How-To Guide for Transitioning from Paper to Digital

Word on the street is that paper is out and digital is in. “Going paperless” has been an item on the to-do lists of businesses for multiple years now, so why hasn’t everyone checked this box off their list yet? Many have heard of the benefits of going paperless, from increased productivity to decreased costs, and as much as they think they could reap these benefits, they feel stuck in their old ways and aren’t sure how to get out.

Paper is familiar; people have been doing business with it forever and they’re comfortable with it. The problem is: paper is also expensive, time-consuming, and wasteful. It’s 2017 and it’s time to go digital. To help get you started in the process of transitioning from paper to digital and finally cross it off your to-do list, this post provides you with a step-by-step implementation guide:

1. Envision the future of your company without paper

Think about which processes in your business rely on paper.

  • What are the steps of these processes?
  • How would they be carried out if paper was no longer used?
  • Who would you need to teach about these changes?

There are different ways a company could transfer its paper processes to a digital format and it is important to think of the ways that would most increase functionality for your specific industry. Would your business need online storage spaces, collaboration platforms, or tablets that let employees work on the go? For example, medical professionals in a paperless environment could replace hard-copy medical charts for smart tablets that would store all patient information and be easily transportable from one patient’s check-up to the next.

Another profession, for example, an architecture firm, may need creative design workspaces that allow multiple users to create and edit files simultaneously. You have to consider each part of how your business functions in order to understand the best ways to digitize your processes and maximize the benefits of going paperless.

2. Make a plan that includes everyone

One of the most important parts of making this major transition is getting your workers involved and onboard. No one likes changing time-tested procedures, so it is crucial that you establish a paperless environment attitude by conveying the benefits they would experience and getting everyone’s input on how they wish to see the transition go. Including employees from different departments will give you greater insight on the tools they need to be successful in their jobs. What does your marketing team need to do their jobs effectively? What does your legal team needs to function? Your plan should include which kind of documents will be digitized, which will be tossed, and when the process is going to begin going forward. By planning out the process, the transition from paper to digital run much smoother.

3. Pick your tools

After considering the needs of different players in your company, you can begin to consider the appropriate means to go digital. Once you’ve emptied out those file cabinets, where do you see your documents being held? Depending on preference or amount of data storage your company requires, you can opt for an external hard drive or a cloud storage system to upload and store your documents. Cloud systems are popular choices for businesses due to their unlimited storage space, organization capabilities, and 24/7 accessibility.

Once storage is covered, consider which other tools will further meet your business’ needs once you’ve gone digital. How will you disseminate internal documents to employees, share documents with clients, and automate other paper processes? For teams requiring collaboration or meetings that need everyone looking at the same information, platforms like Google Docs are great for allowing multiple users to create, view, and edit files in real time. Paying bills and sending out invoices no longer rely on old-fashioned snail mail, but can be completed efficiently online.

Depending on your industry, much of your business’ paper consumption comes from things like contracts. Industries such as real estate or law often require countless signatures and back-and-forth negotiations. Technologies like e-signature apps are perfect ways to eliminate the cumbersome paper processes that weigh down business deals. Mapping out the tools that are right for your company will ensure a seamless transition to digital that covers all your needs.

4. Implement ideas

Now is the time to put your planning into action, and up first is the digitization of old files. To digitize existing documents, you’ll use a scanner to upload them onto your computer (exciting stuff, right?). This process may be tiresome and mundane, but it will be worth it once all of your files are neatly stored and can be easily retrieved with the click of a button. Then, begin implementation of your other tools for new documents. Train employees to use new automated systems and encourage them to do as much as they can digitally. You can set an implementation deadline, such as a week or 30 days, as a goal for the business to fully adopt going paperless. Because paper has been a part of employees’ daily lives for years, it can take time for them to become fully comfortable using new techniques to get their jobs done. Be patient and be prepared to help them with any hiccups along the way.

Implementing a paperless business model in a traditionally paper-filled world can be tough. The planning and research alone can seem too tiresome to try, however, the benefits of transitioning from paper to digital fully outweigh the time and cost of implementation. Cross it off your to-do list and see how going paperless will change your business for the better.