The debate of whether businesses should fully initiate a switch to a paperless environment has been around for quite some time. However, it has seen some major advancements in the recent times due to the adverse and unpredictable forced transformations caused by the arrival of COVID-19.
With the forced transfer of corporate office structure into an abrupt yet environment-friendly solution of Work-from-Home, numerous industries are forced to reconsider the significance of having corporate spaces when WFH setups have been performing just as well, too.
Furthermore, businesses are being taught to devise and implement intelligent business transformation strategies that can help them combat COVID-19 and survive this unpredictable situation.
Going paperless used to be a choice. It was considered to be a noble thing that was only environment-friendly, for the most part. However, the continuance of WFH has displayed that by bypassing the redundant and basic manual documentation regulations, businesses have been doing just fine, if not well.
It has helped them become more agile and accelerate their communications due to ease in accessibility of information in the form of digital forms and documentation and the additive advantage of utilizing the information on-the-go. Not to forget the significant reduction in rental costs and other office-related expenditure.
Today we will be discussing the pros and cons of going paperless and how businesses can initiate this much-needed transformation.
Pros of Going Paperless
Reduction in Carbon Footprint
In the last 40 years, the use of paper has risen by 400% worldwide. This increased amount of usage has a direct effect on the trees and their advantages towards the environment. With the increase in deforestation, much of which is done to manufacture paper products, the environment is suffering a massive setback.
Therefore, a company’s plan to go paperless serves as an implicit form of help in aiding the natural wildlife processes for the benefit of the environment. This ethical business decision will also help boost the reputation of the business in the long run – as customers are increasingly supporting businesses that are going green.
Cloud Access of Documents On-the-Go
It has been an established fact for quite a while that manual annotation and documentation of official documents is the most authentic and trusted medium of verifying documents. Although this process is still feasible and sustainable for small businesses, it gets extremely outdated and impractical as the scale of the business increases.
That is why the ease of accessibility of documents on the cloud makes communications easier in both employee-to-employee and employee-to-customer scenarios. Not just that, businesses that have decided to switch to the cloud have experienced a 53% increase in their revenues. This just goes to show how efficient a business can become after making the switch.
Enhanced Customer Service
Over the years, customer service is one of the most crucial departments that has managed to remain consistent in the organizational structure amidst the numerous structural transformations. This helps us emphasize on the importance of investing in a sustainable and profitable mechanism of improving your customer service.
Currently, there are a number of ways to gauge customers’ engagement parameters, however, there is a single parameter that interests the majority; speed. If your customer service has adaptability to refer to customer queries and fetch the relevant solutions quickly, you are likely to retain that customer. Which is why, the cloud storage and accessibility feasibilities help the customer service representatives to satisfy the customers better than those who still rely on manual documentations.
In the current fierce digital age, security has been the foremost concern for every business. The outdated ways of securing documents consisted of locking the filing cabinets and paper shredders, and allowing authorized access to them only.
However, with advancements in security, different businesses have managed to implement bank-level data security to ensure the clients that their data is secure and under constant cyber-security surveillance that restricts any unwanted activities.
Lastly, we cannot emphasize on the importance of backups enough. Manual documentation of data has a major disadvantage of the risk of misplacing information as a result of a single accidental mistake.
However, this risk is effectively minimized by the introduction of electronic files that can be customized and updated to back-up after a designated amount of time (automated backups). These scheduled backups allow the administrators to be in control of the information even if there is a data breach or accidental data loss.
Just like there are always two sides to the same coin, there are certain drawbacks of going paperless.
Cons of Going Paperless
Excessive Dependence on Technology
The first and foremost disadvantage of going paperless for an organization is the increased amount of staying dependent on technology. The users have to be in constant connection with their laptop/desktop and they are at the mercy of the machine in order to perform even the slightest of tasks.
In case of a malfunction, there is a high probability of a dip in the productivity level of a worker. Sure, backups can come in handy, but when time is of the most importance, fetching common results from data backup can feel like a daunting and rigorous task.
Moreover, the dependence on cloud is also extremely volatile due to the lack of stability of your internet connection and other server-related issues that could arise.
It is a no-brainer that excessive usage of technology is directly proportional to increased amount of health issues such as eye strains and migrainesdue to extended screen times. Furthermore, excessive amount of performing a simple process of tapping away at the keyboard could give some employees the carpal tunnel syndrome, which can hinder their performance greatly.
Cybersecurity threats are a reality and they are only increasing with the coming years. Businesses tend to invest heaps of money to establish secure cybersecurity protection mechanisms. However, penetrators still manage to breach high-security systems and leak sensitive data. This leads us to the comparison with manual documentation that has an exceedingly low percentage of data breach, as it is extremely difficult to leak physical documents without internal assistance.
The modern business industry is all about networking and communicating on different levels to spread the word about the advancements and gaining publicity. In recent years, corporate networking platforms such as LinkedIn have gained incredible amount of publicity due to the ease in communication they provide with like-minded and common industry individuals.
However, with the advancements in technology, people believe that printed cards have lost their charm in establishing contacts. This is a mere misunderstanding and to this date, printed cards still hold great importance in prompting a spark of recognition more than any loaded LinkedIn profile.
How to Go Paperless?
According to Statista, UK used over 8.6 million tons of paper in 2019, and an average office worker will use about 10,000 pieces of paper every day. Similarly, a research by AIIM found that a total of 17% offices have completely gone paperless, whereas the accounting departments of 56% offices still heavily rely on paper-based contracts, orders, and booking forms.
Nevertheless, the current pandemic has proven that businesses can still perform well without all the excessive paper usage, as businesses are now heavily relying on project management platforms such as Asana, Trello, Skype, Office 365, etc. So, going paperless isn’t really a choice, but a necessity. Let’s learn how to do that!
STEP 1 – Identify “Why” Do You Want to Conduct this Transformation
According to statistics, 50% of business waste is paper. Considering the high proportion of annual business waste, it sets a notion that the usage of paper in businesses is a section that needs new and improved strategies.
COVID-19 struck the industries in an unpredictable manner, giving the businesses no time to adjust and forcing them to take alternative measures to shift their style of work. The businesses that managed to initiate Work-from-Home witnessed that the information that was transferred from paper to soft-copies made the information retrieval process become as simple as holding down “Ctrl + F”. Furthermore, with the elimination of time-consuming steps of manual paper-based regulations, the employees were able to perform tasks at a considerably better speed.
This reinstates the previously iterated list of advantages that arrive with the transformation of going paperless.
STEP 2 – Identify “How” You Can Perform this Transformation
While why holds great importance, the entire planning and execution of anything depends on the how. Therefore, in order to achieve the how-s of paperless/digital transformation, you need to do the following things:
Implement Cloud Storage
This step is easier to implement for SMBs, as the databases of small-scale businesses are relatively easier to be shifted to a different mechanism without bearing the overhead costs of transfers. The Cloud will allow the employees to securely store and backup important files and documents modularly. This will have implicit yet direct effects on the cost-reductions of faxing or mail services, too.
Initiate Paperless Meetings
Project Managers need to walk the talk and eradicate the usage of paper-based invitations for frequent meetings by shifting to any type of professional communicational medium such as Asana and Slack. Furthermore, meeting notes should be noted and shared with the participants to avoid usage of paper during the meetings.
Switch to Digital Receipts
Receipts are one of the most commonly used paper applications today. However, they can be replaced by digital receipts as they are more reliable due to their storage on the cloud, whereas a paper-based receipt has a probability of being misplaced or being damaged.
Manual signatures were considered to be authentic due to security reasons. However, with the advancements in security, E-signatures are effectively replacing them as they provide extended security, reliability, can be tracked easily, and are considered equally legally binding in signing contracts.
Lease Expensive Equipment
If you plan to go paperless, you will have to invest in purchasing new laptops, tablets, and portable digital payment devices. However, if you lease these advanced devices, you will be able to save up-front costs, redundant upgrades, and will be able to invest on equipment maintenance.
STEP 3 – How to Deal with the Change?
After simplifying the reasons and methodology to implement a plan, comes an integral part of execution of a plan, i.e., convincing the people to welcome change and execute the plan simultaneously.
Implementing a new ‘system’ on its own, and thinking a ‘new system will solve the organisation’s issues and problems, is naïve. You need to address the two other areas of the business that are actually the hardest part of a business to transform – people and process. Although humans are supposed to be fond of and welcoming towards change, as it drives them away from monotony, humans are also inclined towards achieving comfort in a specific work/lifestyle. Therefore, without the involvement of meaningful motivators, it can be difficult to persuade them to change.
However, if you follow these simple steps, you will be able to convince them and utilize their help in the successful execution of your transformation. Here I have discussed how you can create an effective business design to pursue your transformation goals.
Enlightening the People About Your Vision for the Change
The communication of the vision of your plan is extremely important in order to persuade an audience to support your plan. In this case, by going paperless a business is playing its part in:
- Becoming environment-friendly,
- Increasing security by implementing cloud-based solutions that provide both ease of accessibility and an extra layer of security for critical data,
- Speeding up its time-consuming information retrieval processes.
Defining the Governance Processes and Framework to Finalize Assessment, Designing, and Implementation of Your Plan
A business needs to properly document its design of the proposed transformation model that will allow the employees to shift to a paperless structure. This should include elaborated details of implementation and assessment in order to single-out the FAQs and redundant confusing factors in the switching process. The people need to believe that the business is in control of the procedure and is aware of the probable outcomes of this transformation.
Pointing Out the Current State of the Organisation and Contrasting it With Your Plan
Comparison and contrasting of current and revised structures or processes of the organization help the people to visualize and comprehend the nitty-gritty details of the differences between them. This will serve as a plus point for the businesses, as the pros of going paperless outweigh the cons by a fair margin.
Financial Benefits of Implementing the Change
We have heard the phrase Time is Money, but only some of us have experienced it. In this scenario, by eradicating the time-consuming paper-based processes, businesses will witness a direct difference in the financial figures of their dealings that will prove as testament to the employees and customers that going paperless is not only secure and fast, but also consists of evident monetary benefits. Create a cost-benefit analysis to prove your point.
Finalizing the Change
Finally, you need to show them what the finished organisation will look like. This brings forth your Target Operating Model (TOM) that’ll help the employees (and the stakeholders) realise where the business change lies and how it is changing. It’ll clarify on how and when the changes are going to be implemented and whether you have the right resources, i.e., Project Management resources, to manage the design and implementation. And of course, how do you get that plan signed off – we covered that in a previous post (here).
Thank you for reading this!
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P.P.S. If you want to learn more about business transformation, check out The Business Transformation Playbook here.
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