I always want to stay ahead of the game. My business depends on it. If I don’t use the most modern methods my up to date competitors steal away my business. The idea of a paperless office was one I chased for a long time. I implemented new policies but they never lasted long.
I felt I wasn’t running my business effectively if I couldn’t get this right. But I was actually just running without all the facts. A paperless office is a noble idea, but not an overnight process. And if you get it wrong you can destroy your entire company.
Here’s what I learnt. Perhaps it will help you make fewer mistakes than I did.
1- Yes It Will Save You Money
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A frugal business is why many people think this is an ideal business option. Thanks to software, networks, apps and other technology you don’t really need paper in these departments:
- Accounting: Your invoicing can be done online.
- Administration: Agendas and notes can be taken on mobile devices & sent out via email.
- Management: Job orders can be distributed on a network instead of printed out.
2- No, You Can’t Go Completely Paper Free
My policies quickly showed their mistakes because it’s simply not possible to go entirely paper free. Your business partners, clients and suppliers may not be ready for this new approach. If they still need a printed copy of a document, what are you going to do?
Certain machines companies use are designed to work with paper. It’s not a wise—or necessary—move to rid yourself of all paper. Items such as credit card machines are still made to supply printed proof of transactions. How will your business survive if you simply remove these machines from your procedures?
3- Yes, You Can Save the Environment
Environmentalists promote this idea because it will mean less trees need to be cut down to support business functioning. But recycling paper does not turn your company into a paperless office! And it doesn’t even save trees. Even printing a few less pages won’t have an effect. It calls for drastic measures. Does your business subscribe to magazines? Try and find online versions instead.
4- No, Paperless Isn’t Always Better
Listening to the benefits of going paperless it’s easy to forget about the downside. There’s a reason society loves paper so much:
- Reading something from paper usually results in you remembering more of the page’s content than when reading it from a screen or monitor. This means entities such as schools should never completely rid themselves of paper.
- People are more creative working on pieces of paper with tangible writing instruments in their hands than simply working on computers or watching others write on white boards. Yes, I know there are apps that simulate writing on paper. But you’re assuming everyone in your business has access to them. Alternatively you have to provide these resources. Can you afford it?
- Imagine you’re without electricity. Imagine office equipment is destroyed by a storm or burglars. Now you can’t function. Unless you still use paper as a backup option.
I learnt it’s about a balance between two methods. And sometimes paper’s benefits still come out on top.
5- Yes, You Will Save Time
I will agree you save a lot of time going digital.
I love having our company’s client information, payment processes and management software on a communal hub. My workers can work anywhere and access necessary information. I don’t have to wait for them to get to the office and neither does my clients. I think this is my favorite feature of being less reliant on the filed papers I used to keep in my office.
6- No, a Paperless Office Isn’t Risk Free
Note that I wrote ‘less reliant’ in my statement above. I will never fully trust digital processes. It’s a myth that you’ll cancel all business risks simply because you’re not using paper. What about:
- Cyber hacking that places all my information at the mercy of criminals
- Hard drives that break or age
- Online payment fraud
Digital options add more risks even though I love that my only security measure isn’t a safe in the office anymore. Digital methods require many policies to keep information safe on and off site. This occasionally asks for time consuming updates and audits of security procedures.
Can you see you won’t have an overnight successful process, but a new way of doing business that still requires constant attention?
7- Yes, It Can Improve Sales
Your improved sales can make up for the time you occasionally use up. I saw an increase in sales the moment I used more digital methods:
- Online payments mean clients can pay anytime and anywhere. This resulted in less late payments.
- More accurate accounting because I cut out opportunities for human error.
- Improved communication to customers. I didn’t have to wait until someone’s at the office to fax a form.
For me this was enough motivation to keep trying and finding a workable solution.
8- No, it won’t Be Easy
The most important lesson was that I have to be realistic about timelines. It was a while before my employees realized the benefits. And without them believing in its worth they carried on using paper methods.
The software that saved me time and money first had to be implemented & taught. When I expected employees to change overnight I wasted more time and money than I saved.
It also took time before all my documents were captured in digital format. Prepare yourself for an interim period of work and adjustment.
The Bottom Line:
I was wrong in thinking it was a quick solution. This is not the same as installing an upgrade on your Smartphone. A paperless office is beneficial but caution and practical timelines are essential. You, your employees and your clients need a balance between the new & old approaches. When everyone’s comfortable in the new vehicle you’ll have a smooth ride.