The Streamlined Office gets a lot of phone calls for help to reduce paper clutter. Most people have the same three questions when it comes to their paper filing systems (or lack thereof) and how they can use technology to eliminate paper clutter and create a more efficient digital filing system.
Often, the first question is whether to transition to a paperless office in the first place. What are the pro’s and con’s?
First, I think it warrants saying that, to date, there is really no such thing as a completely paper FREE environment. The goal is a paper LESS environment. Paperless and paper-free are not synonymous. With that said, the obvious advantage of a paperless environment is decreasing the physical clutter that is created by filing cabinets and storing paper in and around the office. There is also the potential to save money on the cost and resources required to generate the paper as well as other paper related supplies like toner, postage, or filing supplies. Documents that are available in a digital format are more likely to be available in multiple locations. This creates increased ease of access, and arguably, productivity (see discussion below regarding cloud based storage). As the use of OCR technology advances, digital files are easier to locate using SEARCH functionality thereby minimizing the time drain many executives and employees spend searching for information contained on paper.
The disadvantages of a paperless office can include the constantly changing electronic environment and the need to keep electronic data in a format that is accessible with the most current technology. Converting paper information to a digital format requires expense in the form of scanning hardware and personnel time to complete the process. Depending on the amount of paper, it might be worthwhile to consider implementing a digital system moving forward and to slowly eliminate archived paper over time according to established record retention schedule.
The second question is how do I convert my paper information into an electronic format?
The market is flooded with scanners and scanning devices to help you make the transition from paper to electronic documents. Look carefully and consider that many of the scanning devices have proprietary software that create a unique filing system for your documents. Do you like this or would you prefer to integrate your scanned documents into a system that already resides on your computer platform of choice? Depending on the volume and type of documents that you intend to scan, consider some of the following; How many images per minute (IPM) can the scanner handle? Is it capable of scanning documents that vary in size? How does the scanner manage double sided documents? Does it have a flatbed or automatic feed? If this seems a little overwhelming, PC Magazine completed a review and summarized The 10 Best Scanners of 2016.
Next month, I will tackle the third big question: Now that I have my information stored electroncially, how can I keep my information safe?
In summary, there are a few things to consider when it comes to improving your office organization through converting a paper to a digital file system. Clarify your reasoning for going paperless, obtain a scanning device that will meet your needs and then upload your documents into a secure environment. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact The Streamlined Office. We offer process solutions for small business and individuals and can help you create a custom solution to decrease your paper clutter and go paperless!