of going paperless, it's worth understanding why paper is still so common.
Here are some of the reasons why businesses still use paper:
If the government tells you that you must keep paper records, you don't have much choice. But it doesn't happen often these days. Most government departments understand that digital documents are just as good.
If you're applying for a loan or selling your business, signed paperwork is often a necessity. But lawyers are increasingly going paperless, so this practice is dying out.
Permanence and convenience
Some paper documents have been around for centuries and can still be read today. By contrast, some computer records from 20 years ago can't be accessed at all. So for a long life, paper can still seem like a good choice. But digital storage methods are stabilising and improving. Formats like PDF and JPEG will outlast many of the businesses that use them.
The way it feels
People like the way paper feels (psychologists call this 'haptic perception') and the fact that it's a real, physical item. Sometimes information inside a computer or the cloud doesn't seem so real. But this is changing as people grow up with computers being part of their lives.
Paper is cheap and easy to distribute. However, that's only part of the story. Once you start paying for printers, toner, servicing, maintenance, connectivity, cabling, user support and all the other associated costs, paper starts to look more expensive. And that's before you consider the cost of document storage.
So at least some of the reasons why we still use paper are historical and personal – not logical.
The benefits of a paperless office
Going paperless is more beneficial than it might first appear. Here's what can happen when a business starts to cut back on paper.
Paperwork on desks and shelves is not only untidy, it's inefficient too. Organisation of digital files is simpler, and your office will look much neater. That will help you clear your mind and focus on your business.
Fast access to information
Your digital documents can be stored, retrieved, indexed and searched much faster than paper ones.
Simpler disaster recovery
An entire company's documents could be stored on a single laptop instead of rooms of shelving. If there's a fire or flood, recovery from a backup is much easier with digital storage than with paper.
You will save money on printing, postage and associated costs. You could even pay less rent – because you won't need all that space for your files.
Moving from an old office to a new one is much easier if you don't have to carry several filing cabinets with you.
It's environmentally friendly
Less printing means fewer trees cut down for pulp, and less energy used to make and transport paper.
Paper mail takes a day to arrive – if you're lucky. Emailed documents arrive within seconds. At a time when businesses need to move swiftly, getting rid of paper can give you a helpful burst of speed.
10 steps to a paperless office
Going paperless doesn't happen overnight, so you should plan your strategy for reducing paper use. Here are some steps to consider.
1. Find out what you print now
Even in a business it can be difficult to keep track of who's printing what, and when. Consider using print audit software so you can track where all the print jobs are coming from.
2. Calculate potential cost savings
Use quality accounting software to track all your print-related expenses. Include printers, ink or toner, paper, service contracts, storage and technical support. Deduct any revenues you receive from using paper, unless they would be matched by using digital documents instead. For example, printed newsletters might be replaced by emails, with no loss of sales revenue.
3. Move to online applications
Cloud-based applications let you share data easily with clients and suppliers. There's no need to worry about different file formats. So discuss some key applications with the companies you work with – see if they're willing to use the cloud too. Some useful cloud-based applications include:
- Google Docs to collaborate on documents
- Dropbox or Box to share files
- Basecamp for simple project management
- Evernote to take digital notes
- PayPal to transfer funds
The more areas of business you can move to the cloud, including accounts and payroll, the less you'll have to worry about technical support and file format issues.
4. Don't forget training
Work with your staff to ensure they can handle and process electronic documents, such as invoices.
5. Incentivise your employees
Give your staff a printing budget and reward them for printing fewer documents.
6. Scan any paperwork you receive from other people
Document scanners are reasonably cheap and can store paperwork in PDF format. If there's too much to handle, get a secure scanning company to do the work.
7. Sign documents digitally
Most countries now have laws that make electronically-signed contracts as legally valid as those signed with pen on paper.
8. Use online banking
Request paperless statements from banks and other financial institutions. If you're worried about missing anything, set up alerts in your accounting software to warn you in advance of when a bill is due. Pay your bills and your suppliers online.
9. Update your office
With less space being taken up with document storage, you can make your office a better place to work. Consider buying larger monitors, or a dual-monitor setup, so your staff can view more than one document at a time.
10. Phase out old technology
Some companies still send and receive faxes. But even here you can reduce paper use. Fax software lets you send and receive faxes as electronic documents – meaning less paperwork and lower costs.
Xerox: 18th Oct 2018 06:32:00