February 3, 2015

How Your Town or City Can Go Paperless

Making the switch from a traditional office to a paperless one is unquestionably a positive change. Unfortunately, it isn’t always an easy one!

Making the switch from a traditional office to a paperless one is unquestionably a positive change. Unfortunately, it isn't always an easy one! Between choosing your new technological foundation, training staff members and dealing with a slew of unexpected issues, there are a great deal of elements to consider when turning your town or city office into a paperless organization. If you want to make a successful, efficient switch to virtual documentation, it's important to take the process step by step.

Step 1: Simplify your Documentation Processes

Unless your existing paper trail is relatively simple to follow, you'll have a difficult time creating a paperless version. For this reason, it's essential to take stock of your paperwork and documentation, and make some important decisions about what can go, and what needs to stay. Make everything as straightforward as possible before committing your office to taking on a brand new, high-tech style of administration.

Step Two: Choose your Technology Carefully

There are several options when it comes to technology, but the best choice is one that everyone can understand and use easily. Of course, you need to keep the budget in mind when making this decision as well as ease of use. Consider the type of devices that you and your staff are already proficient in using - smart phones, iPads? Not only will this make the training phase much simpler, but it could also save you money if you decide to let staff members use their existing devices. You'll also need to make some decisions about the type of software and networking you want throughout the office. For example, would you prefer new documents to be created and saved within Google Drive, Dropbox, or another application? Do a quick trial run before making your final choice.

Step Three: Do a Trial Run

Once you have chosen which type of device to work with, and chosen a good software platform, it's time to try out your new documentation process. Create a network profile for each member of staff so that they can all log in and out of the system, then test it by sending messages and documents between them. Conduct a series of tests using various profiles and each type of software.

Step Four: Convert Hard Copies to Digital

Just because all future documents will be created in a digital environment doesn't mean that you won't need to refer back to older ones from time to time. Again, you'll have to use your best judgement when it come to choosing between files that need converting and those that can simply be put into storage. Scan each document into a file that is viewable by relevant staff members, and if applicable, have them uploaded onto the website.

Step Five: Train the Team

Whether the technology is new to your staff or not, a fixed training session is in order. Arrange one full day of training once you have the devices purchased, profiles created and software set up, and go over each new administrative system one at a time. Prepare a demonstration, take questions, and then allow each staff member to try out his or her new profile. Every member of the team should understand how to create a new document, how to send it, and how to save it in the right spot.

Remember to troubleshoot throughout the process so that every issue, large and small, is addressed as soon as possible. Listen to feedback from staff members as they get to know the new system, and convene regularly to talk about how the new paperless system is working out. Within weeks, your office will be virtually paper-free, and a beacon to environmental conservationists throughout your community.

Image: liz west

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