We're constantly told we live in a digital universe, but many of our workplace processes are still dependent on paper and not designed for maximum efficiency. Follow these tips to take full advantage of digital technology.
Lifehacker's Evolve column, looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers, is brought to you by Konica Minolta. For more information on how to digitise your business, visit konicaminolta.com.au.
Always Ask: Why Do We Do This?
Businesses are creatures of habit. Once a process is in place, it can seem almost impossible to change them. But that process begins with a simple question: why do we do things this way? That will often lead to a second question: could we do this more efficiently?
Take a simple example. If every employee spends time typing expense details into a spreadsheet and then the office administrator copies those details into a separate system, time is being wasted. Labour is typically the biggest cost for most businesses, so anything that can cut down on needless time-wasting is always worth investigating.
Reminder: Digital Documents Have Legal Validity
A common source of resistance to change, especially in the realm of document handling, is the argument: "we need the print version of that for legal reasons". As we never tire of pointing out around here, that simply isn't true.
Here's the official word from the Australian Taxation Office:
Documents that you are required to keep can be in written or electronic form. If you make paper or electronic copies they must be a true and clear reproduction of the original.
The situation is more complicated when it comes to electronic signatures. While they are acceptable in many circumstances, as this blog points out, in contexts where a signature needs to be witnessed you may have difficulties and signing on paper may still seem like a simpler option. This won't apply in many routine transactions, however.
Define Your Project Sensibly
Trying to change every process in a business will make your chances of success slimmer. Begin with something smaller. Developing a system to routinely scan paperwork that would otherwise be stored in filing cabinets is one obvious area to work on. Even this will involve multiple challenges (how do we store and search? how do we make sure backups are produced regularly?) but it's a project of a scale that's more manageable than a grandiose statement like "we are going to eliminate all paper from our business".
Draw Inspiration From Leisure
If the prospect of digitising your business seems daunting, reflect on just how rapidly we've adopted digital processes in our personal lives, and how much simpler that makes them. Who wants to deal with photo albums when every picture is accessible from your phone? Who needs the hassle of buying DVDs when you can stream major movies? Apply that same logic to your workplace.
Scanning picture from Shutterstock