- One of the easiest ways to adopt a digital strategy is to embrace a paperless office. This can be done by digitising existing papers and reviewing and redesigning workflows.
- Depending on your requirements, some of the critical functionality to look for in a document management solution includes: integration options; the ability to file, search and retrieve documents quickly; easily automated workflows; and robust security.
- As with all technology, ensure you stay up to date with the release of new features, undertake training in using the solutions and have proper security protocols in place.
If you’ve ever had a Zoom meeting with me, you may have noticed the magnificent floor to ceiling office cupboard behind me. Once I started going paperless, it became my linen cupboard. Let me share that journey with you.
Are you keen to help the environment, save money and improve efficiencies? There are apps for that! One of the easiest ways to adopt a digital strategy is to embrace a paperless office. This can be done by digitising existing papers and reviewing and redesigning workflows to prevent paper from entering the business environment.
Minimising paper in the office is good for the environment and will reduce costs: no more paper, filing cabinets, photocopiers, ink, toner and postage costs. In addition, fewer storage requirements means less rental space, which can even have the knock-on effect of reducing insurance costs.
Another benefit of converting paper to digital is documents become easily searchable, a massive time saver – particularly during an audit. If you take away nothing else from reading this article, remember this: always opt for optical character recognition (OCR) when scanning documents, so the content within the document is fully searchable.
“Always opt for optical character recognition (OCR) when scanning documents, so the content within the document is fully searchable.”
Document management software
One of the most significant pieces in the paperless office puzzle is implementing a secure document management solution.
In 2010 I started using the online cloud storage tool Dropbox. A synchronised file structure sits across my devices (PC, laptop, smartphone); if I make an update in one spot, it updates everywhere. I use it to receive client files, share legal documents and marketing collateral, and to store records such as templates, that I always want remote access to. Xero, my accounting software, also includes file storage. I create annual folders and store contracts, warranties and documents there.
Depending on your requirements, some of the critical functionality to look for in a document management solution includes, but is not limited to: integration options; the ability to file, search and retrieve documents quickly; easily automated workflows; and robust security, especially over sensitive data.
For a digital filing system to work effectively, documents must be named, tagged and stored in appropriate folders. Online solutions suitable for larger organisations include Google Drive (Google Workspace) and Microsoft 365 which gives you access to personal cloud storage OneDrive and collaborative platform SharePoint. For those in practice, customised options include FYI Docs, HowNow X, Nimbus Portal and SuiteFiles.
Digital signature apps
Part of the paperless journey is deterring paper from coming into the office. For example, my tax accountant’s office (yes, I’m an accountant who doesn’t do tax!) would mail me wads of paper for me to sign, scan and return. I spoke with them and explained the cost and time savings if they adopted digital signatures. I supplied some rough ‘back of a napkin’ calculations, estimating they’d save $4000 a year. The upshot is I no longer receive paper and we both benefited.
Digital signatures are one of the easiest solutions to integrate into an existing workflow. Documents can be sent to a client, esigned, authorised and returned in minutes, increasing efficiency while reducing postage costs. Options in this space include Adobe, Annature, DocuSign, FuseSign and HelloSign.
Receipt scanning apps
The first time I used an app called Receipt Bank (now Dext Prepare) was on 15 July 2013 to scan a $7.20 parking receipt. The reason I know this date is because the receipt details were extracted and along with the scanned image, pushed into Xero where they remain today. The supporting documentation was attached to the transaction, ready to be reconciled and, if necessary, paid. It was a game changer and eliminated the need to store paper receipts.
Take a look at Datamolino, Dext Prepare and Hubdoc. If you require the additional functionality of detailed line extraction (think hospitality or inventory) and comprehensive purchase approval through to payments, look at ApprovalMax, EzzyBills, LightYear.cloud, Paytron and Zahara Software.
Smart online form building tools
I have an online form built with Gravity Forms installed on my website to collect non-sensitive client information. Smart online form building tools can securely collect information, reducing paper handling, improving accuracy and minimising manual data entry. Plus, they can integrate the tools into their workflows, so the information goes where it’s needed. Take a look at Google Forms, Jotform and Microsoft Forms. For those in practice, many accounting solutions have an offering or look at Content Snare or Karbon.
Tools that help reduce paper usage and waste
When I need a pen to touch paper to help me think through something, I use Rocketbook. This cloud-connected reusable notebook transcribes handwritten notes and can forward them to online digital storage (like an email address, Evernote, OneNote or a Google Drive account). A microfibre cloth can clean the erasable pages. Similar options include the Notud app. It transcribes handwritten notes and pushes them into your Xero file. For a higher price, there’s also the reMarkable 2 tablet, which is tech the cool kids are using. The tagline is “the only tablet that feels like paper”.
Other tools that help reduce paper usage include a whiteboard (an electronic one if you want to step it up a notch), large or multi-monitor displays, a smartphone’s camera and a quality stylus pen. Or go low tech and instead of A4 notepads, use A5 or A6 size and halve the paper consumption.
Embracing a paperless workplace
Some may find it more palatable to implement a sustainable paperless office policy than a digital modernisation strategy when motivating teams. Also, adding a snag to workflow can gently steer a behaviour change. For example, position the printer a distance away so it’s a bit of a walk to use it. As with all technology, ensure you stay up to date with the release of new features, undertake training in using the solutions and have proper security protocols in place. It’s encouraging to know that every effort made toward a paper-free office, benefits the office, and benefits the environment.
Apps for a paper-free office
Reduce paper usage
DISCLOSURE: Over the past decade Heather Smith has worked with several app companies mentioned.
Living the paperless dream
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