Paper Free Where Do I Sign?

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Published: 19th November 2016
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Speak to most businesses these days and they will tell you that they intend to "go paper free".

But the vast majority are still far from achieving their ambition. YouGov say that 80% of UK-based organisations still cite the need to collect signatures as the reason why they still print things out in hard copy.

This is a little mystifying, since the Electronic Communications Act 2000 legitimises various types of electronic signature.

Failure to act on this is causing organisations to miss out on a whole range of benefits and cost savings.

Saving Money - What's Not to Like?

The cost of the paper itself is just the tip of the iceberg. And let's put to one side the beneficial effects to the planet of reducing paper usage.

So, how about moving all that paper around? Sending documents by mail is hugely more expensive than transferring them electronically. In fact, if you already have a decent email infrastructure in place, the cost of moving documents around electronically could be said to be zero.

Filing and archiving may also be costing you money (and space), and maybe you also have to spend out on destruction of sensitive documents.

The cost of buying and maintaining printer hardware and consumables can mount up too.

Time Saving - the Top Prize

But the biggest opportunities for savings are often about saving employees' time. And time, as we are always reminded, is just money in another costume.

If you can eliminate paper, there will be no time spent lining up printers, changing toner, stuffing envelopes, decollating forms.

Electronic documents can be linked to database records, making the filing system really work for you. How much quicker is it to search for a client in the database and then click a button to view their contract?

It's worth investigating, too, how long your team spend deciphering the handwritten forms that come back into the office. Or re-keying paper-based data back into their computers from those forms. There are hidden costs too, of course, such as the cost of errors introduced by all that deciphering and re-keying.

Making Your Move

It can be a little daunting. We're all paper addicts at heart, and breaking that addiction can be a big step to take.

Perhaps it's easier to break things down into steps. Each step should lead toward your goal, but the changes need to be manageable within the context of your organisation. Every company is different, and has its own unique culture.

Here are some simple prompts to get you started:

Could you collect email addresses for contacts with whom you currently exchange lots of paper? Make a list and have someone ask them - they may be glad to move to paper free too!

Is your database system capable of handling electronic documents? If not, investigate what it would take to get it doing that. If it's a real old dinosaur, consider whether it's time to replace it with something more flexible that can do the job.

Do you have employees who visit customers or sites? Think about whether they could take mobile devices (smartphones or tablets) instead of lots of multi-part paper forms. As well as saving paper, you can do clever things like collecting photographs and GPS locations in your forms too. And the completed data will get back to you right away, in a format that can update your office systems without re-keying.

Rid your business of the paper habit, or at least cut down your usage. There's still a chance to get ahead of your competitors, while they are still worrying about getting a signature on the dotted line.

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