Why businesses need a paper diet for 2016 – and how they can achieve it

As many begin 2016 by cutting down on alcohol or unhealthy food, I would like to set businesses across the UK the challenge of starting the New Year with a diet of their own – a paper one. While the paperless office seems a long way off – trimming off those extra paper inches is a realistic ambition which has tangible benefits.

We all know that digitising information improves access to information, business performance, customer service and environmental credentials. Yet the processes and cultural change required to accomplish this goal is not as easy as everyone believes.

It is unfeasible to say that all offices could or even should become completely paperless just yet. A lot of people still find that creating records in paper form has some advantages. However, organisations – and more importantly their clients – expect decisions to be made quickly and paper doesn’t always move quickly enough.

Companies need to re-think how their records are managed to ensure that the correct information can be accessed almost instantly. The way in which an organisation manages its records needs to support the requirements of the modern business environment, reducing unnecessary bureaucracy.

The paperless office may still seem impossible for some but fear not! A paper diet is a way of life, rather than a ‘lose 20 kilos of paper a week scheme’. To help you begin yours, we’ve put together seven tips to kick off your very own paper diet campaign, with no lycra required!

Seven steps for a successful paper diet

1- Develop a retention policy

Start by developing a retention policy and a secure records destruction process. A records retention policy will provide guidance on what records must be retained for legal or auditing purposes, and what paper records you can destroy now. Plan ahead and prepare for audits throughout the year.

2- Shred it

Now you’ve got a policy in place you’ll need to shred your unwanted information securely. It’s not only impractical but unnecessary to hold onto everything you no longer need to keep. Experts can help you establish what should be securely disposed of and provide the means to do it. Secure destruction not only involves paper waste, but can also include laptops, mobile phones, hard drives and even uniforms.

3- Change management

Companies often lack understanding about how reducing the amount of paper can actually help them to achieve other business objectives and also improve information security. Employee behaviour also needs to be changed but this this is influenced by the environment and leadership implementing a clear strategy. Appointing paper champions who have an understanding of the new retention and destruction policies can be helpful, so individuals know who to go to with any queries or concerns.

4- Heavy paper to big data

Move to digitising your information – so you can access it quickly. A scanning and digitising solution can be a start, leading to a professional records management programme that will not only reduce risk, but also provide faster access to information.

The first objective is to identify and collect all your paper – the documents you no longer need access to or use regularly but are legally required to keep – and move them somewhere secure, preferably off site, or scan and save them onto a cloud platform.

5- Ownership vs. guardianship

Whether you own the data or act as a guardian over it, anyone who accesses it must take responsibility for how it is used. Duplication of data is a huge issue as it generally isn’t tracked and can be sitting in someone’s inbox, private drive, shared drive, or printed out or stuck on an internal server. Utilise your paper champions to drive training and incentives internally to promote the diet.

6- Carrying out a print audit to understand how much paper you use

You’d be surprised how much unnecessary printing you action in your organisation. Ask yourself and your colleagues ‘Does it really need to be printed?’

Utilise print management systems to monitor paper and spend in order to be cost-effective. This can be aided by password protected printers which make it difficult to print. Alternatively implement a ‘paper fast’ by limiting the amount of paper being used or unplugging the printers for a couple of days - the world won’t stop turning.

7- Stay paper light

Once you have successfully reduced the paper in your office you need to establish a strategy to maintain it. Everyone needs to take responsibility for the information around them and embrace the new strategy and policies to help govern data and limit paper use.

Our paper diet has no fancy memberships and you can set your own paper weight loss target.

Simon Allen, Digital Services Manager, Crown Records Management