Tools You Need To Create a Paperless Home Office
My home office is not 100% paperless, but I’m using some of the tools I have listed below.
A paperless workplace or home office enjoys a significant edge over one that still uses paper documents.
Going digital reduces business costs. It makes it easy to share information. It makes you more productive, efficient, and less prone to error. It reduces physical clutter. It is a sustainable way of running an effective home or office.
Use tools to help you create the paperless home office of your dreams.
1. Get an e-signature
Permission slips, invoices, contracts, and other documents are easier to handle in digital form. They are easier to read, edit, and sign.
You need an e-signature to sign digital documents. Use a mobile device or a desktop to import your signature. Platforms give you instructions that are easy to follow. If you don’t want to keep your signature on your computer, import it and delete it after use.
There are apps to help you create your e-signature and apply it to pertinent documents. Software like Docusign, Adobe Acrobat, and Adobe Reader have e-signature tools.
It is easy to fill out documents which have multiple signature fields if you have a signature on hand. If you need to fax the document to another person, use Scanbot Pro, FaxZero, or some similar service to send your signed digital file.
2. Get a scanner.
A home scanner is a big help if you want to go paperless. It helps you process and digitize multiple documents at high-speed.
With a dedicated scanner, you can handle manifold documents at one time, enjoy first-rate scans without having to worry about angles or lighting, and easily send your files to cloud storage. You get all the work done fast.
3. Use scanning apps.
You can also use apps for scanning and sending documents.
Scanbot for Android or iOS is a useful tool for scanning, editing, and managing documents. It scans documents, labels, barcodes, QR codes, sketchbooks, business cards, and whiteboards. It allows you to add your signature or annotations.
You have the option to make in-app purchases and buy additional features if you want an upgrade.
Organize, store, and make your documents easily accessible by using services.
It is not enough to scan documents and store them in one digital folder. Use file naming systems or tags to organize your documents so you can quickly find any document that you need.
Dropbox and Google Drive automatically send scanned documents into cloud folders.
IFTTT and Evernote sort documents by type (medical information, school records, taxes, receipts, etc) and file them in the right folders.
OneNote tags and names documents.
Mac Finder organizes folders, documents, media, and other files. Use the built-in tags to sort documents or to separate documents you consider urgent (like bills) from other less-important ones (like receipts).
4.Document Management Systems
A document management system is a system designed explicitly for managing all digitized enterprise documents. This system is created specifically for managing all digitized enterprise documents. It is essentially a software used to control and organize documents
Managing documents includes capture of document and content, as well as workflow, COLD/ERM, repository of documents, and output systems. It also includes systems for information retrieval.
One of the major ways in which DMS can help in going paperless is capturing paper documents and information and transforming these into digital information through a document scanner.
These digitized documents, however, are stored in PDF and similar unreadable format. Hence, any information in a PDF cannot be included during a information search at the document level. This is one of the major drawbacks of a document management system.
An enterprise content management system is a system consisting of tools, strategies and methods working together to organize a huge amount of files, information and documents, among many others. ECMs are used for capturing, processing, accessing, managing, measuring, storing, integrating, preserving and delivering information that support vital organizational processes.
This is a technology, methodology and a process all at the same time. The strategies and tools within an ECM allow for management of unstructured information. This includes Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, scanned images and PDFs.
ECMs make it easier to perform searches. Searches are conducted both within a document’s structured and unstructured data. The search proceeds following the rules you set up. These rules are set up during the ECMs capture stage.
What are the challenges to going paperless?
The move to paperless systems started in the late 1990s yet many companies and organizations are still struggling to make this a reality. One research showed that about 39% of organizations are still at the initial stages of integrating DMS at the department levels. Many are still using the traditional paperwork that add clutter and diminishes work efficiency. The same research found that 38% of organizations are still struggling with their current DMS. This data may be derived from how organizations carry out business but the insights also apply to you and anyone seeking to build a paperless home office.
One of the biggest reasons why people and companies fail to make the transition is that it can be difficult to deal with information sprawl and manage your data. In today’s world, information is coming in at exponential volume and speed.
Some companies even need entire servers to store their data.
Traditional paper documentation can no longer keep up with how fast business is conducted these days. You can’t work quickly and efficiently while navigating mountains of papers in search for a single, vital information.
About 25% of organizations also find their document management systems unable to provide the process management and analytics they require. These systems also fail to provide cloud support for 24% of organizations. Email is also a major area that some management systems fail to incorporate, as 55% of organizations report. Emails remain a majorly ungoverned, high-risk and untagged type of content.
These challenges to digital document management systems can be overcome by keeping technologies updated regularly. Changes in the business environment, content types, information needs and scope will all require adjustments. One of the things to keep up-to-date to match the changes is the use of latest workflow automation systems, smart processes and capture capabilities.
Why integrate Document Management Systems
Document management systems play integral roles in the workforce. These do not just help get rid of too much paper and clutter on work-spaces. These help in:
- More efficient data management and organization
- More efficient, faster and more comprehensive information capture, storage and retrieval
- More efficient and faster information and content sharing and management
- More convenient and consistent user interface
A potential challenge is how fast and efficient these DMS are in addressing the needs of the workforce. Today’s professionals grew up with fast information upload and download via social media and Google. DMS in many organizations are not these efficient. Also, there is a limitation to the type of devices to use in order to access and utilize the DMS.
Hence, many professionals are struggling or hesitant to use their organization DMS. This contributes to big-time underutilization of the DMS.
To avoid this, you should focus on investing on these 3 application capabilities:
Virtually everything can be done a smartphone these days. Want to do some banking activities? There are apps that allows fop online banking activities. Want to check emails or create contents? Smartphones and tablets can be used. Want to keep updated on the news? TV shows and news can be viewed on smartphones and mobile devices anytime anywhere.
Work is no longer constrained to sitting at a desk all day. Transactions are no longer a face-to-face, personal interaction. All can be dome remotely. DMS should be able to keep up with this. The system must allow its workforce access to information on their mobile devices.
It’s crucial to have access to critical documents anytime and anywhere. You should be able to find needed contents easily and speedily. For example, you are meeting a client in a coffee shop or in a conference room somewhere and you need to be able to access specific information, content, data or document. You should be able to grab a mobile device, open the DMS, input an inquiry for the needed information and have it in a matter of seconds to a few minutes. There should be no need to spend so much time printing documents or going through your file cabinets to find the information you need.
This is even worse in traditional workplaces where it could take days or even weeks for the records department to process a request you made regarding specific information.
With mobile capabilities, transactions can go more smoothly and results are obtained faster.Smart and intuitive
- Smart and intuitive
Digital tools should be intuitive. That means it should be able to anticipate the needs. One example is DMS applications that are able to remember search terms recently used. Future query suggestions based on the search history helps make searches faster. These may be simple query suggestions but the impact helps professionals get results faster.
- Secure and collaborative
Work is increasingly becoming a collaborative activity. Apps like Google Docs allow for collaborations. Your DMS should have this feature if the nature of your work requires working with others. After all, people can easily work on the same project and update each other on changes made on materials fast. Easy file sharing and features for cross-collaboration are great features to include in the organization’s DMS.
Aside from these, DMS applications should also have a support feature for document sharing. This should come with various user permissions and access restrictions to enable a specific set of people access and ability to make changes on documents.
For example, you may need to work with another person to develop a presentation for a client. With the right DMS, you and your colleague can be given access to a folder of information needed for the presentation. You can work on the same presentation and make changes to it in real time or leave comments. The rest of the team will have access to the same copy and also be able to contribute. The changes made are tracked by the application so that each member knows if there had been changes made, by whom and when.
This feature allows for collaborative work without the limitations of actually working together in a physical office.
How to start integrating paperless solutions
Going paperless means less clutter, more floor space and less need for file cabinets, large tables and storage areas. It also means faster information collection, organization and access. It also costs less to store large volumes of on information online than having information on paper.
However, the key to a DMS that actually works and responds well to the needs of the organization, it has to have the right features. To get the best DMS tool, consider the type of document management product that meets your needs. Note that it can be purely management software, an imaging system or both.
DMS software manages files in electronic format whereas imaging system converts paper documents into electronic files. This will be largely needed of the work involves clients filling out forms or having paper copies of contracts or similar type of document. The paper copy is scanned and stored electronically. Having both software and an imaging system and the DMS should have the capability to read the contents of the images for better storage, management and access to the information contained within.
Once you determine the kind of DMS product you need, you need to actually commit to using it. This can be a more challenging step than determining the type of DMS product, features and applications. Many people are hesitant to go entirely paperless. Paper, for most, are safety nets. They have very little trust in the integrity of electronic files. It could get deleted or buried under tons of sub-folders and difficult to search and retrieve.
These tips should help:
- Look for training resources
Not everyone knows how to navigate a DMS. You might need some training to know the features and tools in the DMS. Familiarize yourself with the system and what it can do for you and your work. Look for DMS with resources that are clear and easy to understand. Guidelines and operations must be clearly stated, too.
- Let yourself experience the benefits of going paperless
Experience is the best teacher. When you see and experience for yourself how much easier and convenient it is to go paperless, you’ll find yourself leaning more and more to it. Stop bringing paper to your client meetings and just bring your laptop so you can see for yourself how convenient it is to search and retrieve charts, tables and other information.
- Removing copiers and printers
If there is easy access to these devices, you are more likely to go back to your old habits. If it’s unreasonable to completely get rid of your printer, then just place it somewhere you can’t access it easily. This step is so important that in some workplace settings, a centralized printer network is implemented to limit access to the printer.
Do you want to get rid of messy paper documents and bulky filing cabinets?
Don’t sit on the fence about going paperless just because you aren’t sure if you have the skills to make the move. Use the tools mentioned above and make a quick and easy transition to a paperless home or office.