12 Steps to a Paperless Office in 2021 | Smallpdf (2024)

The paperless office – a buzzword that has been around since electronic document formats, or PDFs, to be more exact – emerged on the market in the early 1990s. Adobe had the ultimate goal of creating a document format that could be viewed on any operating system, and any selected document could always be printed locally.

Now, 30 years later, the Portable Document Format has been the industry technical standard for well over a decade. We view, print and use PDFs on our laptops, tablets and mobile phones on a daily basis. But the paperless office is still more a myth than a reality. If the uprising of digital documents achieved anything, it was the increase of global paper consumption, as it made documents easily widespread and printable.

Yet, believe it or not, going paperless is easier than you think. What used to be a more expensive and time-consuming option has now, thanks to hundreds of companies who have rethought old ways of working, become a valid option to actually start saving time, money and the environment. Sounds tempting, right?

It all starts from a learned affinity for using paper. Old habits die hard and change has to come from within. Thus, we put together this step-by-step guide on where and how to start to automate those old-fashioned processes. We also calculated the cost of going paperless. Keep on reading to see the results!

1. Company culture - establish a plan

Change comes from within, period. Every attempt to change “the way we work” has to be implemented from within and from top to bottom. There are many great examples of failed attempts in new business process implementation or even implementing a simple break culture.

Going paperless might sound like a small effort, but, as with any task, it is not as easy as one two three, and requires carefully thought-out planning and implementation.

2. Create an enablement team

Depending on the size of your organization, you might need an enablement team or simply an enablement person who will drive the change and is responsible for internal trainings. Going paperless means you need to digitize and semi-automate multiple company processes. And doing this means you will need people who lead by example and are there to train the employees who might not be so technically savvy.

A paperless office means each and every employee is committed to making the change. Before you can start saving time, you most probably need to invest some hours in internal training.

3. Legislative obstacles - compliant or not?

Before rushing into digitizing documents, it is vital to check first whether some compliance regulations require you to retain actual copies of documents with an “inked signature” for a certain period of time.

Depending on the country, electronic signatures have become as compliant as original ones in past years, but it is always important to double check this first.

4. Document Management Software or an Enterprise Content Management

One of the most essential factors in moving towards a paperless office is putting all existing documentation into a digital form and storing it in a system which is accessible to all necessary personnel. There are plenty of different options to go for, but one of the first questions one should ask is: do I need a DMS or an ECM?

Document Management Software is the lighter version, which handles only file creation, sharing, manipulation and storage.

Enterprise Content Management, on the other hand, is a heavier solution, which covers all company content, including files, images, web pages, records and so forth.

Once a suitable option is found, the next essential question is: should we go into cloud or get a local server.

The popular and more agile option for SMEs is to move into the cloud with a DMS, due to its cost-effectiveness and lack of maintenance. The cloud service provider will take care of upgrades and troubleshooting. See here a comparison table of the best document management software.

Often the part of researching and fully implementing a DMS or an ECM is seen as more of a costly task, which takes not only monetary, but also a significant time investment. Moreover, this investment is often misunderstood if it does not come back with manifold results in efficiency and even savings in costs until everything is up and running. See our cost calculations at the bottom of this article.

For more information about useful software, check out the following article:

12 Steps to a Paperless Office in 2021 | Smallpdf (2024)


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