About 20 years ago, computer magazines were full of stories promising the paperless office of the computer. Like many predictions, this failed to take off. Back in the day, computer systems simply weren’t sophisticated enough to make document storage and retrieval quick and easy. Whilst many intranet and IT managers were loath to admit it, it really was easy to print something out and put it in a drawer.
Technology has moved on enormously since then and a huge number of innovations including live searching, cheap, offsite cloud storage and a massive increase in computer literacy among the general population mean that the time of the paperless office may have finally arrived.
However, like any intranet platform, it will only take off if your team truly buy into it. To help make sure that happens, here are our tips for putting a paperless office into place and making sure that it sticks.
Don’t put ridiculous rules in place
Totally banning paper will make people unhappy. Many people appreciate the ability to doodle in books or sketch out ideas before they write them up formally. Instead, it’s worth focusing on getting employees to document policies and procedures that aren’t written down anyway.
Many offices around the country grind to a halt every day simply because the one person who knows how to do something isn’t in or the document explaining a procedure is on a computer that nobody has access to. Getting things written down on the intranet and properly filed means that everyone who needs access to it will have access to it and you’ll no longer face this issue.
When you first roll-out your paperless office strategy, it’s worth putting in place a transition period that gives you time to get all of these strategies into place. People are busy and it takes time to get things onto (virtual) paper. If you set unrealistic expectations, employees won’t get behind the project and it’s much more likely to stumble.
Instead, wait for people to naturally buy into the idea as they see the advantages of it. The first time that someone sees that an important procedure is at their fingertips on the intranet is the moment when they’ll truly see what the advantage is.
Universal remote access to documents
One of the major advantages of a modern intranet system is that it allows people to securely access documents from outside of the office. Previously, many employees engaged in non-secure practices, such as emailing documents to themselves, taking company resources home on their own USB flash drive or printing things out and leaving them on trains.
Moving to paperless technology based on an intranet means that you’ll have total control over who has access to each document and how it is distributed. It can also help to avoid the inherent security risks that occur when documents are printed out and taken out of the office by employees.
A true digitisation project
If your company has been running for a significant period of time, then it’s likely that you still have a number of paper documents which you’ve never bothered to make digital copies of. It’s also likely that you’re familiar with the pain that occurs when you need a paper document and have no idea where it is.
Moving to a truly paperless office can help to resolve this problem. If you don’t have a feed scanner in the office then it could be worth renting one for a few days or weeks so that you can digitise the documents that you already have. Once you have created the digital copies, it’s worth taking time to ensure that you catalogue them properly.
There’s no point in creating a digital library if every file is called something like RI5VNF.pdf and you can’t find them when you go looking for them. Good organisation is key to an effective intranet powered paperless office and you can set a good example by using the best possible practice when you digitise your existing documents.
Keeping everything up to date
Finally, it’s important to make sure that any new staff members who join your company are fully aware of how your paperless office works. It’s easy for new members of the team to inadvertently introduce bad practice into the team that they’ve picked up at another company.
Before you know it, people will be printing and manually annotating documents together and your paperless office dream will start to stumble. Consider using e-learning or other mechanisms to regularly remind staff of your policies and how to take advantage of your intranet and paperless office concept to help them get their work done.