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Is a Paperless Office Possible?

For the past 30 years the idea of the “paperless office” has been merely a pipe-dream, but is it actually a realistic possibility? After many technological advancements in the field of document management, we’re still not that close to the paperless office that we were promised all those years ago.

We are living in a time when almost every employee has access to a computer or a mobile device with image quality that is indistinguishable from that of printed media, so it’s strange that more isn’t being done to reduce paper usage.

Going paperless has many benefits for an organisation: reduced clutter, faster access to information, simpler disaster recovery, reduced costs, more environmentally friendly, and faster communication.

But going paperless won’t just happen overnight; a planned strategy needs to be put in place for reducing paper use and converting current documents to digital formats.

What are you printing now?

It can be extremely difficult to keep track of who is printing what, where and when, especially in larger organisations. Print audit software can be used to track where prints are being done, who is printing them and how they are being produced – this allows you to identify if what is being printed is really necessary.

How much are you spending?

Accounting software can be used to track all of your organisation’s print-related costs, including print machines, toner, servicing, maintenance, archiving, storage and all other associated costs. Using this you will be able to see how much benefit you would get if you chose to adopt a ‘paperless office’ scheme.

Would it be feasible to go digital?

There are many web-based applications that can be used to share data between an organisation and its clients via the cloud. Cloud-based applications to use might include:

  • Google Docs (document sharing and collaborating)
  • Dropbox (file sharing)
  • Trello (project management)
  • Evernote (digital note taking)
  • PayPal (fund transferal)

So will you go paperless?

Well it could be done very quickly for some organisations if they dramatically cut down on all paperwork immediately. That would mean an instant shift to the cloud for all business operations, clamping down on office printing, and transferring and storing all documents electronically. But it would make more sense to focus on one area or department at a time, and using that process to better prepare you as more departments are made paperless.

It is important to note that documents should be kept secure using encryption and regular backups should be taken as, while electronic documents are easier to store than paper, they are easier to delete. Furthermore, a paperless office should be seen as an end goal to work towards and it may be incredibly difficult or even impossible to eliminate all paper.

Aside from the cost savings, going paperless (or as paperless as possible) gives more flexibility to an organisation as it can be operated from anywhere and resources will always be available. Organisations should start small and take whatever steps they can to reduce paper use.