The idea of paperless offices has been around since the early 80s, but the reality is that few businesses have fully adopted it. Since the early days of computers there has been a lot of speculation as to what the office of the future will look like. One of the main concepts is a paperless environment.
Going paperless has many benefits to businesses, much more than just saving the planet. Here are a few of the ways in which your business can benefit from a reduced reliance on paper-based documents.
With some high profile cases of paper records being obtained illegally, companies in recent years have been forced to take document security seriously. Sensitive information from credit card details through to government dossiers have been leaked causing mayhem and huge headlines!
Paper-based documents themselves are difficult to control, they are extremely easy to duplicate, photocopy or even photograph, there is often no way of tracking who has seen the documents. Digital systems unlike a paper-based document storage system allow for proper audit trails of who has accessed certain files and when they have done so. Version control is also a common feature of digital systems ensuring that if two people are viewing or editing a document they cannot overwrite each other's work.
Fire or flooding is another risk that can threaten paper-based archives, often destroying a company’s documents in the event of a disaster. Digital archives are easier to backup and protect against these threats.
Cloud-based document storage
With advancements in cloud-based technologies, storing your documents in ‘the cloud’ gives additional benefits, cloud-based archives are regularly backed up and are often ‘mirrored’ across numerous servers connected to the internet.
Cloud-based document storage also enables easy access from any location, for multiple employees and departments, meaning you can gain access to your data when you need it. All you need is a computer with a web browser, or mobile device.
Digital documentation can also be found quickly, using a keyword search function, enabling information to be found quickly at the touch of a button.
Save space in the office
Old paper-based filing cabinets are big and bulky, taking up huge amounts of floor space in your office. If you have an archive room full of these monstrous cabinets you may be surprised to know that on average 28 filing cabinets worth of paperwork can fit onto just one DVD. This will drastically reduce the physical space required to store your information.
Scanning old files in a paper-based archive is referred to as ‘back scanning’ and can be a long laborious process if you intend to do it yourself, thankfully there are document scanning companies who will take your archives and digitise them for you. Outsourcing this to a scanning bureau will save you a lot of time and money, leaving your staff free to do their jobs. The additional office space which has been created can be used in a much more efficient way, reducing the need to relocate should your company need to expand.
The green issue
For some people the motivation for going paperless is for environmental reasons. Less paper used equates to less trees being felled for the paper industry. The reality however is more business focused, companies are constantly facing pressure to improve efficiency or optimise business processes.
Improving efficiency and optimising business processes
Improving efficiency is one of the driving factors and incentives for businesses going paperless. If all documents were stored in digital format they are easier to locate (most digital document management systems provide a search and retrieve function), they are also much easier to distribute with colleagues via email or by being downloaded via the cloud. These two points equate to a faster more efficient working processes, which in turn will save businesses time and money.
So, why isn't everyone completely paperless? Well, for some businesses going fully paperless will be difficult. Some documents may be kept in paper format because it is easier or because it is a legal requirement. Until recently the UK driving license for example came in two parts, the photo card ID and the paper counterpart. From the 8th of June 2015 this was no longer the case, the UK Government have moved these to a digital based archive.
Payslips and other financial documents associated with staff wages are usually still paper-based. Tax returns and company accounts are also still commonly produced in paper form.
Contracts or agreements are often paper based as they require signatures, digital signatures aren’t always accepted and are sometimes seen as less authentic, The 2001 E-Sign Act was meant to ease the adoption of electronic signatures, yet the mechanics of what makes up an e-signature were left deliberately wide open, 14 years on and we still don’t have a 100 per cent fool proof way of trusting e-signatures.
Marketing companies will always use paper flyers in an attempt to grab your attention, commonly known as junk mail, the likelihood of them adopting a paperless environment is very slim, unless of course they adopted email to send out their flyer campaigns.
For some companies it is a case of old habits die hard some businesses and their customers have found it difficult to adapt and change to accommodate modern technologies.
The term ‘paperless office’ was first used in the early 1980s and over the 30-plus years since its inception there have been many leaps forward in turning the idea into reality. Cloud based technologies have made this even more realistic in recent years.
There are clearly huge benefits for businesses to move towards the paperless environment from saving money to making their processes more efficient, however there are still certain businesses that are struggling to adopt the methodology.
A mixture of paperwork and digitised records is now regarded as the norm for the majority of businesses in the UK. Indeed, the flexibility of digital records gives them a distinct advantage over paper ones.
Document scanning companies are able to guide companies through the transition of becoming paperless by offering a variety of digital scanning and digital document archiving services. All of which are intended to boost the productivity, efficiency and save valuable office space.