“We want to show our customers that we’re following an environmentally-friendly approach.” “There’s no more room for all the paper in our offices and we’re misplacing files all the time.” There are numerous reasons to go paperless. The question is where to begin. A paperless future may seem like a long ways away, but there are some concrete steps to start you down the path.
Step 1: Get Control of Your Paper Records
The first step to going paperless is taking control of your paper records. This means having full insight into your paper in inventory, what information they contain, what their retention policies are and executing on those policies accordingly. It also means understanding your organizations’ usage of these records, how often they are accessed, and streamlining delivery and storage costs.
Going paperless begins by removing the file cabinets and storage rooms that take up valuable office space. Having records in-house may seem comforting, but the truth is it is usually the least effective way to manage paper records. The cost of real-estate to store the records and the time it takes for someone to find the information they need far outweighs the benefits of in-house records management. Also, without a good records management system, this type of storage is also prone to lost and misfiled documents, effecting productivity and exposing your organization to compliance and legal issues.
An effective way of gaining control over paper records is to leverage a business records storage provider. By utilizing a storage provider, companies reduce the risk of loss and damage to vital records, ensure regulatory compliance, increase records retrieval efficiency, and protect confidentiality and security. All of this is accomplished while reducing the costs associated with records storage, retrieval and maintenance.
Step 2: Access Paper Records Digitally
The next step in the paperless chase is to enable virtual file delivery of your records in storage. This approach delivers your paper-based file collection as an image so that it is instantly accessible to authorized users. The best part is the cost model – by only requesting the files for Virtual File Delivery when the information is needed, you benefit from matching expenditures with immediate value. Large-scale back file conversions are sometimes needed, but should be the exception and not the norm, as they can be costly and time consuming.
In a Virtual File Delivery scenario, users search for the files to be retrieved from storage, and rather than request physical delivery, they ask for a digital copy. This allows for near immediate access to the document, eliminates the paper from coming into the company and reduces emissions since the number of van deliveries is reduced.
Step 3: Use Digital Documents as Part of Operations
Virtual File Delivery is the right approach for moving to paperless when only occasional access to files is needed. For more frequent access to information, the next step is to implement a Virtual File Room, which provides instant access to business-critical information through the Web. Similar to a physical file room, a Virtual File Room provides structured storage and retrieval of critical business documents. However, it also adds the extra benefits of quickly searching and retrieving documents based on keywords, providing backup and security, and utilizing collaboration tools, increasing efficiency throughout a business process.
When taking advantage of a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution, Virtual File Rooms are cost-efficient and eliminate the large up-front investments in infrastructure often needed to get a solution up and running. This approach enables you to outsource the “paper problem” while retaining control of the “business solution.”
The Virtual File Room makes it possible for departments or entire enterprises to quickly begin managing content to increase efficiency and free resources for higher value tasks that increase revenue and enhance customer service.
Step 4: Implement Imaging and Workflow Automation
The ultimate goal for a company going paperless is to implement an imaging and workflow solution. Organizations are able to convert paper into digital images, store them in a Web-enabled repository for rapid retrieval, route them using existing business rules, and extract data from them to enhance processing. This removes the paper from traditionally paper-intensive processes while streamlining workflows to improve productivity.
Going Paperless at Your Pace
The various departments within an organization have different records management requirements, and have different paperless initiatives. While every department and company cannot go paperless at the same time or pace, they can certainly remove paper by taking advantage of technology to make document management more accurate and efficient. That’s why it’s so important to find a provider that understands this challenge and provides a complete solution -one that can partner with you on your path to paperless, at your pace.