The Paperless Office

How long have you been saying, "We need to go paperless"?  Has it been months, years or even decades?  It's a great concept to strive for, but don't get discouraged if you haven't gotten to this point yet.  This term has been thrown around for years and we still see business after business with paper everywhere.  Paper takes up space and sometimes is hard to find, and it can eventually make your office look messy.  So why is so hard to make the move?  I'll give you the main reason, IT'S AWFUL!!!  Why is it so awful, well here are some obstacles you may be running into:

1.  Time- The amount of time required to actually move towards a paperless office can take years without a proper strategy.  A little scanning here, a little scanning there, a little scanning whenever your employees have some downtime.  Well if you are properly staffed and running an efficient office, your employees should not have a lot of downtime, which then makes the process even harder to accomplish.

2.  Money- Usually the move towards a paperless office requires the purchase of a new software program, or to utilize software already in place that has the capability to store all of your information.  Think about that for a minute.  How much did you pay for a software program that you are not using to its highest potential?  Why buy something that you won't even use?

3.  Hard copies are required- Well then what's the point of going paperless if we have to keep the documents?  Pretty much every business is required to keep some type of hard copies.  Whether it's contracts, time sheets, transcripts, etc., hard copies are needed to make someone happy.  Have you ever thought about what you would do in the event of a natural disaster?  A fire, flood, tornado, or even a busted pipe could wipe out all of your required documents very quickly, then what?  Some organizations are fined, or worse, if they can't produce proper documentation within a given amount of time.  

4.  We don't reference those files-  Then what's the point of keeping them?  A retention schedule of eliminating old paper documents is unheard of in some organizations.  They are out of sight, out of mind and there when we need them.  Files are thrown into storage and forgotten about, taking up valuable square footage you are paying for at a premium price.  

Where do you start?  Moving towards a paperless office requires baby steps.  It's important to identify the main objective of what you are trying to accomplish, then come up with different phases of how this will be completed.  Once the plan is in place, a great commitment is needed to follow through with the plan.  Here are some helpful ideas that can make this process easier to start:

1.  Identify the champion-  Every office has that employee with all of the ideas of how to make the company better.  Make that employee your paperless champion.  It is their responsibility to come up with a plan, implement the plan, and then follow through with the plan.  It will be harder to convert your office into paperless if everyone is doing what they think is best on their own time.  Once a champion is established and has taken ownership of the project, you will see this project completed properly and faster than you could even imagine. 

2.  Baby Steps-  Consider what is most important first.  Do you need to convert the warehouse?  Do you just want to start with a day-forward strategy?  Should you start with HR?  Pick a department, or specific file, or even a file cabinet.  Once that is completed, move on to the next project.  Put the plan in writing so no deviation can occur.  

3.  Scanners-  Identify who is going to do the converting.  Some companies bring in their children over summer break, some hire a temp agency, some use their current employees, and some hire a company to come in and convert everything.  Just remember that the conversion process is a very tedious job that can take a very long time to complete depending on who you choose and how much you want scanned.  

4.  File Retrieval-  Once everything has been converted, how are you going to find it?  Scanning and creating PDF's could work, but think about all of your files that would be converted.  It is possible that it could take just as long to find that PDF as it would take to find the hard copy.  Scanning to PDF is great, but without proper software the only tag to search a file by is the file name.  The retrieval of information within the file may be what you are looking for, but you may not know which file name it's under.  Document management programs have the capability of searching by OCR (optical character recognition) and tags..  By tagging your document with three to four most searched for items before the scan, or by creating OCR PDF's, you should be able to find what you are looking for very quickly.    

5.  Keep it Digital-  Once everything is scanned in, how are you going to keep it digital.  This part of the plan can be the hardest to accomplish because it requires behavior change.  We are all set in our ways, and change is great for the other guy.  But in order to complete the process, it is good to have someone from the outside come in and ask questions about why you are doing what you are doing.  It may be hard to come up with a game plan for behavior change if you don't know what to change.  Once that game plan can be implemented, then you are well on your way to becoming a paperless office.  

 

Buyer 2.0

What is Buyer 2.0?  How does it relate to me?  What is it?  

Chances are that if you are reading this, you are considered "Buyer 2.0."  Just about everyone has a smartphone, tablet or computer within an arms reach at all times.  With so much information in our hands, we have the ability to research, analyze and shop without pesky, uninformed salespeople bothering us.  

 

Buyers are greatly benefiting from online reviews, social media and market analysis to help confirm their purchasing decisions.  More than likely, a buyer can find the product and a price that will change their business for the better and make that great impression on the boss.  That's what it's all about, right?  Time efficiency and keeping the big guy happy, eliminating wasted time spent waiting on the third proposal from a sales rep that you may not see after next month.  Buyer's can even get the three quotes that may be required before any purchasing decisions are made just by going to three different websites.  There's even websites that will do the three quotes for you, if you trust it.  It's great and can be accomplished in less than an hour once you start getting the hang of it.  However Buyer 2.0, there are some things to keep in mind before you make this a standard practice. 

Who is the expert?  I'm sorry to say this Buyer 2.0, but you are not the expert.  Spending a couple of hours online looking for something at a low price to help your company does not automatically peg you as an expert.  What this does is it makes you more informative and comfortable talking about the possible solution today rather than yesterday.  Think about the organization you work for, each employee is an expert at their job.  The President is an expert on how to make their company profitable, the office manager is an expert on how to keep the office running, and the sales manager and sales reps are the experts on the productsand services your company sells. Think about this, if you are the office manger, do you think you know everything that a sales manager knows about the products you sell?

Talk to someone.  Buyer 2.0, if you make the final decision on your own, and it's not what you thought it would be, then who will the fingers be pointed at?  At least if you talk to a sales rep, or another company that has made the same purchase, you will have some support on why the product may not be working like you had hoped.  Every company should have someone available to provide all of the information needed to make a educated decision.  The level of support expected from a company is a direct result of how quickly they can respond to your request.  If it takes over 24 hours for anyone to initiate contact, then you should expect the same level of service after the sale.  Once that individual responds, they should ask multiple questions to make sure they are suggesting the proper item.  If questions aren't asked, then it may be time to contact another vendor.  Consideration should also be taken from the conversation had with their representative.  This will be your contact throughout the process of the transaction, if a comfort level and relationship has not been established, then move on. 

Ask for a demo.  Have you ever bought a car without test driving?  It's a pretty big investment for most consumers.  As a Buyer 2.0, you have put in the work online to find the perfect car at the perfect price without dealing with a haggling salesperson.  Once that vehicle has been found, it's time to kick the tires and test how fast it can go.  Everything works to perfection, so it's time to sign on the dotted line.  The same should happen for business transactions.  Thanks to the internet, demo's can be given without a sales rep sitting in your office talking about the weather.  The beauty of technology is online demonstrations through Webex or any other web based remote software.  Don't just watch the demo posted on the website, have someone walk you through how the product would relate to your company.  If they can't provide that, then look for another vendor.  Hardware transactions should be tested before purchase as well.  Most organizations would rather bring out expensive hardware for a company to try before the purchase to eliminate any future headaches that may come up after the sale.  From a sale's rep perspective, there is nothing worse than going back to a customer after the sale and dealing with something that wasn't anticipated due to lack of qualifying or testing.  Believe me, I know from experience.

So Buyer 2.0, now you may know a little more about yourself.  Hopefully you will keep in mind some of these tips before pulling the trigger on that purchase.  Technology is a wonderful thing if you know how to use it correctly.  After you have used all of the resources available at your fingertips, don't forget about talking to a human being.  It may be the best decision you make.

 

In an effort to keep up with all of the Buyer 2.0's, this is our first attempt at blogging.  I hope you enjoy and find our articles beneficial.  Leave a comment and let us know how we are doing.

 

Thank you,

Alan Dickinson

VP Sales

Preferred Office Products