Driving less paper is more than just finding it – it is about identifying the why, what, and how for paper. We continually work towards driving less paper consumption and better ways to collaborate and drive efficiency without adding more time or information sprawl.
About a year ago, we had an open house here at the Summit 7 Systems corporate headquarters. While there is no doubt it was a great event, there was a single comment that stood out more than any other – “I can’t help but to notice that there is zero paper in your office – I only saw one filing cabinet.” I really found this comment interesting because we take for granted that the lack of paper is just considered as the way we do business.
What’s funny is that the paperless office is an assumed method of business success, but the reality is that we are producing and printing on more paper than ever before.
However, we aren’t perfect and despite being an “almost” completely digital and electronic workplace, we still have pockets of paper that pop-up from time to time, sometimes even daily. So in an effort to drive our workplace towards lowering our usage of paper, we need to understand why paper continues to stick around.
What does the use of paper really tell you?
- People may not trust the technology.
- It’s all about the interface – paper is more personal (especially during personal settings).
- Available technology is not as flexible – do people really know how to use a shared OneNote notebook?
- You are at risk for knowledge leaks – knowledge that should be captured, but isn’t.
- Potential business process inefficiencies.
The difficulty for any organization when moving towards reducing paper is how. The first step is to prioritize what you as an organization have the ability to influence in a positive way. While not always fruitful, massive technology changes and shifts can cause a level of disruption and push-back that creates more cost and work in the long run.
How do we prioritize? As an organization moves towards the path of paper reduction all paper currently in-use should be attributed to at least 3 buckets.
- Is the paper associated with a business process
- Is the paper needed for collaboration
- Is the paper needed for legal reasons
We suggest the following methods for prioritization when identifying paths towards paperless offices:
1.) Business Process First
While not always the rule – the path of least resistance often starts with a business process. Business processes often have a primary stakeholder, a champion for change. This is important for adoption and usage.
As a side note, when determining what your first big win is, balance it out with impact as a whole. Sometimes the business processes that are not as business critical can have just as big an impact towards positive influence as those deemed business critical processes.
2.) Collaboration Second – in today’s business environment it seems that we are continually being pushed to operate more efficiently and effectively. Focus on ways that collaboration can be improved and perhaps you can add “agility” to your organization e.g. the ability to surface product or process improvements quickly to get actionable results.
3.) Legal Reasons – UNLESS there are current legal or contractual obligations that are not being complied with, this can take some time and should be very carefully thought out.
These three simple steps can help you begin your quest for a paperless office. Need more inspiration? Check out our free resources and learn how you can use less paper, make a difference, and maximize your workflow.