I get asked this question a lot, and my first response is usually the same question, directed back to them. Sometimes, depending on the person asking the question, the answer will change. However, 90% of people will have the same answer, in some form of variation.
The answer will usually go something like this –
“A paperless company is one that minimizes the use of paper to help the environment”.
Now, there is nothing wrong with this answer, and helping the environment anyway you or your company can is always a great idea! I, however, answer it a little differently.
To me a Paperless Company is one that is data secure, agile and extremely productive.
Sounds a little more suave, right? But what does being paperless have to do with being agile, data secure, or even productive? Let’s chat about it.
Is your company quick on its feet? Can your company adapt to changes three minutes before a meeting?
It’s funny, but transitioning to a paperless environment can actually make your company much more nimble, alert and fight ready. What do I mean by this? Being agile basically means you have the ability to adapt to changes as and when the business needs. Let’s say you’re heading to a meeting with a client, but five minutes before that meeting the leadership you are seeing changes. You’re no longer sitting down with the VP of Sales, Maxine. You’re now sitting down with COO, Bert for this meeting.
Let’s say your paper presentation has been adopted to include Maxine’s name to help seal the deal. Now what? You scribble Maxine’s name out and replace it with Bert’s? That’s not very professional, is it? However, what if your presentation was being delivered digitally? You got it! Head in to the keynote, make the necessary changes, and voila. Bert, is none the wiser! If anything, Bert will be even more impressed that his name has been included at such short notice.
This process being paperless has ensured that the company delivering the presentation can make quick edits on the fly to ensure a successful meeting takes place. This is the definition of being agile! Being paperless and agile in this instance could be the difference between Q3 profits vs Q3 losses.
You have to remember employees are people, and people are susceptible to making mistakes. And boy do we people make a lot of mistakes. In fact, we read these headlines all the time.
“Employee leaves confidential information on city bus”.
Consumer data is gold. It’s been this way for some time, and consumer data is only becoming more priceless. Facebook wants it, Google needs it, and the government is losing it. Data is the new money! Protecting, and ensuring your customer data doesn’t get in to the wrong hands is paramount for any business dealing with personal information. Laws are changing, and people are becoming smarter about who has access to their information, and what they are allowed to do with it.
Take an old accounting firm for example, one that hasn’t transitioned digitally. Where do they store all of their customers tax returns? Where do they keep all the books for their largest contracts? Right… in boxes down the hallway in that empty office to the left. You know, the one with the vacuum in that the cleaners use nightly. Once a month though they’ll ensure document safety by moving those boxes to a storage facility. Ludicrous, right? Don’t be shocked when I inform you that over 55% of companies still store customers personal information this way.
Do not presume this is down to cost savings either. Cost is actually one of the least impacting variables when it comes to technology decisions. The biggest issue is change management! People get stuck in their ways, and go by the old saying, if it’s not broken, why fix it? Going paperless in this instance would not only free up office space to hire a new person. But would also ensure that their customer information is safely secured in a private cloud, rather than in boxes accessible to the building cleaner every night.
I once worked for a company that required four signatures before you could action any change. Sound crazy? Actually though, it’s a really smart process! Safe, but somewhat annoying when you have to track down all four parties; in four feet of snow. Streamlining this process with technology will maintain the safety aspect of the process, alongside freeing up the employees time gathering these autographs.
Remember that accounting firm from a moment ago? What happens when they need to retrieve a document from three years past? What’s the process for retrieving a clients files for the previous seven years? You’re all with me on this one right? The accountants will have to head to their secure offsite storage facility to retrieve those documents. Talk about inefficient. Being a paperless company here would be extremely time friendly for the clients of these accountants. It would also make the accounting firm much more productive in a sense of time saved.
In fact, productivity is probably my number one reason for guiding businesses paperless. The time saved by removing physical paper from an environment can be astronomical. And nothing makes management happier than their employees gaining access to more time. Once upon a time, business deals would take weeks to finalize. Now they can be completed 30,000 feet in the air.
You can read more about the digital world and your company here.
However, if I were to ask, what does it mean to be a paperless company now? How will you answer it?