Many offices have the goal of achieving the paperless office. However, going paperless is a seriously intricate task, with many paths and solutions. Where do you start? What do you need?
As we have helped hundreds of clients start their paperless journey, we wanted to share the steps you need to take to move towards streamlined document management.
While we have numbered the steps for simplicity, you will want to keep all of these things in mind throughout the process.
Step 1: Outsource Your Document Scanning to a Trusted Partner
Converting the paper you already have into digital files must be one of your first steps. And the reason that we recommend it as the first step is because a seasoned document management and scanning company will be a great partner in helping you go paperless. Not only do they have the experience in scanning your files, but a good company will also be up to date on document management software and strategies.
- For more on choosing the right company for your business, check out our article: How to Choose a Document Scanning Company
Outsourcing your scanning allows you to immediately gain office space and/or stop paying monthly storage fees for boxes.
After selecting that scanning partner, they will work with you to determine the right document management strategy for your business. Once you understand proper scanning procedures, you and your document management partner can determine your future state. Is this something you would prefer to take in-house with your own scanners, continue to outsource, or take a blended approach?
Step 2: Transform Your Paper Forms into Digital Intake
While you’re having your current paper documents scanned, you’re also going to want to think about how to eliminate the creation of new paper documents.
Instead of printing and mailing, many documents can be delivered via email or secure share as PDF files. This is the easiest change to make as it requires only a simple process change.
Next, much of your paperwork can probably be converted to electronic forms. Consider building forms for processes that require a lot of paper but rarely change in content, like HR onboarding.
If your business works with outside vendors, or you are a public body that answers to citizens, you should build an online portal. With an online portal, your partners and customers can self-serve or use a form to make a request.
Step 3: Choose Your Document Management Software
You should be researching document management software along with your scanning and electronic forms. After all, you’ll need to know where you’re going to store electronic files, in what format, and how they can be accessed.
At first, a simple folder structure on a network or shared drive may be a sufficient archive. But as you work with active digital files, you will need more flexibility and features.
- For an in-depth look at document management, check out our article: Everything You Need to Know About Document Management
Document Management Solutions
You will need to determine what kind of system is best for your organization. For businesses that want to have complete control over their software and hardware, you’ll want to invest in an on-premises solution. This does require significant hardware and personnel to manage appropriately.
If you still want to have control over your software but don’t want to have the burden of physical hardware, consider a hosted content management solution. A cloud hosted solution allows for a third-party company (possibly your document management partner) to maintain and upgrade your content management.
For the latest updates and lowest maintenance, consider a cloud subscription. This software is a set monthly rate that doesn’t require an investment in software, hardware, or personnel. Like the hosted option, a cloud subscription means that you can access your files from anywhere. This is key for distributed teams, multiple offices, or remote workers.
There are many options and features with document management, which is why we recommend connecting with a document management expert. A good partner will be able to work with you to discuss immediate needs and how you’d like to grow, and then determine the best system for you. If you didn’t connect with a document management and scanning company in step one, this is the time to look for one.
Step 4: Take it to the Next Level with Automation
This step, unlike the first three, can be put off until later. But eventually, you will want to take full advantage of your electronic files and streamline your processes with automation. Workflow and robotic process automation can move files, process invoices, and eliminate repetitive tasks. They help your business run smarter and let your employee focus on better work.
Most document management software has automation options, either at the base level or for an additional cost. Make sure that you talk with your document management company or a consultant about your options and what kinds of process automation they recommend.
While you can’t change your company overnight, these steps will get you well on your way to achieving a paperless, efficient office. Make your plan, find a good partner, research your options, and make gradual changes.
This post is part of the Datamation Guide to Document Scanning.