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10 reasons to curb your paper addiction

10 reasons to curb your paper addiction

At Arena, we often still come across organisations that are so heavily reliant on paper that they seem to defy the digital age we now live in. When we ask them why, we tend to hear a common set of reasons for clinging on to heavily paper-driven processes. This article summarises the top 10 excuses and the reasons why they need to be fed through the shredder.

1. We’ve always used paper records – what’s the problem?

This is, without doubt, the most frequently voiced reason we hear for clinging to paper. Change can seem daunting and it’s often painful and challenging. It’s always easier to stay put but sticking with broken and outdated processes is a recipe for failure. Such an unwillingness to consider change inevitably leads to an exponential rise in paper usage, storage needs and costs.

2. I don’t trust computers

We’ve all heard the horror stories about losing important documents when a computer is infected by a virus. No one likes that sinking feeling when a file is lost or corrupted but that is exactly where remote backup tapes, removable hard drives, ‘the cloud’ or a remote server come in.

3. Paper is easy to use

Paper is easy to use when you’re working on a particular document, but then what? That document is likely to be added to an ever-expanding paper archive, presenting you with a potential time-consuming challenge the next time you need to retrieve it – which might be in several years’ time. The longer you hoard paper, the more documents you’ll accrue and the more difficulty you will face in complying with ever-evolving Data Protection guidelines.

4. We can control security more easily with paper records

You may lock your sensitive documents away and grant access only to authorised employees. However, can you evidence that only they have accessed those files and that they have not tampered with them or shared them? Human nature dictates that at some point, that document store might be left unlocked and forgotten – can you prove that has never happened?

An electronic document management system requires users to log in. This lets you control and audit which members of staff can access sensitive information, and prevent them from seeing anything that they are not authorised to view. Good software will gift you a host of security features to track user activity, prevent deletion of files and ensure your documents are protected.

5. We know where all of our paper records are

You may be able to keep track today, but as the number of documents stored continues to rise, this will get more and more difficult. Misfiling, malicious activity or, worse still, document loss (through degradation or human error), may go undetected and cause you huge problems.

All it could take to bring your carefully memorised system to its knees could be a crisis, such as a fire or flood - or even some dropped and scattered paperwork. An electronic document management system will prevent the permanent loss of documents whilst indexing and searching functionality places even a misfiled record at your fingertips within a few mouse clicks.

6. We can’t digitise every process for every team, it’s impossible

We hear you! Rome wasn’t built in a day and the concept of digitising all of your paper-led processes can seem daunting. It can be done step-by-step, though, very effectively. We often start with a look at just one of your functions – like finance, or pupil/customer records. Once that’s worked out we move on through a pre-defined plan at a pace that suits you.

It’s also a good idea to also review the way you print and copy documents at the outset. This is an area where clever technology and a wise infrastructure can reduce paper consumption, address costs and simplify maintenance.

7. My job will be replaced by a computer

You may be worried that robots will take over the world – but that day has not yet arrived. Don’t think of an electronic records management as doing your job, rather, think of it as a tool to help you with your job. It can ease and improve the management of digitised records by making it easier to index and find documents, monitor retention and disposal periods and keep information safe through increased security and remote back-ups.

8. Our paper document archive is not likely to be lost in a crisis – the risk of a fire, flood or similar is so low that we are willing to take it.

We have heard this a few times and, I kid you not, at least one of those businesses returned to us some time later having suffered just such a crisis. Bad things do happen, and it’s best to protect your critical documents and be prepared.

9. It’s too expensive to go digital

Working with paper also incurs large costs, it’s just that they are seeping into your bottom line daily, in the form of overheads such as running printers, and purchasing paper. They are also there in the form of inefficient practices that cost you time. For example, you might need to call back customers after retrieving information from paper files in order to answer their queries. You might spend hours searching for a document, filing and retrieving records – or undertaking your annual archiving process. Even storing a paper document archive incurs costs, and increasingly stringent legislation in some sectors will only frustrate this issue as document retention requirements expand. All of these costs are present, but they are tougher to spot and control – and they can all be addressed by digitising your processes.

10.  We have to use paper in order to comply with legislation

This excuse is about as old as a paper filing system. You can make almost every kind of transaction from buying a home to filing taxes without ever signing a physical document. Laws have changed that allow typed and digital signatures; this is now a standard practice and looks like it is here to stay.


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