By: Brenda J. Trainor
For years, office managers have dreamt of the possibilities of a paperless office. Imagine getting rid of those banks of file cabinets and enjoying the office space for social interaction instead of storage. Imagine carrying just an iPad and no heavy briefcase. The essential component necessary to bring the paperless office to fruition is to plan for networked systems integration, because if you don’t plan your information technology systems towards integration, you’ll be destined to an office environment full of file boxes and storage costs for years to come.
Planning to be paperless does require commitment from all the levels of your organization, and if you are in a typical office, becoming fully paperless won’t happen very quickly if at all. But evolving to paperless is a laudable goal that brings efficiencies to your organization in many different ways, and is key to adjusting to the trends of modern office information processing. There are many reasons for setting a goal of becoming paperless.
A Paperless office is flexible for different ways of working. Office work is changing and becoming less dependent on space and more dependent upon being flexible. Office workers are mobile, reporting in from the field, when making sales calls or telecommuting from collaborative locations or working from home. An office system that has been built on an integrated network allows workers to use technology to get access to shared information without having to return to the home office, and without having to lug stacks of paperwork around. Networked systems that are not dependent on one location encourage real-time input and that can be useful for all members of a work group, so a team can share information quickly and respond properly. Real-time input can help team members manage inventory, process orders and increase effective communication to help keep the organization’s mission operating a peak levels of efficiency.
A Paperless office can save space and associated costs. Think of all the costs associated with processing paper: capital costs of storage cabinets and off-site storage and searching, ongoing fees for secure means of disposal or shredding, recycling contracts and trash disposal. With a goal towards being paperless, cost savings can be realized by reducing fees and costs of rent for office space. These cost savings can be offsets to the cost of establishing well-planned integrated networks that is searchable and well-managed to facilitate different applications.
A Paperless office can improve record keeping. A key trend in modern office procedures is collaboration. With a paperless office information system, it is easy to set up systems for record keeping that are easily accessible to all facets of an organization from all levels and all locations. This facilitates sharing across the different groups in the organization that can be useful to improving team-building, operating efficiencies, and timely and relevant responses to customers. A shared network also allows team members to review operating histories and transactional research to help analyze trends in productivity and procedures. The network must be well-planned to account to appropriate levels of security and access for different kinds of information. But, when well-managed, the information sharing can help shape operating procedures to new levels of efficiency.
A Paperless office uses all sorts of technology. An integrated network allows for access from different kinds of office equipment: smart phones, lap tops, desktop computers, tablets, scanners, cameras, projectors, ad infinitum. And the devices are becoming more portable and more often utilized for multiple purposes, often connected to cloud-based systems with Internet integration. Trends are that office devices will be smaller and more portable and more powerful with each new generation. The devices are used for all forms of communications and transportation whether or not directly tied to the corporate mission. Personal digital devices can be used along with office equipment as long as the network has planned for appropriately secure access controls. Allowing for personal devices on the network requires careful planning, but can have many advantages for controlling and managing appropriate corporate uses and keeping these separate from excessive personal use of office-issued devices.
The dream of a paperless office has been around for a while, and will continue to be a tempting notion for modern office systems – it is never too early to invest in a good network plan.
Brenda J. Trainor
Frontier Trail, Inc.
Monrovia, CA 91017