Last month we began our quest to achieve paperless nirvana by eliminating the ROT (Redundant, Obsolete and Transitory) hardcopy that fills our warehouses, file cabinets and desk drawers. This month I’d like to challenge you to deal with the root of the problem – your organization is producing all of this stuff! Now I’m certain you have very good reasons for all of the documents created every day, but you’ll never achieve the goal of a paperless environment until you take a step back and look at what is created.
A good illustration of this is the monthly or quarterly reports. Every organization creates these and usually distributes them as attachments via email. How many people save a copy of these (everyone)? These duplicates are just part of the problem. This is critical business information that is just floating around that can easily be forwarded on to others, both inside and outside the organization. In addition it is important to consider just what type of information is really needed by your staff to accomplish what they need to do as part of their daily business process? Do they really need the entire monthly report or do they just need a few data points?
These reports were developed years ago in Excel and everyone loved them. Nowadays I have clients that have these massive reports with even bigger distribution lists being sent out through automated batch programs! Does this sound familiar? This is where you need to concentrate on and stop the constant stream of information that is cranking out tons of information that may or may not be used, but most certainly can hurt you in the wrong hands. This is where technology can really make a difference. Instead of all of these zombie reports, how about creating an easily accessible dashboard that displays relevant information to the people that need it? No more clogging up people’s inboxes with useless information and people get the information they need to do their daily business in a secure format that can’t get into the wrong hands by pushing the Forward button.
Technology can also help you in that very important aspect of information governance known as classification. One of the most critical tasks in any information governance program is classifying information into the proper record type and, until very recently, that task has been left to the individual. There are several document management systems that use metadata to automatically classify incoming information with a great deal of accuracy. There are even some systems that can classify document types through matching the design of the document itself. These systems scan all documents, group them by design structure, compare and classify them with known document types and set them for review. Once someone reviews the pre-classified documents and makes corrections, the system gets “smarter”, the process of classification gets faster and more automated.
As you can see, going paperless is a very long process. To truly embrace the paperless world you need to start creating digital replacements for the paperwork your organization produces. Electronic forms for input of information, dashboards to display reports and scan templates that pull information from those pesky invoices that come in from those vendors that have paperless challenges themselves. Will you ever go completely paperless? Doubtful. There will always be people that want to push the print button and take something with them, but you can structure your business so that the official record copy is digital. This makes any paper as “Copies of Convenience” and immediately disposable. Keep going! It’s worth the effort. Good luck!