How to Go Paperless at Work


This no-nonsense article will help you understand the steps you need to take to go paperless, the tools that can assist you with your digital transformation, and best practices for getting started at your organization today. Going paperless is now affordable, IT integrations are simpler, and teaching employees the software is easier than ever.

What does going paperless mean?

Going paperless is the process of converting businesses processes that rely heavily on paper to digital documents and automated workflows.

A combination of products and services can help you go paperless including:

  • Scanning: The first step to going paperless is to consider whether you need to convert your existing paper documents to digital working files for online access. Scanning services can be provided in bulk to digitize all your company's paper records. Or, if the chances of a document ever needing to be accessed are slim, documents can be scanned as needed. The latter is called "on-demand scanning".
  • Storage: For legal and compliance reasons, you may need to store paper documents for a number of years. Storing your documents in an on-site fille room is an option. Many companies choose to work with an off-site storage facility to ensure the safety and compliance of important records. Paper storage facilities also offer the ability to access important documents on-demand, saving your staff the hassle of locating documents.  
  • Software: Paperless software is available on-site, in the cloud, or as a combination. Modern software allows businesses to store their documents securely in a single digital repository. Out-of-the-box integrations with the software systems you already use - like CRM and ERP - make many document management software options easy to implement with minimal IT investment.


What are the steps to go paperless in the office?

Any time you’re implementing a new business process there will be speed bumps  While every organization is different, here are the steps a typical organization would take to go paperless:  

  1. Identify the documents that are useful within your organization: What are the documents you use every day to complete your business tasks? Examples would be invoices, work orders, HR records, leases, etc  Add these documents to a list and obtain an example of each.
  2. Determine the origin of these documents: Where do these documents come from? Are they sourced internally or externally? Are the documents mailed? Emailed? Are they automatically generated? Determining the origin is important, because in a paperless system, the documents will be intercepted at the point of entry into the business and converted into digital files.
  3. Identify high volume documents: Documents that are part of a repeated record series can be standardized. Barcodes or tracking is usually added to assist with routing, indexing, and storage automation.
  4. Identify incoming records: Determine ways to intercept the incoming documents outlined above so they can be inserted into digital work processes. Whether through mail, fax, or email, you should build a strategy to manage incoming records.
  5. Manage incoming records: Whether you work with a professional scanning organization, or hire a full-time document management specialist to scan your incoming records, you should assign the interception and digitization of your records to someone. 
  6. Add the digital records to a general repository: Your digital repository should be secure and compliant. At the same time, it should allow you to index, access, store, and destroy records according your compliance and business processes. There are several document management solutions available, including cloud, on-premises, or hybrid versions. 
  7. Make electronic document management (EDM) best practices part of everyone’s job: Your employees should demonstrate proficiency with your new electronic document management system. They should understand how to access, upload, edit, and route documents. And they should know who to alert if something seems out of place.
  8. Seek help: Consulting with a professional records management company can help make sure you get everything right the first time.

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Why thoughtful document indexing makes accessing documents easy

Chances are, when you search for a document you’re looking to obtain a specific piece of information. That’s where indexing comes in.

Document indexing is the process of assigning categories to repeated information so that it can be stored by that category and searched for at a later time.

Common document indexes are:

  • Document type
  • Document number
  • Client name
  • Date of birth
  • Company name
  • Date of last order

Anything that your company references on a regular basis and is included across multiple documents is a good candidate to be indexed. As part of going paperless, you will determine which pieces of information should be indexed.

Once a document is scanned or digitally copied to your repository, the mandatory indexes you’ve assigned for each document type should be added. This ensures you’re able to locate documents using index searches at any time in the future.  

Learn more about indexing best practices here.

What are the biggest challenges when going paperless?

You can ensure a smooth paperless journey by addressing these common digital transformation challenges before you begin. Here are the top seven obstacles to going paperless:

  1. Organizational concerns: From choosing a person to lead the change, to determining a budget, getting leadership on board with a paperless initiative can be difficult. Organizations can improve buy in by assigning leadership to a C-suite executive or other trustworthy individual.
  2. The IT Department: The IT department is tasked with ensuring the security of the organization’s information. With limited budget and labor, IT can be resistant to a big process change. However, document management in the cloud has taken a lot of pressure off IT.
  3. Usability: The system you choose needs to be easy to implement, easy to use and maintain, and integrate seamlessly with the systems you’re already using. Training administrators on the ins-and-outs can help avoid speed bumps.
  4. Adoption: Every organization has employees who like to do things their way -- or the “old” way. That’s why change management can be so hard. However, proper training and communicating the value-add for employees can improve adoption and accountability.
  5. Process Holes: Every once in a while, a new or existing process won’t make its way into the document management system. As a result, productivity, compliance, and return on investment can take a big hit. Instead of uprooting every process, start with the most logical department for your company. Finance and Human Resources are obvious candidates to embrace a digital transformation and act as digital advocates for the rest of the organization.
  6. Procrastination: There is never going to be a perfect time to implement a process change. But instead of delaying the inevitable, start off small and grow from there.
  7. Trying to Implement Everything Yourself: Without proper diligence and planning, your paperless initiatives can be a compliance nightmare. Get things done right the first time by working with an experienced paperless professional.

Going paperless is one of the best ways to streamline your department or business and stay ahead of the competition. Going paperless enables you to answer customer inquiries faster, allows your employees to work remotely, and reduces your risk of compliance errors and costly mistakes. 

Taking your paper processes digital used to require an enormous amount of IT investment and created numerous process headaches and change management nightmares. But now, advanced technology means you can have thousands of paper documents scanned in just hours, and implement your internal workflows with just a few clicks.

With so many software options available, it can be difficult to make the best choice for your business. Contact us today if you need help getting started on your paperless journey. 

Read More: Paper Records vs. Electronic Records

What are the benefits of going paperless?

The benefits of going paperless are boundless. Not only does embracing a paperless-mindset help you remain competitive in the digital age, but you can make the most of your physical and human resources. By going paperless you improve:

  • Accountability - A majority of business processes are driven by documents. Lost or damaged documents don’t just cost you time and money, they can ruin your reputation and accountability to your customers. Automated digital workflows can ensure the successful approval and handling of documents - and alert you to potential bottlenecks or missing information. Management can then observe weaknesses and make adjustments to the process in real-time.
  • Labor Savings - Going paperless may be an up-front investment in time, but very quickly reduces the amount of touches and clerical chores that are done each day. An enormous amount of repetitive, manual task work disappears entirely with Electronic Records Management. Tasks like filing, stapling, collating, taking trips to the copy machine, routing, and manual data entry are no longer necessary. This frees employees up to focus on the important aspects of their jobs and drive innovation for the business.
  • Auditability - Digital records are easy to manage and audit. Each employee is given appropriate permission settings. And digital time-stamping enables you to know who saw what, when, and what changes were made. With digital indexing, you can retrieve any document with just a few clicks. Not to mention, you can automate your organization's destruction of documents to meet changing compliance standards.
  • Document Sharing - Documents can be shared in real-time with other departments, customers, management, and auditors in just seconds.

Are you looking sell your business one day? Going paperless improves transparency and ease throughout the sales cycle. Learn more here.

What departments and organizations benefit most from going paperless?

While going paperless positively impacts the entire business, here are the departments and organizations that have become pillars in embracing digital transformation and paperless processes:

  • Finance: Invoice routing, approvals, management and compliance are easy when they are scanned and managed in a software that syncs seamlessly with the ERP and CRM you’re already using.
  • Human Resources: Easily manage the entire employee lifecycle when government forms, resumes, job offers, and 1-on-1 meeting notes are stored securely on any digital device.
  • Customer Service: Enable your customer success team by giving them instant access to important customer documents including purchase orders, order history, service records, contact details, tickets, and more.
  • Sales: The more information you have on hand - the better. Make sure your sales team can access important sales records at any time -- in real time.
  • Law Firms: Stop tedious trips to your file cabinet when you can access contracts, court records, and client files time with paperless storage.
  • Medical Offices: Store prescription orders, medical history, X-rays, all while maintaining HIPAA compliance in a digital repository.
  • Startups: Most startups are met with similar challenges: their staff have several responsibilities and limited time to complete them. Going paperless from the beginning allows startups to save on storage costs, employee labor, and provide documentation efficiently to investors and buyers.
  • Any Business or Department that Relies Heavilly on Paper: From real estate to car dealerships to universities, any organization that feels frustrated by the overwhelming amount of paper records can benefit from a digital transformation. 

Embrace your digital transformation

Embracing a digital transformation can seem overwhelming. However, taking your processes paperless is now affordable, IT integrations are simpler, and teaching employees the software is easier than ever.

From out-of-the-box software solutions to on-demand scanning services, organizations are able to streamline processes and reduce the use of paper in a matter of months - or even weeks. Contact us to find out if now is the time for your organization to go paperless.


What makes us different?

Whether you’re just starting out on your digital transformation, or are looking to streamline existing processes, Data Storage has been helping companies like yours optimize document management processes for more than 40 years.

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