Is a paperless office right for you?

Before jumping on the paperless bandwagon, you might want to think through the process and determine if this change is the change you need. Our sister site, BusinessZone, took a look at the benefits and costs of implementing a paperless office.

The concept of the paperless office is great in theory, but perfection is difficult to achieve. Anticipated high initial costs and complicated operational and process changes might make going paperless seem unattainable and are probably enough to put most firms off. Don't hesitate to start by converting to a semi-paperless office instead.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Ability to access client data within seconds improving service and efficiency.
  • Less physical storage required.
  • Automated systems and processes resulting in reduced time and increased profits on assignments.
  • Firmwide procedures and policies forcing departments to work consistently.
  • Remote working made easier.
  • Clearer workspaces have had a pleasing effect on staff motivation and productivity.
  • Environmental benefits.

Below are ten factors that are important to consider when contemplating upgrading to a semi/fully paperless system:

  1. Plan, plan, plan. It will take time so do not rush your project.
  2. Gain the commitment of the entire office. Change really does have to come from the top down.
  3. Training. This is key to implementation. All staff should be provided with both practical and procedure training.
  4. Thoroughly test systems prior to going live.
  5. Implement in stages. People cope more effectively with slow, gradual change.
  6. Review business processes. Going paperless requires a tough and honest self-appraisal of how your office works and equally importantly where it doesn't.
  7. Ensure that your IT department is on board and do not underestimate their role in switching to a paperless system.
  8. Technology investment will aid your transition. If you are going to rely on your computers to save your important data, do you really want to rely on your run down server?
  9. Stay flexible and well informed. If it does not work on the first attempt, do not give up. Prepare to be constantly assessing, criticizing, and building on your system.
  10. Don't expect immediate success. Plan to spend the first year planning, testing, and implementing; the second year ironing out kinks and perfecting the systems.

Alexia Whitley, senior audit manager at London-based chartered accountants, Wilder Coe, provided the information in this article from her firm's actual experiences with going paperless.

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