If you feel buried in paper, there is a way to save yourself and your business – GO PAPERLESS! Seems simple enough but it is a challenge. The rewards are great and well worth the effort.
I suggest you start with designing a game plan with start dates for each step. You can start by considering every type of paper that comes into and leaves your office. Research efficient methods to replace each type and develop your game plan from there. This addresses the immediate present and future paper. Your list should include basics: Communications, Invoices, Employee Files, Paid Bills, Bank Records, Loan Documents, Vehicle Records, Legal Records, Client Statements, Vendor Records, Permanent Documents, Tax Records, Client Information, Internal Procedures.
You will have to develop a game plan (phase two) for the archived files in your office. My suggestion is to first do a purging of all the oldest documents (and you know they are there just hanging out) that you are not required to keep. Once you have purged all unnecessary documents, you can begin a systematic game plan with start dates and deadlines for each step of the project. The majority of this will be scanning….lots and lots of scanning! Look for possible help from high school students during the school breaks or college students to assist with the scanning process of the most current files.
Your game plan may include different sources for files in storage that are over a certain time frame but need to be accessible for a remaining period of time in the future. For example, offices in certain industries may be required to keep client files for 7 years. It may be practical to ship the oldest 4 years to a scanning service offsite and have an employee scan the most current three years internally customizing how the scanned files are saved. The ones sent to an outside scanning service may only be scanned as one searchable document per client file for each year. The most current files scanned internally can be customized with more details by time periods or content. You will have to consider the cost of each against your needs and the volume within your office.
You need to develop guidelines for saving scanned documents for the file name and the location of the files. If you are saving the files on your local computer system, be sure to consider how your system search capabilities will work best so you can choose files names carefully. The same will be true for cloud storage of files.
When you develop your game plan, consider the operational aspects of handling your processes for a paperless office. Take the time to develop the process and document the procedure so you can be consistent throughout your office of how the office should flow. Included in this part of the process, will be the need to research office equipment to assist you, such as scanners, shredders and dual monitors for computers. Dual monitors go hand in hand with a paperless work flow. Source documents can be seen on one screen and the computer application to process your data can be open on the opposite screen. You are much more efficient this way.
I make these recommendations based on experience. We converted the Accounting Office for the last firm I was with to paperless and it was a huge effort, but very successful. When I went into business myself, I started my business as a paperless office. That process was much easier. There still remains some things that I keep in paper form. It won’t all go away since some of the world isn’t ready yet. I still get my annual tax manuals in book form. That works for me and you will have to choose what works best for your office and staff.
I have included several articles for your research:
You will love your new office and it’s efficiency when you get past the huge process of the conversion. Don’t give up! It will be worth every effort! Come on – You Can Do It!