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Paperless office, how?

A fragrant cup of coffee on the left, a computer in the middle, and piles of papers on the right. It's not exactly a pretty sight on many desks in companies. A paperless office sounds great at first. However, many companies lack the practical knowledge. Ultimately, it's all about turning digital ideas into action.

What it means for a company to be digital

Of course, digitization in companies is not only defined by the amount of paper it generates. Running a business digitally means automating manual processes, digitizing documents and data, and being able to access them anywhere and from any device. Automating processes not only brings you closer to the digital office, but inevitably ensures that applications are aligned to enable cross-departmental workflows. Example: You not only want to have your invoices read out automatically, but you also want to transfer the data to your accounting department for further billing. This means that an automated process must be tailored to meet multiple needs. In concrete terms, digitizing documents means scanning files, folders and paper documents, indexing them and making them accessible to everyone involved in a central directory. In a further step, you also ensure that these documents, invoices for example, can be retrieved from anywhere. This is particularly important if there are additional locations or if employees want to work remotely or from home.

First steps to a paperless office

The first step is to create order. Think in terms of the business process, not the document. After all, digital workflows are the only way to add value for your company and your customers. Once you look at the process, you'll quickly identify paper documents that can be replaced digitally. Incoming invoices, contracts, quotes, receipts or other documents are present in very many workflows and can be digitized. So answer the question, which business processes exist in your company and create a list.

In addition, the path is crucial - which departments use which data and documents? What does the interchange look like among each other? Talk to your colleagues and jointly analyze the paths taken. Also consider processes that may already be partially digitized but can still be optimized. For example, approval steps that are not yet automated. You should also include documents that are already available digitally in your analysis. Once you have recorded the relevant work steps, the next step towards a paperless office is to identify inefficient processes.

Go through the individual process paths and note what you find that is inefficient about them. Focus first on individual business areas such as human resources, accounting or sales and then look at the cross-departmental processes. Tip: Start small and choose a process to start with a process that has particularly high digitization potential. For example, because it is used frequently in the company, it contains a lot of paper or it is not automated. It could be a simple process. Work out a digitization plan that outlines your objectives, steps and timeframe.

Before you start digitizing your process, it is important to create awareness within the company. Get buy-in from top management and senior leadership. Point out the benefits and make them aware that everyone needs to pull together for a paperless office. It's also significant to form a digitization team of executives and department representatives. This way, you not only take into account different requirements, but also ensure that everyone has a say, as well as driving the project forward together with you.

Implementation is at the heart of it

Now it's time for the heart of every plan - the implementation. This involves working with a competent solution provider. Think future-oriented and look for software that will not only work now, but will also work in the long term. Whether you choose a standardized or customized solution depends largely on the nature of your processes. Nevertheless, you should look for software that is suitable for everyday use and with which you can implement common business processes from HR, sales or finance and accounting. If you plan to work from home and remotely, a cloud or app solution may be an option.

Don't be deterred

Put one foot in front of the other. Taking the office paperless doesn't happen in a day. Digitization requires a well-developed plan, often a test phase and sometimes modifications. Don't let this discourage you - the first successes can already be seen with even small, digital adjustments. The beauty of digital transformation, after all, is that it is almost infinite. It allows you to make your everyday office life easier, more flexible and more efficient. Piece by piece.

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