5 Steps To Build an Efficient Paperless Business
Some 25 years ago, people believed that the use of paper would decrease with increasing digital technology. But the very opposite happened.
People kept printing emails, web pages, proposals, contracts, etc. Not to mention that the use of paper for packaging skyrocketed with e-commerce retail.
In addition, developing economies rely on imported or locally sourced paper with few opportunities for recycling and a circular economy.
As a result, environmental impacts such as pollution and deforestation increased.
So what could businesses do to reverse this?
They can go paperless.
Imagine a company without a single sheet of paper. Sales teams send paperless proposals to their clients who open and sign them off on their mobiles.
How much space and storage you could save, not to mention the time needed to unearth a lost document?
Join the growing club of paperless businesses one step at a time.
What is a paperless business?
A paperless office is a company that minimizes or eliminates the use of physical paper and relies on digital documents.
Instead of storing stacks of paper documents in file cabinets, businesses can digitize those documents and store them on in-house servers or in the cloud, but then it’s time to learn how to choose a tech stack.
The concept of a “paperless business” or “paperless office” has been around since the dawn of personal computers in the 1980s and 1990s.
However, in recent years going paperless has become easier than ever, and the benefits of ditching paper for digital documents keep growing.
It’s often impossible to eliminate the use of paper. This is because certain tasks and processes naturally require the use of physical paper.
Legal departments and businesses are good examples. The legal industry has a long history of “resilience” to innovative technologies.
There are a few stellar exceptions to this.
A Washington DC law firm Arnold & Porter calculated that electronic distribution of internal documents alone would save the company 350,000 sheets of paper a year!
Steps to go paperless
Introduce a document management system
A document management system (DMS) should become your base for paperless business operations. It’s your digital filing cabinet and file retrieval system you can also use for sharing and collaboration on files.
Since you’ll use document retention tools as an essential resource for creating, securing, and sharing critical documents, make sure to get the system that best suits your business needs.
If you can manage your website, you’ll have no trouble managing your new document management system.
How to choose a DMS?
Do your research. Not all DMS solutions offer the same features, so you need to do your homework and understand your company’s needs and find the DMS with corresponding capabilities.
Still, to be efficient, a DMS should have the following components:
- Import: To introduce new documents into the system
- Storage: To maintain system files and manage the storage
- Identity: To assign indexes for accurate document retrieval
- Export: To remove documents from the system
- Security: To password-protect certain files for authorized users
For example, monday.com is a cloud-based document management software that gives you all the tools you need to plan a project from the idea to the conclusion.
The platform makes it easy to automate project approvals and tasks, while also allowing you to collaborate with your team members on a document online in real-time.
Digitalize outbound documents
Here’s the deal:
If you run a 100% remote digital agency, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to digitize every process in the firm and let go of paper documents.
But what many businesses miss is that going paperless is not just about saving money on stationery.
It’s about sustainability. It’s about a mission to make the world a better place.
In this sense, what good does it make if the docs you email to your clients get printed anyway?
Start sending digital sales documents, like proposals, contracts, and client sign-offs.
And I’m not talking about Word and PDF documents but “true” digital proposals that look and feel like an extension of your website.
I mean, you can technically print those as well.
But why would anyone want to print a digital, and lose all the digital proposal perks like video testimonies, live chat, app integrations, e-signature, and built-in payment options?
Our research from 2021 has shown if your proposal was printed, your conversion rate drops by a whopping 88%.
That’s not good.
The thing is that by switching to Better Proposals templates, you’re not only eliminating paper from your sales department but also speeding up and automating the entire process.
So, instead of filling out the forms over and over again, our proposal tool allows you to import client data and pieces of content directly from your CRM tool.
Finally, the integrated payment portal allows your clients to instantly pay from within the proposal.
As a cherry on top, you get a notification when your client opens your proposal so you can contact them on live chat and offer your service as they read your proposal.
In short, Better Proposals allows your clients to easily open your proposal on any device, read, sign, and pay, with no printing or scanning needed.
Adopt electronic signature solutions
Even with the widespread use of computers and digital records, documents like contracts have traditionally been kept in paper form.
Contracts used to require wet signatures to be valid, which means they had to exist on paper, and parties needed to be present to sign them.
Luckily, technology and legislation have evolved since then. Now businesses and individuals can sign contracts electronically using a touchpad, typing their name, or even as simple as clicking the “I agree” button.
By using electronic signature solutions, your team can manage contracts online both before and after they’ve been signed. No need to print contracts out, or sign them in wet ink, scan them and email them back to the clients.
Better Proposals offers electronic signature functionality, allowing parties to sign contracts in the same platform they created, edited, reviewed, and negotiated them.
This not only eliminates the need for manual processes but also empowers your clients to become paperless.
Catalog existing documents
A big advantage of a DMS is that it’s incredibly easy to track down documents. But this search capability doesn’t happen overnight. There’s a ton of organization and detailed tagging inputs.
In other words, you need to account for all the digital and paper-based documents you already have.
For most businesses, this means scanning, organizing, uploading, tagging, formatting, and much more.
I don’t want to lie to you, but this is the biggest and most demanding job in transitioning to a paperless business.
Not as easy as creating and sending a digital proposal eh?
So, you better start as soon as possible to get ahead of this project, so you can reap the ROI of a digitized document base sooner.
Here are some tips for organizing existing documents:
- Consistency: Once you decide on a way to name, label, tag, and classify files and folders, stick to it. Any inconsistency will make it much more difficult to find the document you need.
- Key info first: When you need to store gigabytes of similar documents, pick the biggest differentiator and use it to begin the file name. For example a client’s name or date.
Keep it short: Avoid super-long file names. Your DMS can also tag and locate the files from the folders the files are in.
Lead the change top-down
Your transition to a paperless business will be more successful if you’re leading the way. Whichever DMS and organization apps you choose, your team must see that you’re committed to the shift to paperless.
So how can you lead by example?
Be the face of the change. Send your employees weekly or monthly status updates and let your clients know that you’re dedicated to adopting new systems and processes.
Hold people accountable. I’m not saying you should reprimand anyone over excessive paper use in the first days of the transition. Still, you should expect your employees to join the change and practice using new tools and systems.
Share your enthusiasm. There’s a lot of positive business and environmental impact to be gained from going paperless. So don’t act like you’re preparing for the Great Paper Shortage of 2028. Keep committed to the cause but balance it with some fun and PR stories to get your people engaged and committed. For example, listen to this guy’s inspirational story. For him, going paperless means freedom.
Paperless office benefits
The first immediate benefit you’ll discover when you go paperless is the time your business will save. In a paper-heavy workplace, employees spend a lot of time organizing, filing, and retrieving documents, and there’s tons of room for human error.
When you switch to digital documents, you can create, share, organize, and send documents with a few clicks. You don’t even have to leave your desk. The time your team can save with a paperless office will allow them to focus on more critical tasks. No one enjoys rummaging through filing cabinets for documents that may not even be there.
With time savings comes productivity. With efficient DMS in place, legal, accounting, marketing, and sales teams no longer rely on physical copies of the documents and are free to share knowledge seamlessly across departments, offices, cities, and continents.
To collaborate, teams no longer need to crowd around a single table to discuss a document or build a contract. With paperless technology, teams can work on a single document in real-time, wherever they are.
If paper-based workflows leave a ton of room for human error, they also need a ton of room for storage. According to the U.S. EPA, an average office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of paper per year.
And it’s not just the paper. Filing cabinets, printers, shredders, and shelves all take up a lot of space. What is more, your employees constantly have to weigh which papers they need to keep and which ones they can bin.
On the other hand, if your business manages digital files on an on-premise server, even then it takes far less space than a paper archive of the same volume.
Gives more control over compliance and deadlines
Another, less evident benefit of the digitized business is that it gives you greater control over your obligations, and impending deadlines, especially contracts.
Paper-dependent processes often require contract renewal dates to be tracked somewhere separately. This all makes it painstaking to keep up to date with upcoming deadlines, which often results in extended subscriptions, unexpected charges, and extra costs.
But when you adopt a digitized system that automatically tracks important dates and obligations, you can have the peace of mind that the relevant party will be notified ahead of time.
This allows you to make more informed decisions about future relationships and deal with less stress.
Reduces pollution and carbon footprint
Finally and most importantly, reducing or eliminating paper used in business can significantly reduce the number of trees we cut down and conserve the energy that would be used to transform those trees into paper and fuel needed to transport the product.
Even the paper industry is harmful to the environment. It contributes to carbon emissions and uses harmful chemicals to process tree pulp into paper.
“Chemicals are found in paper-making processes starting from the forest where pesticides and other chemicals are used to process fiber into pulp resulting in land, water, and air pollution. These chemicals may include chlorine, mercury, absorbable organic halogens, nitrates, ammonia, phosphorus, and caustic soda with its specific consequence for the environment differently.”
– Smith, Richard (2011) “The Environmental Sustainability of Paper,” Graduate Studies Journal of Organizational Dynamics: Vol. 1
We sometimes forget that paper is not a raw material.
We sacrifice our planet’s most valuable resources to produce paper – trees, energy, and water.
A single A4 piece of pulp paper takes 20 liters of water to produce.
When the paper waste is disposed of without recycling, it rots producing methane gas which has 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years it reaches the atmosphere.
To be completely honest, digital filing systems are not perfectly carbon-neutral, but paperless offices have a much smaller carbon footprint.
But wait a minute? Isn’t there a way to make your company 100% climate neutral?
You can offset the remaining carbon by giving money to a cause or program that actively reduces global carbon emissions.
Carbon offsets are credits that organizations can buy to decrease their carbon footprint.
One carbon offset credit is equivalent to an emissions reduction of 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide.
Basically, you calculate your emissions and then pay a broker to remove a portion of carbon from the atmosphere, which can be in another part of the world.
The broker charges a fee based on that level and invests a portion of that money on a project that reduces carbon emissions, which can be in another part of the world.
Such projects include:
- Reforestation and conservation
- Community projects
- Waste to energy technologies
What is a paperless business?
A paperless business is a company that has minimal or no paper-based processes and relies on digital documents in every department and process.
Is a paperless business a good idea?
Yes, a paperless business is a good idea. It allows you to cut operating expenses, boosts productivity, improves security and compliance, accelerates business processes, improves customer experience, and gives your teams faster access to data.
How does a paperless business save money?
Going paperless saves money in two ways: By eliminating the paper and printing costs, and by increasing your day-to-day efficiency, which translates to productivity.
What are the disadvantages of going paperless?
The disadvantages of going paperless are security risks and viruses, initial digitization costs, software maintenance, especially in the case of legacy systems, and legal & compliance issues.
Can I convert paper to digital?
Yes, you can convert paper documents such as letters from charities and mortgage records by scanning. Use a scanner to convert any other files you’re comfortable keeping in digital format. Create PDFs of documents and web pages to store them on your computer and find them easily.
Wrapping up (sorry, can’t wrap, no paper)
By shifting to a paperless office, you can reap tremendous benefits for your company. What is more, your business will take its place among sustainable companies that reduce waste and protect the environment.
Going paperless for the most part boils down to choosing the right tools such as the capable DMS and sharing platform.
Better Proposals can become a key ingredient in your transition to a paperless business.
Start a trial and start closing new deals using our paperless proposal templates.
A win for you and a win for the planet.
Start sending better proposals today
more professional way to win more business.