4 Steps You Need to Follow in Order to Take Your Business Paperless

Keith Krach
August 12, 2016

There’s still debate about what exactly “digital transformation” entails, and it can mean different things for different companies, but the concept generally has two key elements. One, digital transformation accelerates all aspects of business; and two, it involves leveraging modern technologies in order to strategically achieve that goal.

One of the most straightforward options for any business seeking to establish itself as a digital company is to make the jump to a paperless office. Easy data accessibility, better customer service, and simplified operations are just a few of the benefits of leaving paper behind and going digital. To jumpstart the process of digital transformation at your company, follow these five steps.

Step 1: Monitor your company’s paper consumption and develop a comprehensive plan.

Though the eventual benefits are worth the effort, creating a paperless environment for your business still requires an initial investment that demands time, strategic thinking, and commitment. In order for the transition to paperless operations to go smoothly, business leaders must develop a comprehensive implementation plan long before taking the first step.

Plans for going paperless will vary between businesses, but all should include several key elements. Executives should take time to calculate each department’s annual paper use, and to assess which operations or practices require the most paper. It’s also important to identify the low-hanging fruit—in other words, to determine which paper-based processes could be easily replaced by a digital solution.

All this information will provide a baseline for understanding how much work there is to be done and the best way to approach the transition. Additionally, company leaders should consider testing out paperless operations by developing a team of employee volunteers across all departments who are willing to try out digital solutions. This group can provide feedback on new processes and practices before they are rolled out across an entire department or the organization as a whole.

Step 2: Help all employees understand the value of paperless operations and set goals.

As with any change in operations, business leaders may encounter initial resistance from employees when the concept of a paperless office is introduced. However, it is crucial to your implementation plan that all employees are on board. Communicating the benefits of a paperless office and neutralizing compliance concerns can help employees understand how giving up paper can make their work easier and more productive, and increase their participation in the process, making the overall transition more efficient.

Another way to improve the process of going paperless is to lead by example—executives should take the lead in demonstrating a commitment to paperless operations. They can begin by setting goals and deadlines for themselves to take steps toward digital operations, and encouraging employees to do the same. For example, an executive might set a deadline for switching to a digital calendar for scheduling appointments and meetings. Other employees or departments might set deadlines for sorting papers to determine which documents must be scanned and which can be shredded.

Step 3: Choose the best digital tools to replace paper-based practices.

Digital disruption has led to the development of tools that can easily replace the paper-based practices used in the office. The key is to find the software that best accommodates your business’s specific operations.

Choose a Digital Transaction Management platform that meets your needs with regard to elements like useful features, affordability, ease of integration, and user-friendliness. Additionally, businesses should explore options for project collaboration software, which can allow for enhanced productivity between colleagues while eliminating the need to rely on paper when making notes or reviewing ideas as a group.

According to a study by the Association for Information and Image Management, one of the most significant concerns that workers express about abandoning paper-based operations is the legal viability of electronic signatures. Many executives may find that their staff considers handwritten signatures to be the only safe way to legally sign off on contracts or agreements. However, the reality is that eSignature solutions provide a document with far more extensive legal coverage.

Investing in a digital transaction management platform, like that provided by DocuSign, allows a company to create legally binding digital signatures that adhere to the highest possible security standards. A paperless office can’t be truly efficient without a dependable digital signature solution, and will be able to ensure more secure transactions than possible with paper-based signatures.

Step 4: Contact vendors to stop incoming paper and share electronically with clients.

In order to keep your paperless transition moving forward, business leaders should make sure that incoming paper is either halted or immediately scanned into a digital format upon receipt. Examples include transitioning to online banking and utilities bill payment, which can be easily set up with a phone call. If your vendors lack options for digital invoicing, establish scanning protocols for employees to follow when paper invoices are received.

Once you’ve implemented a digital process, it’s important to explain the new business approach to your vendors, partners, and customers, and to encourage them to engage with your company digitally themselves. In your communications, emphasize the importance of providing customers with more efficient services through paperless operations.

Keith Krach

Keith Krach is Chairman of DocuSign, The Global Standard for Digital Transaction Management.