by Lance Elicker
A common complaint I hear from companies we work with is, “I have too much paper, I need to get rid of it.” There are many reasons to want to get rid of paper: Lowering printing costs, being able to more easily find important information, not losing paper copies during a catastrophic event, and really a whole host of other reasons drive business owners to want to eliminate paper.
But if getting rid of paper is the key, why not just throw it away? Because the paper itself is not what is important; it’s the information that lies on the paper that is needed to run the company. So how do we eliminate paper and retain the information that is essential to keep your business running? This question is what causes most companies to do nothing. Why upset the applecart if everything is working?
Paper presents a lot of problems.
- Location, location, location – There is typically only one archived copy of any given document somewhere in your organization. So, the information on that sheet of paper, which is very valuable, is in one place ONLY.
- Security – Whether it is sitting on the printer where it was printed out, sitting on an employee’s desk, or in a file cabinet that most, if not all, have access to in your office, your information is at risk.
- Access – You can only get that information while you are in the office, in the correct location. If the paper or file is sitting on someone’s desk or filed incorrectly, forget finding it outside of the office. Even finding it inside the office may be troublesome.
- Version control – How do you know which version of the plans/proposal/or any other document that may have different versions is the latest or most correct? How will you see the changes that were made from one version to another?
- Backup – How do you recover something that is lost or destroyed?
- Duplicate entry – Usually the data on those pieces of paper is retyped several times into various systems.
So, does this mean you should go completely without paper? No. The idea of the paperless office has more to do with eliminating the dependency on a printout as the only means of accessing data, so by all means, print away. This does not mean, “Let’s just scan everything we have and shred that terrible paper.” There are some steps to take to achieve a successful “non-paper-dependent-office.”
- There are three different types of documentation to take into consideration:
- Legacy – Paper you already have in file cabinets and folders
- To Be Created – What types of documents will you be creating going forward?
- To Be Received – What types of documents will you be receiving from outside sources?
- What are the current processes for the documents mentioned above?
- How are they archived?
- Does the information on the documents need to be entered into a system?
- Who needs to approve documents/invoices/deals, etc.?
- Do you need to be compliant?
I have seen in so many “paperless systems” that are sitting on the shelf not being used. About 60 percent or so never reach the potential they were sold to attain. Next time you find yourself either selling/buying a system to go paperless, make sure you understand why. If you are simply replacing your paper process with an electronic process, is it really providing value to you or your customer? In my opinion, no. Real discovery is the key to provide real metrics and a scope around the project. Only then will you have a real project that will be successful for all parties involved.
Lance Elicker is national customer success manager for Ephesoft, a best in class advanced document classification and data extraction solution and document level analytics platform.