In today’s fast-paced business world, more and more businesses are deciding to become paperless. ‘Becoming Paperless’ is basically the process of taking all of a company’s paper records and converting them into digital images, retrievable through the company’s network of computers and workstations. This allows the business to access the paper records in a fraction of the time it would take them to retrieve a paper file and prevents the employees from having to re-file the documents that they retrieve.
The efficiencies gained from a paperless office are tremendous. These efficiencies allow the company to increase its processing speed, reduce is storage space, and improve security over its important business documents. It also allows the company to easily backup all of its records in case of a disaster or theft of those files.
The initial investment for the business that is becoming paperless is usually in an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS). This EDMS is the tool that the business uses to scan and manage all of its electronic files. It provides the interface for the employees to retrieve the files and provides the security to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing these files.
Before a business can become paperless, it is important that they do some important upfront planning in order to reduce critical mistakes made in the future. The first thing that needs to be looked at is the types and amount of files that will be stored within the Electronic Document Management System. For example, will this system need to store only scanned documents, or will it also need to store working documents, such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel documents. Some systems only store scanned images, so if you need this flexibility, be sure to ask that question.
Also, some EDMS’s will store the images directly on the individual employee’s desktop computer. This is fine if you are storing a small amount of files and it is not necessary to share the files between multiple employees. It is usually a better idea, however, to purchase a system that stores all of the files in a central repository, so that all users are able to access the files. These systems will also provide permission-based security, so it is easy to specify exactly who can access specific files.
The most important part of becoming paperless however is the getting the files into the system. This is generally a time-consuming process, and can also be a costly one. You should decide upfront which files should be stored in the system. At first, you would probably be inclined to want to include all of your files in the system. It is usually more feasible, however, to just include the documents that will likely be retrieved often. This will allow you to keep your upfront costs down, and when your company has become familiar and comfortable with the system, then you can usually justify putting all of your files in the system.