Reducing Paper Storage Through Digital Transformation

Karen Schwartz

Inefficient. Expensive. A drag on productivity. Insecure. If you work for a small business, you’ve likely heard a colleague or manager use these terms to complain about paper storage, referring to the rows of filing cabinets or piles of paper waiting to be filed. And with good reason — it’s all of these things, and more.

For more and more small and medium-sized businesses, the solution to all of these challenges is digital transformation. In terms of documents, that means automating as many paper-based processes and digitizing as many documents as possible. Small and medium-sized businesses that proactively reduce paper storage are one step closer to full digital transformation — something many studies say is critical to future success.

Before diving in, it’s important to know what you have. As painful as it may be, take inventory. While some of your more recent documents may have been “born digital,” you probably have many more in paper form. Categorize them and securely destroy what you don’t need. Then determine which assets can be digitized and which must be kept in paper form for legal or compliance reasons.

Digitizing your records: The most efficient way to transform paper records to digital is by first converting your entire backlog and then continuing the processes as needed by imaging on-demand. The all-in approach, also known as backfile conversion, is the quickest path to digital transformation, but depending on the volume of documents, it can be time-consuming. Many companies choose to tackle this project in stages, such as by department or project. Once existing papers are digitized, it’s much easier to digitize individual documents as needed. There are various approaches to achieving this goal, including implementing a workflow to reroute documents to a facility for scanning and indexing.

Storing critical documents: There will always be some documents that must be relegated to paper storage for legal, compliance or other business purposes. For these, there are two basic options: keeping them onsite or storing them offsite. Some businesses prefer onsite storage because it makes records immediately accessible. However, paper occupies valuable space, and space costs money. So many small businesses choose to keep valuable papers in an offsite location where they can be retrieved quickly. With this method, your staff isn’t responsible for labeling, indexing and storing records — your storage partner is. The storage partner is also responsible for security.

The benefits of digital transformation are clear: improve productivity, cut costs and optimize workflows. However, businesses shouldn’t overlook other long-term benefits of a digital transformation. Done right, a digital transformation initiative can help reduce paper bloat within the organization and free up valuable space for more important business activities.

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