Since the invention of paper in ancient China in 100 BC, it has become an important aspect of our day-to-day lives. Developments in modern technologies have led to a lot of experts implying that the world will run without paper as it will give way to electronic methods of recording information.
The views of this have given way that the technological paperless or paper free systems will soon be more prominent. A paperless system can be described as a process in which the use of paper is substantially reduced or eliminated with the thought of saving costs, making the transfer of data easier, storage reduced, higher levels of security, improvements of a process as well as effectiveness and efficiency.
A primary concept of paperless offices is where documentation, filing cabinets are all limited and everything is stored and sourced electronically, as all paper documents are converted into digital formats.
An example of this is instead of posting invoices to clients, paperless converts them into a digital format and sends them through email.
Law firms and banking over the years have been somewhat dependant on paper. However, more and more law firms are preparing for digitisation, and there has been a massive uptake on online banking and applications. This has meant that banks can still deliver their service but digitally and for a law firm, sourcing of important documents can be quicker to find through digital storage, therefore, improving their efficiency and helping to keep costs down.
Enterprise Content Management Systems
The majority of paperless systems are driven by enterprise content management systems (ECM), which are designed to provide a simple and effective infrastructure to access information. Thus, leading to improvement in workflow systems and efficiency for day-to-day tasks.
Most run on a software (application) and a hardware (server) to manage the creation, storage and control of documents. This system manages information within the organisation's workflow by implementing collaboration so different departments or offices can share information seamlessly. Additionally, search functions are another key element to ECM, simplifying retrieval.
Potential Concerns for companies before adopting a paperless system
Introduction of a paperless system can be costly, as the capital investment on the software and the hardware can be high. Although, all of the initial outlay of cost will be paid off by the improvements to efficiency that are achieved over a period of time.
Challenges to staff attitudes, culture and procedures towards the new workflow will take time as their current ways of doing their role will change substantially, but this can be changed with time and consistent training.
A Potential loss of information must be at the forefront of an organisations thoughts. If the hardware or software fails, there is a potential for this. It is, therefore, crucial that there is a reliable, robust, secure and time-tested system in place to prevent this kind of event. Regular backups are required to ensure there is minimal damage.
Paperless is the future
The days of completely moving away from paper is a long way off, but, it is certainly underway with the movement and more organisations are moving to paperless systems and becoming less dependant on paper.
The use of letters for numerous services are being used less and less, and more email and SMS messaging are being utilised for communication purposes.