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The Paperless Office

October 2013

The Paperless Office

According to environment group Clean Up Australia, we devour more than 4.2 million tonnes of paper annually in this country. Each office worker in Australia throws away an average of 50 kilos of paper every 12 months. These facts alone are staggering but with regards to office productivity, the average document is copied nine to eleven times, every 12 filing cabinets require an additional employee  to maintain, 18 minutes is the average search time for a document, each misfiled document costs $125 and each lost document costs from $350 to $700. Every office needs to consider going paperless.

Is there such a thing as a paperless office? Probably not totally but there are ways we can dramatically decrease the amount of paper used in an office to not only reduce costs but also increase efficiencies. It is time to think outside of the square.

To make our offices paperless we need to convert documents and paper into a digital form which ultimately will save money (no more thousands of dollars spent on paper and printing), boost productivity (having everything at your fingertips instead of searching through filing cabinets and folders), save space (rows of filing cabinets and shelves of folders compared with a computer on a desk), make documentation and information sharing easier (allowing access to electronic files online), keep personal information secure (encrypted, secure environments) and help the environment (save the trees).

If we look at a traditional office they have paper-based filing systems such as filing cabinets, folders and shelves which all require considerable space and are resource intensive plus a person needs to be physically in the office to access them.

In contrast a paper-less office could simply have a desk, chair and a computer with all of the information stored in a digital form. Also you do not need to be physically in an office for you to access information from your laptop, tablet or smart phone.

Once computer data is printed on paper it becomes out-of-sync with computer data-bases. Trying to search for a paper file is often a nightmare (especially if other users of the filing system have filed incorrectly or taken out a file) and trying to update paper information in several different locations becomes difficult and costly. In a paper-less office you have a single-source collection point for distribution and updates. This is a huge benefit for accuracy and compliance.

Our modern computer screens today make reading less exhausting for the eyes plus you can use a laptop or tablet while sitting on a couch or in a coffee shop. How easy is that? We now watch movies and read books from our tablets, computers and even smartphones so it makes sense to operate our offices through the same technology. We are now able to be away from the office and still have access to all of the information we require without the need for a briefcase full of papers.

The benefits of a paperless office include: reduced storage; flexible retrieval; flexible indexing; improved, faster and more flexible search; controlled and improved document distribution; improved security; disaster recovery; no lost files; digital archiving; improved regulatory compliance and improved cash flow.

If you are keen to reap the benefits of a paperless office then here are some things which you should consider.

  • A paperless office does not happen overnight and does require resources and commitment to make the transition. Initially the changeover to a paperless office  may seem to be creating more work than less as large amounts of documents are scanned into the system but eventually this becomes routine and the access to the documents becomes the time-saver.
  • It is important that there is buy-in from everyone.  Saying you operate a paperless office and actually doing it can present challenges. Change can be difficult for people especially those who are in the routine of making  photocopies, printing out emails, sending paper faxes, storing documents in folders and saving mail. Perceptions need to be changed and new skills and behaviours learnt.
  • When starting the move to a paperless office the most visible impact is the reduction in cost of printing, mailing, shipping and storing paper. Over time however other benefits will become apparent based around office efficiencies, accuracy of information, client and supplier interaction and compliance.

In the strata management industry, the benefits of creating a paperless office are many. Below are some of the ways you can use on-line technology to improve efficiencies in a strata management office and how owners and suppliers can benefit from more efficient and transparent communication. 

Requesting suppliers to send electronic invoices which are automatically stored and indexed and attached to the relevant transaction saves manual handling. A great system will also automatically post these invoices to a secure website facilitating quick and easy approval from committee members and building managers. This saves the need to chase signatures from various stakeholders.

Having seamless integration and linkages between the document management system and the strata management software are the key to gaining efficiencies. Having one click access to linked documents eliminates retrieval time searching for support documents.  The ability to automate where documents are indexed reduces double handling.

For example:

o   Attach an invoice during the creditor entry process and it will automatically index the invoice in the document management system under the appropriate strata plan number.

o   When returning from a meeting you not only can you scan the minutes and distribute them immediately to the appropriate people, you can also automatically send  it to the owners portal under the appropriate strata plan number.

Managers attending  meetings no longer need to carry huge reams of paper - all they require is an electronic tablet and a remote connection to their office. Also security concerns about these sensitive documents sitting on a car seat become a non-issue.

Having secure auditing, tracking and control over electronic communications.

The paperless office is essential for any business environment. By embracing new technologies not only will there be less paper but office efficiencies will improve and potential business growth realised.

by Janette Comish - Group Marketing Manager StrataMax

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Friday, September 27, 2013