Given all the technological advances in recent decades, it may seem like something of a puzzle that so many commercial organizations remain reliant on paper. Whether this is for recordkeeping, data generation, or invoicing functions, many businesses seem to like to keep their paper-based operations going even though they may be taking advantage of advanced software, cloud computing, and remote technology for conferencing alongside their traditional systems. What are the pros and cons of continuing to operate in this way? Here is a quick synopsis of the effect that this could be having on business practices.
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Old habits die hard
You may well be familiar with the cry “because we’ve always done it this way”, even in the most forward-thinking working environment. Equivalent to “if it ain’t broke”, this is an indicator of trading customs and habits that have set in and are hard to change. Often, this reluctance to do things differently applies even if business owners suspect that they could improve efficiency and be more productive as a result. The technology is not the weakness in this scenario; rather it is human nature and resistance to change.
- For a long time, businesses have relied on paper for communication – letters, invoices, receipts, ledgers, files, and index cards are a few examples of the ways in which businesses have been set up and run. Archives and their maintenance are another example of how paper has proliferated in the workplace, perhaps because these are all examples of tangible records – ones that you can hold in your hand to read or check or search.
- Traditionally, there have been legal and financial compliance requirements for documents that have been signed and perhaps witnessed as confirmation of their standing. However, in the modern world, digital documents are widely understood as valid, including by government departments and the legal profession.
- Additionally, people like paper when it comes to achieving long life and permanence; for example, many museums and libraries still have paper documents that go back many hundreds of years. Having said that, advances in PDF and JPEG technology are rapidly addressing any fear you might have that precious records could disappear and be lost forever.
- One concept that is almost always misconstrued is that of the cost to a business of switching to a paperless system. While paper is relatively inexpensive, when you factor in the cost of purchasing the office printer, complete with ink cartridges or toner, maintenance, servicing, cabling, and connectivity, things begin to look a little different. Add to this user support and archive storage and that notion that paper is the “cheaper option” is fast receding.
Cutting back on the use of paper brings some real advantages to the business environment. One of the most obvious attractions is the use of email for communications rather than a paper-based system. Much faster and cheaper than using mail services or couriers, you can communicate instantly with colleagues across the globe. This helps to improve decision-making and keeps a business up to speed with contemporary developments.
- Reducing clutter is another great reason to use less paper. There is no longer any need for paper filing systems and endless stacks of records on desks or shelves. Not only can digital files be organized simply and quickly, but they can also be made more available to more people and are easily encrypted to protect them from unauthorized access.
- Generating paperless invoices electronically is a straightforward time and space-saving measure that is increasingly accepted by businesses during day-to-day trading. An invoice template available online at https://invoicehome.com/ will help you to create an invoice and customize it to suit your business needs. Sending invoices via email gets them to your customers quickly, so payments are not delayed due to the loss of the several days it takes for a paper version to be delivered and the payment to be remitted. Faster payments are much healthier for the bottom line of the business.
- Also better for all businesses and the people who work in them is the fact that reducing the amount of paper used is more environmentally friendly – fewer trees are felled, and the costs of manufacturing and transporting the paper are significantly lowered.
- Cloud computing has become the go-to solution for largest businesses, and increasingly for mid-scale and smaller ones. When digital documents are stored on remote servers that are internet hosted, the need for local servers or storing documents on a computer disappear. Even better, retrieving documents, managing them, and searching them becomes faster and more time efficient.
- Many of the physical problems that traditional office setups encounter can be streamlined in a paperless work environment. With storage on shelves or in filing cabinets reduced, moving premises is easier, and you may even find suitable office space at a lower rent because you won’t require so much room if they are not stored on paper but stored remotely or even on a single backup laptop.
- Cost reduction is again an attractive feature of the paperless business as printing, mailing, and any associated costs will be considerably lower.
Making a change
If you think there is potential for changing your business systems for the better, why not do a quick cost calculation of your potential savings, as well as an audit, to determine how much printing your organization is actually doing? Check out the cloud-based applications that you could be using, and remember how beneficial it is to move accounting and invoicing systems online.
Simple scanning and indexing of documents will help you to keep tabs on everything, and regular backups will keep everything secure. If you haven’t already done so, then switch to online banking and paperless statements.
Finally, and most importantly, proceed at a pace with which you are happy. There is no need to try for an overnight switch; instead, introduce small steps and bring the workforce along with you. After all, it’s in everyone’s interest to have more productive, streamlined working systems.