Going paperless may seem like a daunting task. If you’ve got 10, 15, or 20 years of data filed away within your business or sitting at an off-site storage facility, the thought of getting all of that data onto your computer may be just the thing that’s keeping you from doing so. However, the longer you put off the inevitable (and it is inevitable), the harder the switch will be. Here are 10 tips to help you through the process:
- Pick a go-live date. Don’t try and get all of your historical data scanned and think you’ll go paperless once it’s all caught up. It will never happen. Just pick a date and decide that from this point forward everything will be electronic. The first of the year is often a good time to do this. Don’t worry about getting historical data electronic.
- Prior to the go-live date, develop your processes for paperless operations. What will be the flow of information? Who will be responsible for the new electronic filing?
- Determine how you will name files. You should set a consistent naming convention for different types of files/documents. Everyone should know the convention and everyone should use the conventions.
- Determine where you will file documents? Don’t let everyone set up their own folders or save documents wherever they please. Determine a file structure, use in conjunction with your naming conventions, and insist that everyone save documents in the same manner.
- Set a process for archival. At what point will documents be stored off-line? This may be follow the same process as your schedule for storing paper documents off-site.
- Analyze your need for new or upgraded software and systems. Just as your office may have been running out of space for more files, your technology may not have the required space for electronic filing.
- Re-evaluate processes and systems. As with any new business process, what you put in place, may not work exactly as you thought or may not produce the results you were looking for. Pick a time within the first 3 to 6 months to re-evaluate your processes as a team and determine if updates need to be made.
- After you are up and running, determine any historical documents that would be helpful to have electronically, such as leases, loan documents, business licenses, etc. Scan those files and get them stored in your new electronic cabinet before you move all of your paper files to off-site storage.
- Work on setting up processes to “work” electronically, in addition to filing electronically. If it starts out electronic and the work is completed electronically, there will be less work to get it into your electronic filing system.
- Be flexible. You may find that what you start with is not what you will end up with. You may not be able to implement the software you want right away, but don’t let that stop you from getting started. Just set up a system that will allow you flexibility to adapt to greater efficiencies as you are able to expand your paperless systems and processes.
Going paperless may seem like too much work, or unnecessary. But, in a technology-driven world, your business will soon fall well behind your competitors if you do not gain the efficiencies that a paperless work environment will create.