Many professionals have given up on the war against paper. It’s true that we’ve spent too many years talking about paperless offices as they continue to be an elusive goal. Perhaps the best strategy is to go little by little, changing small things which allow our knowledge workers to carry out their digital work in a progressive manner:
- Take the concept of the paperless office to every level. Analyze where the documents are coming from or how the process could be done directly in a digital format. Don’t look at your business as a place (or places) with well-established physical boundaries: think that your business is anywhere where someone is working (such as your sales team or your distribution facility.)
- Carry out a conceptual definition of what your principal document types are and the information in them that interests you. What typically happens is that, for one document type (invoices, for example) you’re working with different metadata in each sub-type. With invoices, for example, you’re managing different data with each provider, although, theoretically, those invoices should all contain the same metadata. This makes it much more difficult for document imaging projects and data extraction, and, probably, that’ll reduce the amount of time for confirming information you won’t use after.
- Identify key processes where you can start. Don’t start out by trying to do everything at once. In a perfect world, we’d be working with paper documents today and not see one shred of paper in our facilities tomorrow. Start with those processes that give you a hard ROI: the ones where you’ll see tangible results, not just feelings or benefits that are hard to quantify when it comes to risk reduction. Gaining improvements in response time, for example, is a quantifiable benefit which can work wonders selling the idea throughout many departments.
- Clear, explicit policies. What should be printed? Up to how many copies? Establishing limits on documents, creating a storage plan (a list of documents that must be stored in paper format and the ones that can be stored digitally, how they’re going to be stored, etc.) These policies should involve the buy-in of the people who are to be in charge of making sure the policies are followed, as well as making all staff aware of the policies.