Address the chaos, Part 1: 5 ways to drain your sea of paper

File folders in office

Your organization is drowning in a sea of paper. The concept of a paperless office is not new to you, but the paper just keeps piling up. Although work may have become more electronic over the years, paper just does not seem to be going away.

You are not alone.

Only 17 percent of organizations work in paper-free offices, according to AIIM’s 2015 Paper Free Progress report published late last year. Another 31 percent admit their offices are piled high with paper documents and paper processes. Further, 40 percent still use paper for filing “important stuff.”

But we all know, paper slows processes and there is always a risk of loss – whether in transport or in damage to physical storage locations from events like floods or fires. And, as highlighted in the AIIM findings, that paper many times holds the “important stuff.”

It is critical you digitize that “important stuff” before you lose it. Not just for better, electronic storage, but also for faster processing and better accessibility for those who need it.

So here are 5 ways to digitize and free up the space used for physical paper storage:

1. Central Scanning Operation

Set up a central scanning operation where resources are set aside to scan bulk sets of documents. My recommendation is to make sure this scanning process happens as immediately as possible after you receive documents, such as having them scanned in directly in the mailroom. That way, you eliminate the risk of paper right up front and you limit the number of file cabinets needed to keep on-site paper for accessibility. You can also leverage this same central scanning operation for paper already in physical storage to help clear out space taken up by filing cabinets.

2. Remote Scanning Operation

The business world is “going global” and your organization might be following suit. Whether it’s a few regional facilities or many facilities around the world, it’s important that if paper is received at a remote or satellite facility, it is digitized and made accessible as soon as possible. You can either devote staff to another large-scale scanning operation at these other facilities or simply buy the hardware to give staff the ability to digitize paper as-needed at those locations.

3. Employee On-Demand Scanning

As individual employees receive mail or complete documents, educate them on how (and why) to quickly scan in documents to your electronic document storage – whether a network directory or enterprise content management (ECM) system. And invest in desktop scanners or departmental MFPs to help make sure that they can quickly scan in their documents and get back to doing their job (instead of spending their time walking documents back and forth to central storage or a central scanning operation).

4. Front-of-Office Scanning

I would almost call this “3b,” because front-of-office scanning is also about empowering staff. Instead of having staff at front-of-office customer-facing locations, such as a registration desk, copying paperwork and carting it over to a central storage location or scanning operation, make sure to give them the ability right at that desk to digitize incoming completed paperwork.

5. Outsource Document Scanning

Do some of these seem a little overwhelming for you? Are you sure you have the resources to deal with incoming documents, but are not able to dedicate the resources to tackle the paper already taking over your office in file cabinets? Look for a third-party provider that can take care of the scanning operation for you to help you get closer to that paperless office, faster.

All of this comes back to one thing: Paper will still be an obstacle to overcome until you take the steps to overcome it. And, in today’s world, this takes some analysis – into why paper still exists in your operations and, for those places where it just isn’t going away, how many different routes it takes into your organization and how to digitize it the minute you receive it.

I venture a guess that once you solve your paper problem, though this is only the beginning of improving process efficiencies across your organization, you will immediately see some very tangible results – in cost savings, in space savings and in “reputation savings” as you improve the way you serve those you serve.

Coming up next in the series, look for advice on using electronic forms, taking control of electronic content, using mobile solutions and automating data capture from all this content to improve processes across your enterprise.

Jaclyn Inglis Clark

Jaclyn Inglis Clark

Over the last few years working at Hyland, creator of OnBase, Jaclyn has definitely started to drink the Kool Aid – day and night enthusiastically discussing the wonderful benefits of... read more about: Jaclyn Inglis Clark