business man reading documents

8 Steps to Shred Your Paper Habit


Eight steps to help you go paperless.

Time: 10 minute read

Do you still rely on paper documents?

If you answer, “Yes, to some degree,” well, you’re not alone. More than 58% of U.S. businesses still rely on paper documents for critical business processes.[1]

With nearly half of employees working remotely 50% or more of the time, this can represent a challenge for efficient workflows and productivity. Paper documents stored in a file cabinet create delays:

  • Sales efforts can be impacted as slow answers reflect poorly on an organization.

  • Customer service delays frustrate customers.

  • Employee downtime balloons as they wait on the information needed to continue their work.

The reality behind paper documents lies in their usefulness. We continue to use them as they remain the best way to store and communicate data. While that might seem odd in an age dominated by mobile devices, cloud applications, and digital workflows, our use of paper reveals a very simple fact –

Much of our information remains siloed despite our best efforts.

If we desire to achieve truly mobile data and kick our paper habit, we need to break down these siloes and make it available across our business. 

To do this, we need to start with the following 8 basic steps. They’ll help you to understand why you still use paper and where opportunities may exist to kick that paper habit and create effective change.

1.    Know Your Paper Flow.

To understand your use of paper across the organization, within departments, and even at the employee level, ask these questions:

  • Does a lot of paper come into our office (ie., invoices, statements, etc.), or do we produce and send out a lot of paper?

  • How does paper move around the office? Is it used for communication between departments?

  • What documents do we file and store? 

  • Where do we store paper files?

  • How often do we retrieve documents from paper files?

  • What is the information and data on the documents that makes these documents important?

The answers to these questions will help you paint a picture of your overall document use and flow. As you ask these questions, you can always dig a little deeper into each answer by asking, “Why?” 

2.    Seek Input.

As you evaluate paper use, ask your employees for their thoughts. Many employees, especially those who live the paper-based processes every day, may have thoughts on how to reduce paper use. Many are also eager to go green and may be willing to lead the effort to create new processes that reduce or eliminate your reliance on paper.

Just like you know how best to help your customers, a solutions partner has the expertise to understand your paper use, the technologies available, and how they can be customized to your environment.

3.    Sort Out Paper Need vs. Legacy Process.

With a picture of paper flow through your organization, you are ready for the next step – sorting need from opportunity. Many paper workflows remain today not because we want to use paper, but rather, when those processes were developed, the technology available did not produce a substantial return on investment (ROI) to switch the workflow. 

Now, sometimes you need to keep hard copy records. If you do, you do. At the same time, the information in those records should not slow your sales and customer service response, or even your employees’ workday. 

Documents can be scanned and made accessible to the proper individuals (through access rights). Document management systems like DocuWare make this possible, as can workflows that use technology to digitize the information.

Admittedly, this step can become a roadblock for many organizations. You sat down with your team. You evaluated your paper use and determined where you need to use and store paper and where you could go paperless. Now you are faced with a question:

Does the technology exist that can meet our unique and specific needs?

As experts in your business’ core offering, you might not know the answer off the top of your head. To move forward, you have three options:

  1. Do nothing.

  2. 2) Search for technologies that might help (online, from a friend, etc.)

  3. 3) Find a solutions partner who can help you find the technology and solutions best suited for your business.

Of these three options, the third give you best speed, efficiency, and access to expert insight. Just like you know how best to help your customers, a solutions partner has the expertise to understand your paper use, the technologies available, and how they can be customized to your environment.

4.    Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals.

Once you have identified where your opportunities exist to reduce or eliminate paper workflows, you need to set goals for the opportunities you will pursue. Following the SMART (Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Time-bound) goal setting practice creates accountability and will help your team stay focused and moving forward.

5.    Encourage Paperless.

You can encourage paperless practices in a variety of ways:

  • Use email and instant messenger to communicate

  • Share and collaborate on PowerPoints, PDFs, and other document types via shared folders or content management systems

  • Implement easy-to-use on-ramps to convert paper documents into digital forms 

And of course, you and your project leaders need to lead by example and evangelize the benefits of the change. For ideas on going paperless, read “Going Paperless in 90 Days: A Step-by-Step Guide.”

6.    Implement a Solid Backup Strategy.

Digital documents have one big advantage over paper. If a paper document gets destroyed (fire, water, whatever reason), it’s lost. Digital documents can be backed up, replicated, and stored to ensure you can always retrieve them. 

The key, however, is that you need to have a solid backup strategy in place. You can go with a fully managed Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service. You might save to internal servers. Depending on your plan, external hard drives might work. Today, many businesses turn to cloud storage for electronic archiving. Secured data centers, encryption, and advances in cybersecurity make it simple and affordable to do regular cloud backups.

7.    Get Feedback.

As part of your move to paperless, remember to take time and get feedback from your employees. Following a defined change management process ensures you get feedback that can help you identify where opportunities exist to streamline the process.

Any change can face intense resistance. For ideas on how to create a frictionless effort, read our article “The 3 most common change management problems.”

8.    Take Baby Steps.

Changes to workflows go best when everyone works together. In some cases, an immediate, dramatic shift may create frustration among employees. This frustration coupled with learning a new process can disrupt productivity – the opposite of the reason you would go paperless.

Making small, measured changes encourages adoption faster and leads to a smooth transition. 

Make Paperless Positive

Paper may still have a place but in today’s digital workplace paper-based workflows may negatively impact both the customer and employee experience. 

- For customers, information and data stored on paper slow customer service response time. Companies who have digitized this information will have a competitive edge.

- For employees, using paper presents an even bigger challenge, especially with increased mobile and remote workforces. The time needed to scan and communicate paper documents impacts the speed of sales, customer service, and workday productivity. This can lead to frustration, discouragement, and disengagement.

In our experience, businesses that implement paperless workflows experience positive impacts on productivity, revenue, and profitability.

If you still rely on paper and think now may be a good time to audit your paper workflows and start the move toward paperless, contact us. Our team of experts will be glad to help you customize a solution to your unique business needs.

[1] Source: Information Mobility Study, IDC InfoBrief, July 2015

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