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There are a lot of factors to consider when your company begins planning to cut paper from its business process. "How to go paperless?" And, "How to stay paperless?" are two critical questions that must be answered before jumping into the transition.
Take a look at the 5 steps below to help your business come up with a solid plan for: how to go paperless.
Step 1: Convert paper files to electronic format
In many cases, this is the big scary step that companies get caught up on. Sometimes businesses jump into the conversion process without fully thinking it through. Basically, you will be scanning all of your paper files into the computer to create electronic copies of them. There two important aspects to this step that will help you get the most out of your new paperless system. You want to:
Index documents with metadata properties
Metadata is information that is associated with your documents that can be used to identify them when they are stored in an electronic filing system. When you scan your documents to convert them to electronic format, you want to be sure you can add metadata properties to them for proper indexing. More on this is Step 2 below.
Automate the process
When you are digitizing years of documentation for a large department or an entire organization, you need to be sure you can automate much of the process. There are two main ways to do this. Optical Text Recognition (OCR) can be used to recognize information on a page as it is scanned and use it as indexing information. The drawback is that it is not very reliable. A better solution is to use Barcode Recognition. In this method, barcode cover sheets are inserted into the file as dividers that break the file into sections. For example, an HR file may have barcode cover sheets to divide the file into sections for Tax Forms, Performance Reviews, Benefits Information, etc. As you scan the entire file folder, the system recognizes the barcodes and will automatically index your documents based on the information they provide.
Step 2: Store electronic files in a secure, organized, accessible system
It's great to be able to automate the paper-to-electronic conversion process, but now what? You need to decide on where you want to store your documents based on: security, organization and accessibility.
You will need a networked system to allow for proper accessibility, but you don't need a dedicated IT team for this. Cloud-based filing systems have grown in leaps and bounds for the past decade and provide comparable - if not better security than in-house systems. Your filing system resides on the SaaS provider's server and is automatically backed up, updated and monitored for you. You simply connect to your online filing system using your web browser.
Organization leads to better efficiency. This is where the document indexing from step 1 comes in. Since you are required to index documents as they are added to the system, there is no need to worry about enforcing naming conventions - it is done for you automatically. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you go with a scan-to-cloud system that allows you to automated indexing as your documents are scanned directly into the filing system. All documents are filed by categories using their metadata properties so you can run a simple search to find them instead of thumbing through an entire file. For example, you can search for all W-2 forms for all active employees for the past 6 months to ensure you have up-to-date information.
You need to make sure your filing system is both highly accessible for those with authorization, and secure from those who don't. Make sure the system you decide on includes flexible document control features. These allow you to specify what types of documents are accessible by which groups of users. This also allows you to consolidate information that would normally require multiple separate filing locations. Now, you can simple use document control features to assign or restrict access.
Step 3: Stop producing paper through internal processes
Now that you have digitized all of your paper files, how do you stop producing paper in the first place? This challenge is different for every company, but we've found that there is always one area of business in particular that produces a ton of paper: agreements. Contracts, tax forms, legal documents - anything that needs to be completed, signed and delivered to someone - is usually printed, filled out and signed on paper. Now you can take care of all of that with an electronic signature provider like DocuSign. Forms and other documents can be completed and signed legally (and securely) online without the need to print a single piece of paper.
Step 4: Manage miscellaneous paper coming in to the company
Your company has gone paperless - congratulations! However, many of the companies that you do business with - vendors, clients, partners, etc - have not yet caught the paperless wave. How do you deal with the miscellaneous paper coming in from outside your company? Digitize it! Scan-to-cloud systems do not just provide value during the transition process, but also as time goes on. Use the same process to quickly digitize new paper files and then utilize the document management features of your filing system to collaborate, sign and share electronically.
Step 5: Ensure employees will adopt the paperless system
With any new technology, user adoption is always an issue. Luckily, using a paperless filing system does not have to be difficult. Be sure to choose a system that is easy to use and does not include a whole bunch of features that you don't need. Think about your paper workflow and make sure you can improve it - or at least duplicate it - electronically without a lot of fuss. Training time for your new system needs to be as short as possible. For example, first time users of DynaFile are usually able to fully utilize the system to their advantage after just 10-20 minutes.
DynaFile has been helping companies go paperless for over ten years. We know the pain points of making the jump to a paperless system and know how to help your business ease into it. Our scan-to-cloud filing system includes scanning automation features to convert your paper files fast, simple search for instant retrieval, online collaboration tools, integrated electronic signatures and much, much more. Contact us today for a free consultation and to learn more about going paperless with DynaFile.