First things first, what is a paperless office exactly? A paperless office, also called a paper-free office, is a work environment which uses minimal physical paper and instead uses primarily digital documents. A paperless employee is a worker who has eliminated or greatly reduced the use of paper in the workplace. The process of converting paper files into electronic files is known as digitization.
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin transitioned to a paperless office, prompting savings estimated at over a million dollars. And, they began hearing rave reviews from customers in response to a better, broader range of services. Meanwhile, commissioners gained access to records on their tablets.
“Given the advantages of a paperless office, why is society not yet there?” —Paul C. Newman, CIO at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) (retired), asked this and more in a report he authored describing the process his organization took in going paperless. It’s called Creating a Paperless Public Utility Commission: The Wisconsin Experience.
He advises, be strategic from the first step. It’s a good idea to have someone on your team who’s always asking why. “Why do we do it that way? Can we stop doing that? Is there another, better way to do it, especially in an electronic world?”.
At PSCW, decisions made early in the process proved instrumental to the success of the project. For instance, they decided the electronic version of the document would be the official version. They decided not to capture old documents, but to start from where they were and, moving forward, to look for more and more ways to replace physical processes with electronic ones. They decided the new system would not involve scanning, to remove any temptation for team members to fall back on paper-dependent processes. They decided to examine existing business processes at every step of the way, creatively re-engineering them as needed. They decided to let some things go: eliminating steps when possible, getting rid of unnecessary documents, replacing physical signatures with electronic ones, etc. And, they decided to resist the impulse to reincorporate paper – as tempting as it often was.
Key to the success was to plan a realistic time-frame. Implementation takes time. The good news is, you don’t have to tackle everything at once. Newman suggests breaking the project into logical steps: “Pick a component or sub-process where you can get the biggest ‘bang for the buck’ and prove to your staff that going paperless is not only possible, but an easier way to get their work done. Achieve the buy-in that you will need to take the next, more difficult steps. Rinse and repeat.”
Don’t underestimate the power of the familiar
”It’s important, Newman said, to find those team-members who “can embrace change,” who “keep pushing and teaching those around them.” He recommended selecting “as many staff as you can,” ideally with “representation from every business unit,” to participate in the planning. Their familiarity and support later in the process helped keep the project moving forward.
A paperless office with document management
Going paperless offers benefits well beyond just the environmental advantage of not consuming paper. There are cost savings and significant efficiency gains. In a paperless world, documents are searchable and instantly retrievable. Document processes like reviews and approvals can be automated. Request a Document Management Software demo and speak to a Specialist to see how the process works and how it can help your Business succeed.
With all those scanned documents, you’ve no doubt got a folder in which they end up. But keeping them in that same folder on your computer isn’t making the most of having a digital version of your bills, contracts, receipts, and other pulp-based documents. Pair your documents with software solutions because organizing your documents using tags or a smarter file naming system will make it easier to find what you’re looking for and easily keep track of what you digitize and what you can get rid of.
How does your company manage your documents and files? Have you gone paperless yet? If so, how is it working for you, we'd love to hear!