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The Paperless Office in 2018 and Beyond

The concept of the Paperless Office first saw the light in 1975. By the early 90s, large software corporations such as Microsoft began introducing solutions that could implement this theory. However, productive, cost-effective, and streamlined paper-free work environments are yet to be seen in 2017. Some research even went as far as to say “the paperless office is unrealistic”.

Why the Paperless Office Needs to Happen

Despite most claims stating otherwise, enterprises need to push for achieving a paperless environment. Here are some reasons why.

Paper is Inefficient

The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year. Unfortunately, a considerable amount is discarded, wasting company resources. In fact, The Paperless Project states 45% of the paper printed in offices ends up trashed by the end of the day, amounting to trillion of sheets per year. Paper forms make up most of the paper trash despite costing organizations US$120 billion a year. The reason for this is they become outdated within three months.

Paper Takes Up a Lot of Space

On average, paper documents are copied 9-11 times. These require filing cabinets, each of which takes up 9 sq. ft. of floor space and holds only 10,000 to 12,000 documents. In addition to costing US$1,500 per year, file cabinets take up valuable space. Space is vital for today’s enterprises as it contributes to the creation of a safe, functional, and efficient workplace. In fact, industry leaders carry out space planning before moving into new offices to maximize the productivity of their workforce.

Paper is Costly (In More than One Way)

There are many costs associated with paper documents aside from printing, including:

  • Filing Costs – In addition to the cost of a filing cabinet, you need to factor in the cost of an additional employee. Research shows that every 12 cabinets require an additional set of hands to maintain.
  • Misfiling or Document Loss Costs – A misfiled document can cost US$125 whereas a lost one US$350 to US$700. Considering how organizations lose a document every 12 seconds, you are looking at possibly losing 300 documents per hour.
  • Circulation Costs – The costs of mailing documents depends on their size, the location of their recipient, and the urgency of their circulation. However, these can be too hefty for most organizations.

Paper is Slow and Easy to Steal

Paper documents circulated via mail require ample time, which is why information sharing can become very slow. There is also no guarantee that paper can reach its destination, especially if it contains valuable information which can benefit the competition. Documents can be intercepted during or after they’ve been mailed, or long before that by an employee at your own organization.

Is the Paperless Office Achievable?

The fact that the paperless office is a 30-year-old concept that is yet to be implemented makes this a frequently asked question. Realistically speaking, most organizations can’t go fully paperless any time soon. There are several reasons which prevent this, including the need to get “wet signatures” from clients and employees’ comfort level with printed documents.

This, however, doesn’t mean organizations should stop trying to reduce their reliance on paper. Instead of going paperless altogether, aim to make your enterprise paper-light in 2018.

The paper-light office is a good starting point towards becoming paperless. With the right level of time and commitment, you can easily get rid of 75% of the paper documents stored in your enterprise. Meanwhile, you can reap the benefits of the digital transformation, including:

  • Faster access to data
  • Enhanced employee productivity
  • Better decision making
  • Improved business responsiveness

Here are some valuable tips to help you create a paper-light environment in the upcoming year.

Have Everyone Commit to the Paper-Light Office

You need to ensure everyone is on board to ensure the success of this initiative. In addition to your organization’s senior management, you need to have influential staff members like supervisors ready to endorse and support this initiative. You will also need new policies, processes, and technologies to support this transition and ensure everyone is committed to its success.

Transform Paper Processes to Mobile Processes

Mobility is the Number One priority for enterprises today. This is because mobile devices have become the first go-to device for communications and content consumption according to Gartner. The research and advisory firm further predicts that half of all business-to-employee (B2E) apps will be created by business analysts using codeless tools. With these facts in mind, today’s enterprises are quickly mobilizing their processes.

To follow suit, here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Choose a Lead – While there will be several people involved, you should have someone take the lead on this project. Entrust the leader with setting goals and following through on them.
  2. Decide Which Processes to Transform First – Almost all business processes can be mobilized. However, limited resources (especially time and people) may delay the transformation. So, prioritize processes based on factors such as their current cost and how quickly they can be mobilized.
  3. Learn the Basics of Designing for Mobile – Designing mobile forms to be the exact replicas of paper forms will result in clunky, cluttered, and unattractive designs. With mobile first in mind, design forms using the mobile device’s features in mind. Read more about effective mobile form design here and here.
  4. Substitute Data Entry with Integrations – Plan to eliminate data entry from your current processes. Find out what integrations are possible with your mobile forms, and create the necessary connections to automatically send form data to back-end systems.
  5. Prepare Metrics to Track Your Success – Choose metrics to track your progress and understand how the change impacted your organization.

Optimize Your Current Record Management Process

Develop and implement a records retention schedule which incorporates best records management practices. Support it with policies to guide employees on what records should be retained and what should be destroyed.

Audit the Contents of Your File Cabinets

Once you establish a better record management process, review your existing collection of paper records. Here are some tips to effectively and safely get rid of unnecessary documents.

  • Shred duplicate records and documents that aren’t needed.
  • Ship inactive documents which are occasionally accessed to a secure off-site storage center.
  • Centralize file collections and merge decentralized libraries into a single library.
  • Implement an imaging and content management program.

Maintain Your Progress

After reducing the existing amount of paper documents, you need to establish a strategy which maintains your current progress until you achieve a paperless status. For example, include “implementing electronic filing systems” or “discouraging paper printing” in your strategy.

The Bottom Line

The paperless office isn’t an unrealistic dream; trying to achieve it in one go is. Therefore, start your journey towards freedom from paper with a paper-light environment. One aspect you can entrust us with is mobilizing your mobile forms. Using Makeen transform, you can design sophisticated mobile forms and run them in a secure app shell.

Find out how you can create your first set of enterprise mobile forms here.

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