You were promised a paperless office 20 years ago, and it still isn’t here. Why? We have the technology. We have the environmental incentive to conserve resources. It turns out that efforts to go paperless don’t fail randomly; most of these noble efforts collapse because they hit one or more of these mistakes.
Before you launch another project to finally go paperless, review these common mistakes so you can proactively manage them. It could make a critical difference between a campaign that succeeds and one that collapses.
Mistake 1: Removing Printers and Hoping for the Best
What device consumes the most paper in your office? Usually, it's the printers you use. That means you need to remove the printers to get to the paperless office of your dreams.
Not so fast.
If you take out the printers and tell staff to “do everything with email,” you're going to fail. At best, you'll find yourself explaining your decision repeatedly.
Instead of simply removing the printers, work on changing your workflows to rely more on digital technology instead of paper forms.
Mistake 2: Ignoring the Role of Paper Habits
Despite the digital revolution, a large percentage of the population is more comfortable with paper. Even Millennials – those digital natives born in the 1980s – went to school when it was still analog. Older generations tend to have even more paper habits, such as coming of age with paper tax returns and letters.
These paper habits are deeply ingrained in our culture; it’s not isolated to one particular generation. For example, many lawyers and accountants still insist on paper records. Many smaller businesses such as restaurants, dry cleaners, and retailers still rely upon paper to print receipts, post notices, and more.
If your paperless office effort ignores retailers, you won't achieve your digital dreams of efficiency. Your digital transformation will require a change in mindset for many employees.
Mistake 3: Failing to Sell the Paperless Vision to Employees
In psychology, a well-known trait affects success. It’s the status quo bias, or the tendency to prefer what we already have.
What does this have to do with your project to go paperless? Some or all of your employees may be set in their ways of using paper forms or using paper notebooks at work. Getting them out of that behavior requires that you share a compelling vision about the benefits of digitization.
Your vision may be focused on the employee experience. Using digital forms will mean eliminating paperwork hassles such as driving back to head office at the end of the day to drop off forms.
Explaining the purpose and benefits of your paperless initiative will help to get employees on board, which is essential for long term adoption and success.
Mistake 4: Ignoring the Digital Transformation Opportunity
The problem with many digitization efforts seen at companies is that the paper approach to business is copied into the digital world.
The most common example is when a company takes paper forms and creates a digital equivalent. While that method is easy and does save on paper, it's still a mistake because you're missing the productivity improvements offered by technology.
For example, can you design a form to have pre-filled fields based on the user’s profile? Asking users to retype their names and phone numbers at the top of a field doesn’t make sense when that information could be pulled from their profiles.
This is the time to consider how digital can make workflows easier, and not just attempt to replicate your exact same paper process into a digital format.
Mistake 5: Adopting a 'Half Measures' Approach to Digitization
This mistake happens in offices across the country. This half-baked approach to digitization usually involves scanners. Here’s what it looks like if you're making this mistake.
Everyone continues to use paper forms and other documents. The only digital improvement? Using scanners to convert a piece of paper into a digital file. In some cases, the scanned data will have to be retyped. In other cases, it's kept as an image and retained as a record. While this mistake does bring some measure of progress, it falls far short of true digitization.
Mistake 6: Neglecting to Involve Your Suppliers, Vendors, and Third Parties in Your Project
Your company isn't an island; you interact with third parties all day. When you go digital, you need to consider those people. If you still receive paper invoices, change requests, receipts, and other materials in analog format, your digitization efforts will stall.
Avoiding this mistake is easy. In your digitization project plan, identify the stakeholders – inside and outside the company – who'll be impacted by your change. If you have a long list of external stakeholders, focus your efforts on the most important vendors. For example, review your top 10 suppliers and see which paper forms they rely upon the most. You'll then need to have meetings with each vendor to explain your plans, so they have time to make the change.
Mistake 7: Failing to Adopt an Enterprise Data Solution
The biggest mistake comes last.
Digitization efforts only produce a fraction of their true value when they aren't supported by an enterprise data collection solution. Without this type of solution, each department will come up with its scanner or digital forms. That ad hoc approach means central coordination suffers.
Instead, we recommend building your enterprise data collection solution around a mobile forms app. In addition to providing mobile forms that can be used in the field, the right mobile forms solution will also integrate with your digital workflow.
Paper is costing your business time, productivity and money. Learn more about how going digital with mobile forms software can save your business resources.