Going Paperless Makes Sense and Saves Cents
“Going paperless.” These two words cause anxiety in the business world because they mean change, and most people cling to the status quo like a dog’s grip on a bone. Many believe using paper makes processes and systems more organized, and companies that use physical documents are resistant to changing “the way it’s always been.”
The truth is, as a key process improvement for your business, going paperless makes sense and saves cents. In today’s environment, there’s more pressure than ever to optimize efficiency and transparency. Going paperless does both. Eliminating physical paper also has an immediate bottom-line impact with a reduction of costs and an increase in productivity.
Over the years, Fahrenheit has helped many clients plan for and navigate impactful process improvements, including going paperless, often through the application of business process automation technology. To go paperless, where do we start? The first step is ensuring clients have a clear understanding of the benefits of going paperless. The second is helping clients support a successful transition by initiating change management techniques. In this article, we’ll take a look at both steps.
STEP 1: THE 7 KEY BENEFITS OF GOING PAPERLESS
Whether you’re running a start-up or an established business, there are distinct advantages to going paperless as part of a strategic approach to process improvement for your business. Even if total elimination is not feasible, reducing paper results in cost savings and valuable increases in efficiency and transparency as well as mission-critical improvements in security, collaboration, and service.
Here are the 7 key benefits of going paperless
1.) Cost Savings
Going paperless saves on costs related to paper — paper, printers, printer maintenance and supplies, folders and cabinets, waste management, and document management expenses like shredding. Physical space, once used for paper storage, can be repurposed or released. And, finally, the residual benefit of reducing paper usage is a boost in employee efficiency, empowering your team to spend more time on value-add work.
2.) Organization, Access, & Response
Manually organizing paper is time consuming, and slow response times are a no-no in this digital age of rapid service expectations. Even with the best processes — and the best intentions — documents go missing. Paperless files eliminate human error. The files are always in the same place for easy access and quick reference. Plus, employees can retrieve files anytime and from anywhere, which has become a front-and-center issue in today’s hybrid and remote environments. This is a key benefit of business process automation, which you can read more about in our blog “Big Benefits of Business Process Automation.”
Paper documents and filing are roadblocks to efficiency and effectiveness. What if Employee A needs a document that was left on Employee B’s desk? What if only one employee understands the company filing system? What if the employee who manages certain documents is out sick? When your team doesn’t have access to the information they need, it spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e. Going paperless solves these inefficiencies, ensuring employees can be productive and collaborate using the documents they need when they need them.
4.) Disaster Recovery & Backups
When disaster strikes, going paperless gives you peace of mind. Paper is vulnerable to fires, floods, tornadoes, and other disasters. Years of information and intellectual property can disappear in a flash. Creating and storing paper backups is expensive and time-consuming, while going paperless offers technology that quickly protects valuable information, even as documents get updated or changed. Paperless systems create digital copies, manage archiving, and initiate scheduled backups. Cloud solutions can even protect your information from localized disasters and disruption.
5.) Data Security
Physical paper can be a liability for your organization. It can be difficult to track who has a document, and even more difficult to control access. Paper can be lost, destroyed, or stolen. Sensitive documents can be compromised. Going paperless reduces risks by providing a higher level of security — to protect you and your customers. With encryption and banking-level security, individuals are granted only the access they require based on their responsibilities. Cloud-based technology can offer more protections and meet most regulatory requirements. The added benefit: Going paperless can streamline audit and compliance processes.
6.) Reduced Carbon Footprint
Sustainability is increasingly more important — to your partners, vendors, suppliers, employees, investors, and customers. Paper contributes to deforestation, air pollution, and waste issues. Beyond paper, ink and ink cartridges are harmful to the environment. Going paperless demonstrates your company is serious about reducing its carbon footprint. ESG issues — environmental, social, and governance issues — are at the forefront of business today, and going paperless is one way to address the environmental aspect.
7.) Service Improvement
When your employees have ready access to documents they need, they can quickly provide accurate answers to requests, whether those requests come from inside or outside the company. Going paperless improves response times and increases confidence and clarity — all essential to providing the high level of service your company aspires to deliver every day.
STEP 2: INITIATING CHANGE MANAGEMENT
Now that we’ve outlined the key benefits of going paperless, let’s talk about how to implement it by initiating change management techniques, because every process improvement will require change.
Communication is essential to any successful change. Going paperless is no different. When developing a change management plan, aim for full transparency. Communicate fully with all employees, so everyone understands the benefits and goals. Make sure to cover all the bases: what, when, how, and why. Eliminate the surprise factor. Address concerns. Set expectations. Clear, honest communication increases buy-in and will make the implementation process easier overall.
Once you’ve set the stage, start small. Determine where going paperless can have the most impact. Make the transition intentionally by following a plan. A great place to start is with applications already deployed in your company, like replacing paper note-taking with applications like Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, or Google Keep. Or use cloud-sharing and instant messaging applications to reduce printed memos and documents with Slack, MS Teams, Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft SharePoint, or Google Drive.
A next step would be adding something new, like securing electronic signatures on legal documents and agreements with Adobe or DocuSign, which track changes and signatures quickly and accurately.
On the equipment side, consider dual monitors to make working simpler — having more visual space to review digital documents reduces the need to print. If your business still requires faxes, for HIPAA compliance for example, consider an online fax provider like eFax or RingCentral Fax that sends the document directly to a computer, tablet, or mobile device.
Of course, you can always enlist the guidance and support of an experienced consultant, like the Fahrenheit team, to assess your business needs and help you go paperless — whether you’re starting small or striving for a 100 percent paperless environment.
As with any change, preparation is the key to success. You’ll need systems to support going paperless. You’ll need a change management plan. You’ll need training. You may need the help of a consultant. While going paperless will provide cost savings among its many benefits, the transition is an investment of time and money — but as a process improvement, going paperless makes sense and saves cents in the long run, delivering improved efficiency, transparency, and accuracy for your business.
To find out how we can help you implement process improvements to impact your business, including going paperless, contact us today. Our team of seasoned, C-level executives and consultants is here to accelerate your progress and help you find the straightest path forward.
About the Author
Kim Moore is a self-motivated, self-reliant, quickly adaptive individual with over fifteen years of experience in project management and operations within the public sector, financial services industry, and nonprofits. Her strengths include being a trusted advisor, using coaching and mentoring, design thinking, and strategy development, with a strong attention to detail, exceptional communication skills, and process improvement in an IT environment.