What to Do When Paper Files Overwhelm Your Office
If you've ever spent time hunting through stacks of paper for a specific invoice or searching through paper files for a letter that you received last year, then you know the frustration that paper-based filing systems can bring. Despite the prevalence of electronic documents, the fact is that paper is still a major part of the workflow in many organizations.
While some consumers and customers may opt-in for paperless statements and on-line payment options, there are many who still prefer receiving paper notices via snail-mail, and for whom paper is the only option. Moreover there are some documents, such as deeds and contracts that require signatures with must at least originate in paper form, with the originals filed for safe-keeping. For this reason, even though you may wish for a paperless office, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to go fully paperless for quite a while.
So, why not find a better way to handle the paper that you have to deal with?
Many companies find that even though eliminating paper completely is an unrealistic goal, focusing on handling less paper is not only doable, but it is well worth the effort. For instance, the time savings involved in an electronic search versus a paper search for a specific document can be substantial. See the short video below for an example of one way that you can search electronically when using an electronic document management system.
Maybe you think that the process of going paperless is nearly as overwhelming searching through paper files. Often people prefer staying with a process that’s familiar, even though it’s not efficient, and they justify the decision by saying that they “just don’t have the time” to make a change. Not only that, but there are the costs of new equipment and software to consider, as well as that of converting paper records into electronic files. And there are decisions about how to make the move and when, how much existing paper to convert, how to handle paper that continues to flow in from vendors and customers, how to get employees onboard with the idea and trained in new systems, and how to simply keep doing business as usual during the conversion.
We agree! It’s a tough change, if you you’ve never done it before. But, the arguments for tossing the piles of paper are strong. By eliminating paper in file cabinets, for example, a company can create more room and reduce off-site storage costs. By exchanging information electronically with vendors and customers, a business can make information quickly accessible -- and conversely more private and secure through the use of encryption, redundancy, passwords and other security measures. For some businesses -- like those in the healthcare industry, which are governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act (HIPAA) -- paperless records haves become a regulatory requirement.
As we said above, going from paper-bound processes to electronic processes can be tough if you’ve never done it before. That’s why we recommend getting pointers from experts before you start the project. Whether you decide to do it all yourself, or outsource to a “paperless expert” learning everything you can before you commit to any new process is well worth the effort!