The paperless office has been talked about for so long, it seems like a remote reality. There seems to be more paper than ever. In fact, at times, we are literally overwhelmed by the stuff. People send us emails which we read and then for some unknown reason we print. There are numerous advantages to achieving the paperless office but it seems difficult to achieve.
The Tools and Techniques are Available
Everything we need to implement a paperless office exists today but we do not take advantage of the tools as in the short term it seems easier to work with paper. In some ways that is true but generally not. As an example, paper takes a tremendous amount of storage space. Further, if you have to find a critical document it is far easier to find that document in electronic format. As the paper evolves, I will discuss the advantages of electronic as opposed to physical document storage but for now let’s look at how this is all possible to deal with both documents sent to us in electronic format and paper based format.
Documents sent to us in Electronic format
These kind of documents should not be converted to paper unless you intentionally want to add complexity. Things such as the signing of a document can be done electronically and it is as valid as if it were paper based. There are tools that allow the electronic insertion of your signature and these tools should be taken great advantage of. If you need the document months down the road again, voila the document is searchable and can be pulled up and produced generally quite fast.
Why ramble through mounds of paper when a search can have the document in front of you in no time. Magic of course plays no role here. A plan as to a filing structure will make it all inevitable. One person’s plan may not be another persons nor does to have to work has say logically it just have to work. I’m not going to lay out a plan for filing but I find the simpler the better. The documents could be filed simply alphabetically or your could set up categories and within those categories filed alphabetically. Regardless of style, you want to make it as as simple as possible but as soundly as is possible for retrieval purposes. Here you’re looking at the immediacy of space savings (no paper to store) and then eventually time savings (fast retrieval of information). Both methods provide payback. You definitely do not want to create something that is a nuisance or an extreme bother. You’re trying to save yourself time and physical space and thus the hassle remembering where something is.
Electronic Forms already set out that Way
Forms sent to you generally as a PDF (standard) can be read by any kind of computer. You just need the software to read it. This is referred to you as a reader and the form is already set out to be acted on. It’s ideal. You might be wondering since this has been around for quite some time why it is not more in place yet. It’s getting there. Some people change quickly and others don’t. However, this is not beyond anyone. The benefits far outweigh the problems. A little time invested now means a lot of time saved later.
Paper based documents can be read and translated to PDF’s and filled in. Cards, questionnaires, information and agreements are often sent this way as your signature is valid. This is where you start to throw the paper in the garbage. If you’re like most people these days, it’s a wonderful feeling. Finding your document down the road is also greatly rewarding.
The best system by far for both home and small businesses is the Fujitsu Scansnap ix500/1500. It automates and makes the capture of data fast and as seamless as possible. You can OCR (Optical Character Recognition) the output for easy editing and fast searches of the documents. A few months with this system and the results will lead you to wonder how you did without it.
The Scansnap comes with all the software you’re ever likely to need. Yet there are other tools that will assist in your automation process. There is a lot of software that will assist in your document management. The following though bring different things to the table based on your need:
- Evernote a powerful document and information management system
- DEVONthink a knowledge management style of software
- KEEP It! Which is similar to DEVONthink
- Notion – a comprehensive product that runs on IOS, Mac and Android. This is the program to keep your eyes on.
Though not necessary, these programs can add a lot to your document management endeavours.
Paper has exploded. Sometimes when sitting down at your desk you just want to get up and walk away. Going paperless puts you in control and reduces the burden of how and where to find things. The benefits far outweigh any downside. The sooner you invest in a solution, the sooner you are taking control.