How to go Paperless: Are you Ready to Take the Next Step?
Moving to a paperless office is not a new concept. It has been written about for years; organizations have studied it, discussed it, reviewed it in committees, and even made commitments to implement it, but something is holding them back. CASNET has worked with organizations for decades that have faced the same challenges that you have when trying to move to a paperless environment.
The purpose of this blog is to help you understand how to move forward toward a paperless office and overcome some of your organization’s fear of change. We will also walk through the process of justifying the required investment.
This proven methodology will take you from the planning stage to the implementation of a successful solution. Once you have determined that moving to a digital information management solution will benefit your organization, the following steps will help you assure that you realize your goal.
Rule 1: Connect with a Proven Partner
Do not go into it alone. Work with a partner that understands both document management and your industry. When you involve the partner from the planning stage through implementation and support stages, you will decrease the cost and implementation timeline related to the project. You will also increase the probability of success for the system.
Rule 2: Think beyond Scanning
Organizations receive information in so many different forms today; via email, fax, CD, jump drive, paper, data file, etc. There are effective ways to ingest and share these “documents” without ever printing them. In fact, most of these documents can be configured to automatically upload into your Enterprise Information Management (EIM) system, providing instant access with minimal intervention.
Rule 3: Utilize electronic forms
Think of some of the paper forms your organization is using today. Think of the time it takes to print, fill them out and then key this data. Now imagine if they were digital forms that were automatically routed to their next step in the process once they were filled out. That the data entered could be transferred to other related systems in an efficient way. Think that this is impossible since some of your users do not have access to a computer? There are tools to deal with this situation. They could use a kiosk or use a publicly accessible website to complete the form.
Rule 4: Give users the access they need (or are permitted)
EIM systems have built in tools that enable you to give users the appropriate access. There are specific users with rights to specific access and actions. In many of these solutions audit trails are available for every activity that takes place. Through these systems you can mitigate the risk of a document falling into the wrong hands. You can also prove that it did not with the audit features.
Rule 5: Consider the Flow of your Work
Leveraging a professional approach to Business Process Reengineering can expose the gaps in your current process and identify changes that will reduce the effort required through improving work flows, forms and approval processes. Workflow tools can automatically route documents for approval, highlight where they are getting stuck in the process and dramatically reduce the time that it takes to access the supporting documentation.
Rule 6: Decide which documents are actually necessary
Review and understand your organization’s Records Retention Policy and if you do not need to maintain a document to support operations or meet legal requirements, then do not keep it. It is a simple rule, but not always the easiest rule to abide by. We tend to hold on to things in case we need them or because it is easier to do nothing (and keep them). With an EIM system you can set up a retention policy on each document type and automatically or semi-automatically delete documents that are no longer required. This eliminates that cost for storing unneeded documents and keeps them from ever getting stored and forgotten in paper form.
Rule 7: Consider letting a partner do the conversion for you
Which information do you need in the new system? How will you convert the paper to digital format? In reviewing the paper files that you plan to convert into digital format, determine the cost to outsource this specialized activity before deciding to try to scan them yourself. First, consider the equipment, labor and management time required to do this large one-time task. Now, add in the specialized skills and processes required to effectively convert these documents and ensure that you get a quality result. Once the real effort is quantified, it usually becomes clear that it makes more sense to leave it to the professionals.
Rule 8: Do not expand too fast too quickly
Use a “crawl, walk, run” mentality. This means start simply and build upon the initial success. Select a group that supports the change from paper to digital and work with them first. If you not sure where to start, work with your partner to identify a department or group with low risk and high reward. Once that group has adopted and speaks highly of the system, it is easier to get those around them to buy in to the change. This approach works with the leadership team too. Moving from Accounts Receivable to Accounts Payable and then to Human Resources is much easier than trying to bring everyone on board in one massive implementation.
Rule 9: Make sure you understand the Return on Investment
When considering the investment, do not look solely at cost, but compare the one-time investment your organization is making against the long term financial benefits in order to determine if the investment makes sense. For example $250,000 may seem like a lot of money, but what if you saved $1,000,000 in the first year because of that investment? This is why it is important to know that costs and the benefits when making these decisions. Work with your partner to help identify both aspects of the proposed project and provide a quantified Return on Investment (ROI) for your project. If the ROI is not there, then why commit to the project?
CASNET has been working with organizations for the past two decades to improve their business processes to create a cost efficient and effective way to access and handle records while complying with the organization’s Record Retention Policies. To learn more about how you can move to a paperless office, contact CASNET at 330-848-8800 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.