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Exchange • Summer 2013 > Thought Leadership > Best Practices in Driving Paperless Adoption Across Your Firm

Best Practices in Driving Paperless Adoption Across Your Firm

By Jason Taylor, Product Manager of Document Studio, Design Gallery, and Paperless Proforma

Jason Taylor

The world’s use of paper in general is changing. We can see this in our personal lives. Many of us now purchase electronic publications instead of going to a bookstore and buying a paperback, magazine, or newspaper. True, some of us still prefer reading ink on the printed page, but more and more of us are going paperless. We see the advantages – instant downloads with no need to drive to the bookstore, availability of features not available in the printed world (such as dictionary lookups, word searching, bookmark navigation, digital storage/retrieval, etc.), helping the planet, and so on.

The same change can be seen in the business world. More and more businesses are reducing their paper usage and going digital. For many companies, this is a slow adoption as it is a cultural change: we are changing the way people work. Nonetheless, the change is occurring.

The benefits for businesses to go paperless are enticing. Hard costs can be reduced by decreasing the usage of paper, toner, storage, and couriers. Time can be saved by eliminating the need to manually print, collate, and hand-deliver documents throughout the company. Now, this time can be used for more important tasks. Documents no longer need to be static but can become interactive and easier to read, providing more useful information while getting in front of the eyes of key decision makers faster. The former paper-based world can be transformed to allow companies to better manage their business with tracking and metrics gathering of edits and reviews. Paper also doesn’t lead well into the mobile workforce whereas digital information allows users to take their office with them and access it on devices they prefer. For proformas and invoices, the work-to-cash cycle can get shorter by making proforma distribution/mark-up and bill creation more efficient, allowing invoices to be delivered faster to customers.

Even with attractive reasons, as with any cultural change, switching to a paperless world comes with challenges. One of the main tests will be gaining high adoption as the transition away from paper begins. How can businesses successfully drive this change?

  • Identify key areas that will have the highest beneficial impact. What processes are generating high volumes of paper today? Which of these are consuming a lot of manual preparation time? Which are causing end users to spend a great deal of time reading, eyeing through, and analyzing? Which are slowing down the business and making it inefficient?
  • Get management buy-in. Ensure the change will be driven with backing from the business leaders. Present the case by highlighting the current challenges, how these can be improved, the costs involved, and the benefits anticipated.
  • Prioritize the key areas and define the pilot project. No doubt a number of target areas will be identified that make sense to transition away from paper. Take a closer look at these and start with one that has the highest benefit with the lowest cost to change. Define the strategy, requirements, costs, and the overall plan for the project.
  • Identify adoption targets. What target rates are desired for the project? Is it having a 100% of the end users receive these documents electronically, 50%? Define the adoption rates and ensure the plan is geared to take this into account.
  • Run a pilot group(s). Pick the right people for this group – those that will see noticeable value or who may already be asking for the change to go paperless. Create buzz and build momentum within the firm as the pilot rollout progresses and measureable benefits are seen. Learn from the pilot and make appropriate adjustments to the plan.
  • Smooth live rollout(s). Continue the rollout to other groups, and measure success against the plan and the adoption targets. Make additional changes as required.
  • Move on to the next project. Now that the first project is a success, move on to the next one to continue the business’s transition to a paperless world.

With proper planning and execution, paperless initiatives can be successful. This is especially true when the company leaders see the value in making the switch from paper to digital, when there is a well thought-out phased approach with high adoption rates being a goal, and the tangible benefits are well marketed internally.

Thomson Reuters Elite has solutions to help make the transition away from paper successful. Design Gallery and Paperless Proforma are just a couple of offerings that are worth further exploration.

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