We are not the first generation of office workers which has dreamt of abandoning paper. State agencies and businesses have been striving for this. Paper is expensive and cumbersome to deal with. But here’s the paradox: the closer we get to realizing the dream, the harder it gets to fully achieve it. During the winter of 2017/18, several significant studies on this topic were published. In short – we have made great progress in the last ten years, but we should not expect to get rid of paper without significant help from SaaS for at least another quarter of a century.
When did this rush to go paperless start?
It all started in the mid-70’s. It was the dawn of the market for personal computers, but big companies and organizations have already showed interest in computer technology. Computers were helping businesses cope with large volumes of numbers and text. And the bravest minds made bold predictions – over time, the emerging tendency of replacing paper with digital documents will reach a point after which paper will no longer be needed at all! Even “concrete” forecasts were made: by the year 1990, paper will disappear from all offices everywhere.
Why aren’t we there yet?
Well, 1990 has come and gone, just like year 2000 and 2010 did. But offices have yet to give up paper completely. The sun is setting on the second decade of the 21st century – and paper is still here. Why? Anna Klimova, director of the Tax and Legal Consulting Department, head of the Deloitte CIS division, former Chief Accountant of Procter and Gamble, shared her insights on why we still don’t have paperless offices everywhere. According to her personal experience, adopting a paperless solution in a big organisation is often hindered by several issues:
- The issue of approval from higher management
- The issue of adoption and integration of a new system
- The issue of education for employees
- The issue of transperancy and security
- The issue of legislative differences in various countries
What does “a digital workflow solution” bring to the table?
Contractual work becomes more transparent. More people become involved in the flow of a single contract and the number of approvals needed is much higher. Transparency at the stage of signing an agreement, transparency of responsibility and quick access to documents for verification are key in the context of completing contracts.
Electronic solutions are easy, user friendly and secure. A digital workflow solution brings undeniable advantages such as reducing manual mistakes, reducing the risks of document loss and speeding up the business process.
The usual obstacles
When implementing a digital solution, there will inevitably be difficulties with adopting new methods or innovations, setting up a new technology and lack of competency.
This is normal, considering that legally binding document circulation is paramount to all business processes in a company. That is why management can sometimes be sensitive to sweeping changes regarding adopting new systems and technologies. This is why adoption of digital workflow can become a heavily regulated process by internal control bodies.
Like any technology, a paperless office requires special attention from IT and security departments. In electronic document management, complex principles and methods of data protection are needed. They can not be properly activated and maintained without involving the technology department and security services.
In fact, for the successful implementation of a paperless office there is a need for new multi-talented workers that may be tricky to find in the market. But Why are such specialists hard to find? Because you rarely see an IT employee with an understanding of tax processes, or an accountant with programming skills. So while choosing a solution – check the “welcome package” – is there a 24/7 on-call representative to help assist employees with your chosen app or program? How user-friendly is the solution? How intuitive is the interface? What are the app’s integration capabilities? And most importantly – what is the company’s rating for customer satisfaction?
Adoption in baby steps
Like many other companies, Procter and Gamble switched to a digital workflow solutions in stages. They used a rational approach, starting from the most necessary – moving from one document flow to another. This trend of gradual adoption is quite popular among large corporations.
Many companies have already transferred to electronically sending out invoices and primary documents. Even customs declarations and cross-border documents are starting to be moved electronically. What’s also important is that no business or organization stop at the basic implementation stages.
Set clear goals
When implementing a digital solution, and preferably even before the whole process starts, make sure that there are a set of clear goals
- Do not depart from the basic rules of project management.
- Coordinate terms and deadlines with all participants of the project in advance.
- Do not go into excessive conservatism, trying to build an ideal process where it is not required.
- Don‘t get involved in unjustifiably deep adaptation of solutions and try to adhere to the standard approaches offered by technology providers.
- Rationally manage the control and quality ratio.
- Do not burden the workflow with complex and expensive solutions.
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