6 Steps to Enable the Paperless Office

    As IT becomes more important to business and our everyday lives, the impact of technology on the environment has also increased.

    The amount of electronic waste (e-Waste) is rising to the tune of 10% every year, reaching volumes of 65 million tonnes annually[1], and that’s before you consider the impact of plastic packaging. Meanwhile, the energy needed to power these systems and data centres are also rising.

    These challenges are being addressed through a combination of recycling programmes, sustainable packaging and renewable energy, but there is one issue that has yet to be addressed – our reliance on paper.

    The idea of a paperless office has been around since the 1970s as a utopian vision in which filing cabinets and manual bookkeeping would be replaced by machines.

    However, the widespread adoption of PCs, printers and photocopiers in offices in the intervening decades has resulted in the increased consumption of paper and ink. It’s ironic that in an era of ubiquitous connectivity and mobile computing in which virtually any activity can be done electronically, we still do so much on paper.

    Not only is this harmful to the environment, but it’s also remarkably inefficient. It’s why the National Health Service’s ‘Paperless 2020’ vision hopes not just to eliminate waste, but to improve the level of care it can offer patients through electronic records and digital services.

    If organisations are to gain the maximum benefits from Digital Transformation, then they need to minimise the use of paper in the workplace.

    6 Ways to Enable The Paperless Office

    1.    Adopt cloud infrastructure

    The cloud is the foundation for Digital Transformation, offering huge amounts of secure storage for data and files. Public cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure store files across multiple data centres, improving reliability, and allow applications to access data on virtually any device. What’s more, data retention policies can automatically retain or delete data depending on regulatory requirements.

    All of this results in lower paper consumption, more efficient archiving, and a reduced risk of a security breach than a paper-based system and a filing cabinet.

    2.   Enable cloud productivity services

    Cloud-based applications such as Microsoft Office 365 offers several features that help enable the paperless office. Employees can access files on any device and collaborate on documents in real time with colleagues. These capabilities reduce the need to print files to read on the train, or to share with colleagues in a meeting room.

    Office 365 applications also look to replicate the feeling of paper. For example, OneNote offers a virtual notebook, while Word allows for handwritten notes or annotations using a stylus.

    3.   Digitise documents

    Organisations should consider digitising existing corporate materials and uploading them to a smart workspace like Insight Digital WorkspaceTM. This eliminates the need to print off documentation and makes it easier to find relevant information more quickly.

    There are cost savings too. For example, an aircraft is required to carry an up-to-date manual on every flight. Airlines are now distributing tablets containing digital manuals, a process that not only saves on paper costs as manuals are automatically updated, but also reduces the weight of a plane, saving on fuel costs.

    4.   Use eSignatures

    One of the most common reasons given for printing off a document is because someone needs to provide a signature. This wastes paper and is a time-consuming process if the document needs to be sent via the post and returned. With eSignature technology, it’s possible to securely sign and return documents in the cloud.

    5.   Have an effective mobile management strategy

    Mobile devices make it easy to share documents around the office or with clients without the need to print off a physical copy. An effective Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) or Corporately Owned Personally Enabled (COPE) strategy encourages employees to use the technology without compromising security.

    Data stored on the device can be encrypted and remotely wiped, meaning a lost device isn’t as significant a data breach as leaving a paper document on a bus. And with GDPR requiring organisations to take every conceivable security measure, it could save an organisation money.

    6.   Change the workplace culture

    For these benefits to be realised, the workforce needs to participate. Of course, it is possible to track how often an employee uses a printer and how many documents they print, but it is more effective to convey the benefits of the paperless office and how it will make their lives easier.

    Above all, organisations should have systems in place that are easy to use. If technology isn’t easier to use than printing off a document or than existing manual filing systems, then people won’t use it.

    Why not read ‘A Guide To Digital Workspaces?’