Are You Ready to Start Decreasing Your Dependency on Paper?
With a majority of office workers working remotely, are you starting to rethink your reliance on paper? Maybe the silver lining for you in this COVID-19 situation is that you’ll move past your hesitancy and embrace a digital future.
Getting the rest of the office on board might take a little convincing. When you start the discussions, remind them of why digitized documents are better. Easier access tops the list. Digital searching —just type a name in a search field —is much faster than rifling through file cabinets. Saving space and the positive environmental impact of switching to a paperless office round out the reasons for transitioning to a digital world.
TRANSFORMING YOUR OFFICE
Forming a task force is a good first step. You’ll need help to assess where you are right now. You’ll receive other valuable input from the people who will be doing the upfront work now and maintaining the momentum later.
Determine where you are right now — How many paper documents do you need to convert? Knowing this helps you resource this effort. It may turn out that you’ll need to outsource all or some of the work.
Review/create a record-keeping policy — If you don’t already have a robust record-keeping policy, take the time to create one. It should provide a framework for assigning categories to documents as well as document the retention time periods. Those categories will also provide an online architecture for where certain documents need to be stored.
The record-keeping policy could also include documentation of who has what permissions to view and edit documents. Is it a confidential record that may be accessed only by the executive team? Or can all management levels access and use it? Plan to have plenty of discussions around the permissions topic. Multiple stakeholders will have different views of what access levels each document needs.
Determine who will do the upfront scanning and who will be responsible for that ongoing task — With an agreed-upon set of guidelines, now it’s time for the grunt work of this transformation. All those paper records will have to be digitized. You’ll need to decide if you want to do this in-house or contract out for this service.
Plan to Be Paperless — Update any procedure that might involve printing, especially reports. For example, change the instruction to say “Generate PDF of report and email to distribution list” instead of “Print and distribute report.”
Also, work with your vendors and others who may still be using hard copies. A quick win is to request electronic statements instead of paper from all your providers. For other documents, ask if they could be sent electronically. If they can’t, you’ll need to establish a workflow so that those documents get scanned and stored immediately.
CREATE A FAIL-SAFE
As you work with your team on the conversion, you may hear—or even have this thought yourself—“what if we make a mistake?” To reduce that risk, create a fail-safe. It will require effort, but it will also give you and your team that all-important peace of mind.
Organize your documents so that as they are scanned, the original is marked with whatever criteria works for you. Examples include scan date, document type, and record-retention criteria. Scan it, then mark the paper copy, and file it in a box. The goal is to have a set of boxes that you’ll store in your office if you have the room, or off-site. Just know that it is a relatively temporary move in the range of one to three months. Those months will give you time to hit the Undo button if you discover that a paper copy is required after all.
After reading this post, you might already feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry. The experts at Higher Information Group have helped other companies make the transition. The HIG team can help you manage any or all parts of the conversion, from scanning to storing to shredding old paper documents. Start the conversation today.
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