So your organization is now paperless! You belong to an elite club of organizations that have achieved a paper-free workplace. But the paperless state is not a one-and-done sort of story. Maintaining a paperless workplace is a challenge—fighting the inflow of paper documents takes work.
Some of that work is documenting your new paperless processes to measure their impact on business operations. Evaluate if the initiative has been worth the time, cost, and effort put into it. After all, the success of any transformation carried out at this scale must be visible in tangible terms.
Here are some questions you can ask to measure the success of paperless processes.
- Are staff thrilled with their new paperless processes? Are they more efficient and productive now? Are they saving time on tedious document-related work and making space for higher-value tasks? Check employee overtime records to see if the numbers are lower after going paperless.
- Take a quick look at the area around the office printer. Do you see printouts waiting to be claimed by trigger-happy, paper-printing enthusiasts? Print audit software is also available to trace print commands. And don’t forget, you can get rid of the printer altogether!
- Trace the costs of paper, ink cartridges, and document storage. If your paperless initiative is successful, these costs should show a significant decrease.
- Are you using eSignatures effectively? Audit the contracts and agreements signed manually on paper by your business in the last 90 days. Compare the numbers before your paperless state. They should show a decline.
- Do not encourage storing invoices, bills, bank statements, or receipts in paper format. Encourage digital payments and digital versions. If you still need to use cheques, invest in a cheque scanner to maintain digital copies of cheques.
- Check your incoming mail. Have you informed vendors, partners, external stakeholders that your office is now paperless? If you still receive incoming paper mail, have you initialized a digital mailroom to maintain your paper-free work environment? If you cannot control external paper-based processes, use day forward conversion to immediately convert paper into digital formats and discard the physical copies.
- Peek into internal meetings. Are employees using paper reports? Audit the number of apps used for work. Encourage the use of PDF reports in place of paper and presentation slides instead of printed handouts.
- Take a look at your office storage spaces—are there rows of filing cabinets still in your workplace? If the answer is yes, it’s time to sell them or toss them. You don’t need them anymore. Recapture space and save money on rent.
Now that you have an overall understanding of the success of your paperless system, evaluate your business processes across three broad areas. How has going paperless impacted your office?
- Information Capture
- Information Routing
- Information Retrieval
- Do you think the office scanner running overtime is an indication that your document digitization initiative is going well? Maybe or maybe not. It could mean that you still have too much incoming paper or internal paper-based processes.
- How many hours of manual data entry tasks are your employees doing? A successful paper-free system uses intelligent data capture methods such as online forms and OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to convert scanned images into indexable and searchable text. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) enhance the efficiency of OCR engines significantly. Invest in the latest data capture methods to gain the maximum benefit from paperless processes.
- The future of digital data capture lies in extracting valuable information from unstructured documents using technology. Modern data capture methods pull out hidden data from an organization's rich document repositories and use it to drive business decisions.
- New AI (Artificial Intelligence) solutions are now available to automatically process documents. For example, AI can look into a digital file to detect if it is relevant for the finance department or marketing. That brings us to the next stage of routing information:
Once information capture is digitized, it is time to measure the next step. How effective is your information path? Going paperless reduces paper usage—but it goes beyond that; an important part of going paperless is streamlining business processes.
A digital workflow is the sum of the internal processes that are automated and the steps needed to complete those processes. A simple example is using email instead of paper memos internally in the organization.
Digital workflows vary significantly from manual workflows, so it becomes important to draw comparisons between pre-and post-digitization scenarios. A simple way to measure this is to check the processing times of documents in both cases. E-filing and document management systems simplify processes, so digital workflows must display a significant reduction. For example, an invoice that took five days to process before the transformation should ideally process digitally in a day.
Digital workflow automation is future-ready, and organizations benefit by embracing it. To ensure that digital workflows reach their full potential, many organizations now use Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Bots have successfully replaced several repetitive low-level tasks in business workflows.
Document digitization gets its final stamp of approval at the information retrieval stage. Using information capture and routing are pointless until the information is retrieved accurately and on time. A simple way to check this is to evaluate the ease of the process for employees. Do they know where to find the information requested by customers? Can they retrieve it quickly and without any challenges? If the answer is yes, then your paperless workflow is having the desired impact.
Today, businesses recognize the need to optimize resources and achieve a positive ROI on their paperless initiative. Going paperless must increase efficiency, productivity, reduce manual labour, and improve business processes. Make sure you maximize your return on investment by measuring the impact of your paperless office.