There are many benefits of transitioning to digital paperwork but going paperless is not as simple as making a pledge to stop using paper. Going paperless requires an investment in technology and a close relationship with a vendor that can provide the tools and knowledge to help your organization eliminate its reliance on paper. This article discusses four tips for going paperless to help business leaders understand how to go paperless while avoiding the common pitfalls that can derail your initiative.
How to Go Paperless
Before we explore our tips for going paperless, it is important for businesses to understand how to go paperless in the first place. Migrating from paper to digital takes time, patience, collaboration, and investment. Covid-19 has accelerated the timeline for many companies who had “going paperless” on their to-do lists moving into next year, which means you need to start planning your paperless strategy today if you want to stay ahead of the competition.
The first step in going paperless is identifying a suitable strategic partner that specializes in transitioning businesses from paper-based workflows to digital workflows. Several types of vendors can assist with this transition, but an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) vendor will offer the most robust feature set allowing for greater functionality, compatibility, integration, performance, and scalability. However, before you can choose your vendor, you need to organize your company internally and get everyone on the same page. Follow these four tips for going paperless to start your search:
1. Create an Internal Team to Lead Your Paperless Initiative
Even if you hire a third-party consultant to help you evaluate and vet vendors, nobody knows your business like you do, so it’s essential that you form a trusted team internally to ensure your project is moving towards your goal at all times. Establish a team that fully understands your company’s business processes, including the underlying workflows that are not always consistent from person to person. For example, if you want to go paperless in Accounts Payable, you should form a team including members of your AP department and perhaps a member of your IT department to help translate any technical information that might not register with your AP Director, CFO, or your most active AP processor.
2. Consult Key Decision-Makers and Address Concerns
After establishing your team, it is time to consult them about their specific pain points. What do they hope to achieve by going paperless? What concerns do they have? How will they measure the success of the project? What will happen if the scope of work changes? You need answers to all the questions before you select a vendor. Even after you choose a vendor, the answers to these questions may change, but you want to set clear goals early and establish a precedent to avoid significant changes once your project has commenced. Remember, you can’t make everyone happy, but you can satisfy your team by listening to and considering every idea and pain point presented to you.
3. Develop a Roadmap
Now, it is time to get started! Talk to your implementation team, your consultant (if you have one), and any vendors you are currently vetting. Together, you can plot your roadmap and establish a plan that will get your key decision-makers to buy-in. Keep your existing processes top of mind when developing your roadmap. Which processes can be improved? Which ones need to stay the same? Keeping with the example of going paperless in AP, you must create standard operating procedures in collaboration with your AP team to ensure that your workflows are documented accurately. You must also plan for growth and scaling across multiple departments (if that is your endgame).
These considerations must be addressed openly with your vendor to ensure that they can truly provide the technology your business is searching for. Many companies go paperless in one department, such as Accounts Payable, and later expand their solution to other departments, including Accounts Receivable, Human Resources, Customer Service, and more. If this is the goal of your business, it must be accounted for in your initial roadmap to ensure the right vendor is selected.
4. Establish Clear Expectations
Ultimately, these tips for going paperless are worthless if your project fails to meet your requirements, but this pitfall can be easily avoided by setting clear expectations from the beginning. Answer important questions like:
- How soon do you want your implementation to be completed?
- How important is integration with your core technologies?
- What is your expected ROI?
- Do you want to process documentation without human intervention?
Your specific expectations will be unique to your business, and your list may grow after speaking to a vendor, so be sure to maintain transparency as you create your list of requirements.