Guide on Sustainable Working Practices: The ”Less Paper” Challenge

Get end users involved early, or they will not come along for the ride. – Ideally in the decision making and how the system will be used. It sounds obvious, but even just a few end users who will ‘champion’ the system can make all the difference. With any process change there will be a learning period and your users should want the system to be a success rather than a failure.

Be pragmatic – paper is still the best tool for some jobs and overall “usability” is the aim of the system. Involving users will highlight some areas where 100% “paperless” just won’t work. Sometimes a piece of paper is the best way to capture or share information – accept this and look at complimentary technologies to produce documents and capture the data from paper. This isn’t failing to “go paperless”; it’s just providing a solution which is fit-for-purpose!

Select key short-term goals to win support for the initiative
Pick the “low hanging fruit”. Having a particular team or business area lauding the benefits they’ve had from document management will create interest from everyone else. Even if you want to have a “big bang” change, someone has to go first and this should be managed carefully.

Set realistic measurement parameters and make sure they are used to appraise progress against the plan.
Ideally these measures should be quantitative – which can sometimes require a creative way to define ‘softer’ benefits. There is nothing quite like a number to prove the benefit of the system. It’ll also tell you how well your project is progressing.

Get management buy-in across the organisation. This is important even in the areas that aren’t going to be paperless straight away. Sharing a vision creates energy and avoids pockets of naysayers.

Be aware that information is used for many purposes As well as allowing for efficient retrieval, think about how information is created, collected and modified (forms, updates and extra notes added to existing pages). What are the appropriate tools for each situation and what technology is already in place?

Think of who needs to see the information and where. Accessibility is vital to a successful implementation, without it you’ll just have printouts. Ensure you are making access easy for those who need it, otherwise you will have failed before you’ve begun.

The flip side to accessibility is security– make sure yours is upgraded. Paper can be lost or stolen but so can electronic data – rapidly and in vast amounts. Many board directors are nervous of this,so build in appropriate security from the start.

Think about the structure of what you’re storing. (A taxonomy, in the jargon). Consider what indexes are required to allow information to be retrieved quickly. Take care with this because once you start storing information you will be locked into a structure which can be hard to change.

Consider the different ways that information comes into the organisation (i.e paper, e-mail, electronic data) and aim to consolidate this to a single path based on purpose rather than managing by where it came from – this is the next step towards managing your processes as well as controlling your paper.

These all seem obvious things to do but we’ve seen plenty of examples where one or more has been missing – always to the detriment of the overall initiative. It is possible to reduce your paper usage in the office and improve your business processes at the same time – but only if you have a clear plan.