Paperless strategies can help businesses save time, money

Offices that use large quantities of paper for functions that can be completed digitally are compromising their own efficiency and throwing away money. Workflow can be improved by implementing comprehensive document management solutions that offer flexibility to employees.

Paper wastes time, and therefore money
Reliance on paper does not just render a company out-of-date - it can slow down simple processes, disrupt cash flow and generally hinder productivity. Think of it this way - if you need to send a document to a client, it takes a lot more time to either physically deliver the file via mail or scan it, fax it and have the recipient print it out. Cloud-based document management, on the other hand, can allow important docs to be sent and received instantaneously.

Cluttered desks - like this one - can become a thing of the past when effective document management solutions are deployed. Cluttered desks - like this one - can become a thing of the past when effective document management solutions are deployed.

The ability to collaborate on documents online should be enticing enough for businesses to consider making a transition, but this enhanced level of convenience has not yet become the standard in offices. TechTarget contributor Laurence Hart wrote that by constantly converting documents from one format to another - primarily, digital to print and then back - companies can actually create extra work that is non-essential. At this point in time, many documents that are created electronically do not remain digital for their entire lifespans, since workers often print them out to make edits.

Hart argued that, despite the continued prevalence of paper in many workplaces, much of the issue can be attributed to preference, rather than necessity. In theory, employees should be able to transition to digital platforms with few issues after undergoing appropriate training programs. Hart suggested some other measures that might decrease the desire for paper materials - reducing the number of printers in the office so that workers have to leave their desks to get print-outs and providing wide computer screens so that they can see text more clearly and become more engaged in their work. Sure, people may still want to print documents occasionally, but the author said that making information easier to retrieve digitally should reduce the total amount of printing in the office.

For paperless to take off, e-signatures must become widely accepted
Hart lamented that many organizations do not view digital signatures as valid due to concerns regarding legitimacy. He admitted that proving the identity of the person who "signed" an e-document is tricky.

However, this should not dissuade businesses from accepting an e-signature. Physical forms can be signed by imposters, as well, and yet this still remains the preferred way to ascertain consent for a transaction or contract. The sooner enterprises realize that signing a document electronically does not differ in nature from a pen-and-paper signature, the more quickly paperless offices will likely start to become the standard.

"Companies need to make use of appropriate tools and training for their employees."

Hart pointed out that widespread adaptation does not hinge primarily upon the technology - people have to become familiar with and receptive to the idea of completing most of their core work functions on a document management system. Companies also need to make use of appropriate tools and training for their employees, and management teams need to set an example by implementing software and requiring that workers use it.

The contemporary business climate demands efficiency and flexibility. These attributes are hard to achieve for those whose document collaboration processes are stuck in the 20th century. Productivity can be increased - and thus, profitability expanded - with the use of an effective and comprehensive document management solution.

Rather than putting off investment in such a system, companies should act sooner than later, or risk being left in the dust be their competitors.