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Paperless office solutions extend far beyond scanning

Creating a paperless office has been a strategic goal for companies for some time. But a myopic focus on scanning prevents it from becoming a reality.

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The paper scanning industry is a multibillion-dollar business. Each year, organizations hunker down in a conference room to identify strategies. Creating a paperless office has been on that list for at least a decade. But organizations just don't have the resources to launch a scanning initiative. Making matters more complicated, there are so many choices in the marketplace for scanners and software. It's no surprise, then, year after year organizations decide to throw creating a paperless office on the back burner.

According to a November 2014 AIIM survey, despite the fact that 44% of responding companies said that paper is decreasing in their organizations, 21% said it's increasing.

So, it's no wonder that creating a paperless office is still a pipe dream for most organizations.

But it doesn't have to be. Perhaps the problem lies with the concept of paper-document scanning. This article will go on to outline five things organizations can do right now to create a paperless office without scanning a single document. 

Deal with inbound content

The average employee now sends or receives 121 emails per day, according to the Radicati Group Inc., based in Palo Alto, Calif. The majority of these messages contain attachments of crucial transactional documents. We need to stop printing emails and sending them to the Records Department for processing. It's counterproductive and unnecessary. A simple rule of thumb: if the document is created electronically, it should be saved electronically. Instead of printing an email and its attachments, save the document directly to an electronic repository.

Get rid of printers

If organizations want to achieve total paperless office success, they must eliminate printers. There's no way around it. The typical office worker prints 10,000 pages per year at an average annual cost of $725. Are you kidding me? No one has to do that kind of printing.

Furthermore, a recent survey by Gartner Inc. found that 90% of organizations don't know how many printers they have scattered around the office. If your organization is in that category, the time is now to conduct that much needed inventory. The results might surprise you.

The reality of having no printers in the office may be a bit farfetched. However, if employees can't click the print button, think about how much less paper organizations would have.

Purchase electronic signature software

Many countries all over the world, including the U.S. and Canada, have passed legislation -- ESIGN Act and Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, among others -- permitting the legal use of electronic signatures in court. Therefore, it's still mind-boggling that the majority of organizations still print and sign a document, only to rescan the document back into the electronic repository. That process is both counterproductive and makes no sense; it de-digitizes electronic material and makes the paperless office harder to achieve.

Gone are the days of printing documents simply to execute them with your John Hancock. The only thing left to do is to embrace the change and realize the benefits.

The market for electronic signature software is maturing and comes in at a reasonable price point. Organizations can purchase this software and sign related transactional documents with a click of the mouse. Business deals can be executed in minutes, rather than days or weeks. Gone are the days of printing documents simply to execute them with your John Hancock. The only thing left to do is to embrace the change and realize the benefits.

Give employees two computer monitors

Provide employees a second computer monitor, so they don't need to print to reference documents or perform document comparisons. Numerous studies indicate that having two monitors in an office setting can increase productivity by 20% to 50%. If that's the case, spending $100 per monitor seems like a no-brainer.

Train employees

The single most important thing companies can do to reduce paper is create an ongoing training program for employees. All the things discussed up to this point won't ever be possible without properly training employees. It's not enough to train at the beginning, and then expect ongoing success. Employees are human beings. They will forget and need to be reminded over and over again.

When it comes to decreasing reliance on printed matter, it's crystal clear that paperless office solutions aren't the only answer. There are several other options to explore. Perhaps the journey to a paperless office doesn't have to be put on the back burner after all. 

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This was last published in September 2015

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Is your company considering paperless office solutions or tactics to increase efficiency?
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Great tips to save paper in the workplace. Probably the most effective would be "get rid of printers" but there may be a productivity decline while employees figure out how to deal with the new normal.
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