Everybody is talking about ‘sustainability’. Every business is turning green. The sudden spike in ecommerce growth during the pandemic, has pushed businesses out of their comfort zone, making them go digital and indirectly making them sustainable. This has helped scale up their operations and quality of customer experiences. There is an ongoing explosion on the internet of things.
Climate change and environmental management is one of the top concerns and responsibility of every enterprise, be it big or small. Organizations are multi-purpose driven entities. They not only serve your customers and stakeholders, but also serve a greater purpose globally – by becoming more greener, environmentally friendly and creating a hub of awareness within the communities that you are connected to.
So how can a business like yours become greener to contribute towards the bigger goal in these challenging times, but still help you grow sustainably?
Your business today can take small but incremental steps towards automation and adapt to technology that tackles one of the big challenges to the environment, which is reducing paper utilization and set-off your carbon footprint.
In today’s business world, it is not only your products or services that make a difference, but also the bigger purpose driving your enterprise, that will add value to the goodwill of your enterprise. It is imperative today for businesses like yours to dive deep into day-to-day operations and identify areas where technology and automation can support in reducing your environmental impact. This effort can begin by cutting down the utilization of papers in operational activities such as printing, storing and copying. Thus, you can join forces with the corporate world that is trying to create a greener environment which is the need of the hour.
When you take time and effort to really adapt to technology, you can have measurable results for being environmentally friendly. You automatically switch into a ‘sustainable business’ model, while enhancing your operational efficiency at significant speed. By going paperless, not only will you have minimal negative impact but also a long-term potentially positive global effect on the environment. This could be your starting point to becoming an ‘Office of the Future’.
Though the concept of paperless office has been in discussion dating back to 1975, latest advances in technology and AI have made the then ‘impossible to achieve’ vision, a remarkably simple and easily achievable phenomenon.
It is said that employees lose 40% of their time in a day looking for paper files. On the other hand, 20% of print jobs are never resolved on faulty printers, generating unnecessary waste, and investing unnecessary time on non-productive work.
During times such as today, where accessibility to information is critical, but challenging when teams are spread across various locations (be it offices, homes, or a combination of both), the loss of time spent on identifying, locating and sharing documents and data is an added complexity.
In a time where data sensitivity is crucial, making paperwork completely redundant within an office premise also helps with data protection and mishandling. How many times have you simply shredded documents you thought you needed to print, but ended up not using them by the end of the day? With the latest tech and tools easily available to us, it’s high time we break free from dependency on paper!
So how can a paperless office help create a paperless community?
For starters, going paperless has a considerable impact on your business in itself – saving cost, time and man hours, in addition to knowledge creation and upskilling your human resources. An initiative to go paperless creates a ripple effect on the community because of consequent actions taken by internal and external stakeholders dealing with a paperless organization.
For big enterprises, the initiative to go paperless leads to a better understanding of its environmental impact and creates a ripple effect of awareness on a few thousand employees followed by a larger impact within the network of communities they work with.
In the case of large businesses, a paperless operation can push stakeholders such as vendors and customers to adapt to paperless processes. Thus, the effort of one individual organization will have multiple levels of positive effect on the community and collectively, on the environment.
How does going paperless benefit businesses?
Let’s consider the classic example of a contracting company that sends multiple material requisitions in a day. Even if we consider two such requests per day, we are looking at 300 papers being wastefully used for a period of 150 days, just from one tiny worksite. In addition, the correspondence and the documentation copies of the requisitions will need to be stored across multiple departments to maintain processing records. So, essentially, we are easily looking at a minimum of 5 to 6 paper copies of the same request across departments for a single process. This leads to multiple storage areas within the offices where premium real estate is used to keep boxes of files. In addition, without proper tracking and recording systems, accessibility to such information becomes a challenge. What a waste of paper, time, and effort! Whereas, using a cloud-based process that tracks all material requests, approvals, and inventory details all in one place, cuts down the use of paper, speeds up the process, saves document storage space and enables a smooth operational process at large.
Another example of such automation would be in real estate business. For instance, let us consider a real-estate management company planning to conduct inspections, pest control and other maintenance tasks for a property with 150 tenants. The number of copies of circulars, inspection reports and customer acknowledgements that need to be generated for managing this process is huge. If we consider the triplicate copies of the billing vendor, the amount of money, time, effort involved in the process is challenging both for the business and the environment. By automating such maintenance processes and connecting with tenants online, real estate businesses can not only save cost and time but also contribute to a sustainable society.
So why should your small-to-mid-sized business or SMB go paperless?
Firstly, it slashes down inefficiencies, cuts down paper intensive processes and improves document workflow. Secondly, it reduces time and wastage of paper (paper wastage amounts to 26% of total waste in a landfill!). Thirdly, it brings down the overall costs for a company (calculate how much you can save on energy, paper, stationery, and storage areas or facilities in a month!)
How can your small or medium enterprise benefit from a paperless office?
Small businesses have a lesser number of people working within. So, the dependency on one or fewer people to multitask for you is extremely high. Through business automation, you can handle documents more efficiently and save time on manual paperwork. The time thus saved, can be utilized optimally for your business growth. Even in the case of the absence of these limited human resources owing to leave, emergency or sickness – the use of automation tools helps you to find crucial information quickly and easily on the cloud-based tool. This stops project delays and even helps multi-location access. The current scenario of work from home or hybrid setups is possible because of such automation software.
At the same time, with multiple options available to your small business, you can benefit from basic automation to begin with. Progressing from here, your next phase based on the growth trajectory of the business, would be to incorporate solutions such as a document management system for managing papers, or an ERP, CRM, or Project Management tool to become instantly data driven, analytical and operationally efficient in your processes.
What about large businesses then? For large businesses, enterprise level document management is one of the basic requirements to ensure that all company processes are in control. A paper-based system would give too many gaps in the business workflow itself and hinder efficient control mechanisms, creating operational delays. Large enterprises also incur much higher operational cost if they are not paperless.
Learning from the current situation that all-sized businesses are facing during the pandemic, it is safe to say that moving towards a paperless office is critical to the core of any business, to keep pace with the requirements of customers who have become used to online purchases and digital experiences.
If you’re thinking of going paperless, where and how should you start?
Beginning with analyzing your business processes to find areas where the intensity of paperwork is significant, is your first step. You can then identify the root cause of holding on to such paper documentation. Next, you can come up with an action plan to convert these tasks to electronic processes via a document management system by exploring various automation tools available for almost every business task, which are easily available in the market. Have a look at our products here and see what fits your business.
Like they say, ‘small efforts give big results’, taking tiny steps, one process at a time, will ultimately transform you into a paperless office while you take advantage of the ‘environmentally friendly’ technology that’s also ‘future friendly’ for your business.
Now that you have decided to go paperless, what online tools can you use?
Once you have analyzed where your significant paperwork is concentrated and drawn up plans to remove all that clutter, start by discouraging printing company-wide and invest in digital processes. Train the users! Your front desk could be the first step to start achieving your paperless dream. Not only does it reduce your paperwork for your front office team, it gives the customers a better value of your brand, while also getting served better by a team that now has lesser or no paperwork piled up in the back of their minds. Collecting visitor databases, feedback forms, memos, agreements – everything can go paperless. And during times of Covid-19, the lesser touchpoints the safer it is for your team and your customers.
Also read: Tips and tools for small business owners.
What are the other ways you can go paperless inside your office?
- Use QR codes as business cards.
- Switch to cloud based HRMS for processing leaves, claims, transfers, and other processes that are paper intensive.
- Use internal communication tools for sharing reports, memos, and sales materials.
- Establish an electronic newsletter to share updates, information with your employees, vendors, customers, and other stakeholders.
- Make use of task and project management software to reduce the clutter of notepads, to-do list pads and printed project workflows and reports.
- Stop printing contracts and agreements and start using digital ones with e-signatures.
- Switch to e-invoicing which can fully automate the process of quotations, PO’s, invoices, follow ups, credit notes, receipts, and debt collection.
- Use laptops and digital devices and let your team connect with you on the go.
Going paperless is a business decision, but creating a paperless office is team effort! It is not an instant transition and needs to be tried and tested to see what suits your business requirement and functionality. But with the help of tools that are adapting to various businesses globally, your efforts to go paperless can be updated and perfected over time, making it an easy and doable initiative. Do not forget to keep a check on your energy consumption while you’re at it.
Decide and get started! Let us make sustainable businesses a norm to create a safer environment for the future. Ready to go paperless? We have multiple products that are customizable to support your journey. Book a consultation with us and speak to our experts now.