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The Paperless Office – An Introductory Guide for SMEs

How to keep yourself from drowning in paper.

The Paperless Office is a relatively new concept. Paper, in its many forms, has been in use in businesses for thousands of years. As a means of holding and distributing information, it is probably going to be with us for decades, if not centuries to come.

But how much paper is too much paper?

According to the Paperless Project:  

  • Paper in the average business grows by 22% a year, meaning your paper will double in 3.3 years.
  • The average office worker continues to use a staggering 10,000 sheets of copy paper every year.
  • A typical employee spends 30-40% of his time looking for information locked in email and filing cabinets


*Statistics based on US data.


It is probably safe to assume that the above stats are not that different from country to country including in South Africa. Thus, it can be seen that paper consumption is not only increasing but is increasingly responsible for a loss of production time and one of the main contributors to inefficiencies in the office not to mention costs.

At the level of a large corporation, the sheer volumes of paper being collected and stored is going to require a large-scale project to handle. At the level of an SME or Startup, the problem is one that can be more easily contained and rectified if action is taken at once.


SMEs – Pioneers of Paperless Offices

While it is true that SMEs generally do not have the resources and staff complements of large corporate companies and generally have to wear several hats to keep the business running and expanding, SMEs nonetheless are better positioned to build in more efficient management systems.

When it comes to going paperless, the task is not only smaller than it would be for a corporate but it will realise increases in efficiency, productivity and lowering of costs sooner.

SMEs below a certain size have the ability to change and evolve swifter than larger organisations. The ability to implement changes and improvements can unlock swifter growth, greater profits and the ability to punch above their weight.


How to Go Paperless

Transitioning to a paperless office will require a number of changes and the following questions will need to be considered:

  • How is paper currently used in your office?
  • How much paper do you use?
  • Is paper essential in any way?
  • How much of your current stored paper documents can be archived offsite?
  • How much can be securely shredded?
  • Which paper documents, if any are used regularly and so, must be stored onsite?
  • Which divisions or departments within your business make use of paper documents and how do they use them?


So the first step is a Paper Use Survey to understand how paper is used.

The next step is to find a partner who can digitise your documents using bulk scanning services. Here you will want to find a partner with experience but also flexible options such as onsite or offsite scanning or scanner hire with or without an operator.

Your partner should also offer the storage of digitised papers as well as access to them through secure retrieval process. Better still is a partner that can handle the archiving of important paper documents that are not accessed often and the secure destruction of paper documents that no longer need to be kept and are not subject to legislated storage periods.


The Benefits of a Paperless Office

First of all, having a completely paperless office will probably not be workable for everyone. There is nothing wrong with using paper and it is an incredibly useful media for businesses.

The main idea of the paperless office, besides being gentler on our environment, is to increase productivity and efficiency by removing paper jams, so to speak. Too much paper costs money, has to be managed and files and kept secure.

By removing paper and replacing it were a better alternative exists you get to unlock many benefits. These include:

  • Reduced costs of paper and filing and management of paper.
  • Freeing up of office space for more productive use than paper storage.
  • Faster access to documents through digital archives with search functionality.
  • Multi-user access to documents.
  • Secure access through access control.
  • Access from multiple locations.
  • And the list goes on…


So, if you are an SME, you have a great opportunity to put your business in a better position. A Paperless office or a hybrid form of one should definitely be at the top of your list for improving your business’s productivity and efficiency.


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