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Going Paperless: 5 Steps To Success

Ditching paper would benefit your company in more ways than you likely realise. More importantly, it’ll give you an edge over those competitors still stuck in the previous century.

Going paperless can help you streamline processes, reduce lead times on projects, keep critical data safe, capture information offline and tons more. And whatever industry you’re in, you can benefit from cutting paper from your business. We’ve seen everyone from manufacturing firms to ski resorts and mortuaries (gasp) benefit from the shift to digital.

The only problem is that making the shift can seem like a daunting task. 

Here’s the thing… you don’t have to take your entire company paperless overnight. It’s a gradual process and, if mapped out and planned correctly, can even be enjoyable. Plus a mobile forms builder like Appenate can help you lay the foundation to make a comprehensive shift – but more on that later.

Let’s get stuck in.

Are The Benefits Of Going Paperless Worth It?

The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages of going paperless. You can read all about the standard benefits with a simple web search. 

These usually include saved time, floor space, costs, improved security, etc. It also makes information transfer a breeze.

Here, however, are some real-world benefits we’ve seen first-hand… 

One of our customers shaved almost 4 hours off their quoting process, allowing them to get clients more rapidly. 

Another customer eliminated an entire 40-hour work week from their schedule, opening up 160 hours a month that could be spent on activities more important than organising their data.

For more details, check out this post about the benefits of digital data collection.

The Steps To Going Paperless

The steps of going paperless laid out in logical order

Now we’re into the meat of this post. You’re about to discover just how easy it is to switch to a paperless workflow. Don’t rush things, though. Follow each step carefully to avoid costly mistakes that could set you back instead of propelling you forward.

Moving on, here are the best practices when going paperless.

Step 1: Shift Company Culture (If Necessary)

Company culture tends to seep downwards from above. If your management’s attitude towards going paperless stinks, the rest of the company will follow suit. 

Make sure each level of your hierarchy is on board – and even excited about the idea of a paperless workplace. That way the company attitude and initial resistance will quickly give way and open the door to a digital future. 

That said, there are arguments out there for a bottom-up approach when it comes to company culture. Personally, I think a combination of the two would work best. What do you think? (feel free to give this a read and leave a comment below – eager to hear your thoughts.)

Step 2: Establish Your Requirements

There are many different solutions out there. Some are large and cater to every factor of going paperless. The pro of these is that they’re a one-stop-shop. The con is that they’re often slow-moving in terms of updates and tend to fall behind. They can also be rigid.

On the other end of this spectrum are the lightest of the light. These solutions tend to serve a single purpose and aren’t useful outside their narrow spectrum. As you may have guessed though, they’re fast-moving and agile. They can push out updates in a matter of days. With such systems, however, you’ll only be able to go paperless with a single process or two.

Somewhere in between are systems like Appenate. Our purpose is to change the way your field, floor and manufacturing teams manage their data and workflows. So we do cover a wider spectrum, but specifically within business workflows. As mobile Form builders go, we offer one of the most comprehensive solutions.

So… do you have a single process you want to turn digital, a few processes or your whole company in one go?

Depending on this, decide which sort of solution (or solutions) you’re hunting for and move on to the next step.

Step 3: Find The Right Software & Test It

Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to actually find solutions. Use Web Search along with sites like G2Crowd or Capterra to find your perfect matches.

We have a guide on finding the best field data collection tool that you can also use for this step. It applies just as well to paperless solutions and other tools.

If you’re skipping that link, for now, the most important thing to remember is to make use of trials where you can and select the software that’s provided you with the most benefits.

If you’re looking for adaptability and custom mobile forms, a no-code platform like Appenate would be a good fit. There are ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions out there though if you’re looking for something light and pre-made.

Step 4: One Step At A Time

Don’t try to do everything all at once.. Take it one process at a time and you’ll avoid overextending yourself or staff. We can’t speak for all platforms, but the biggest cost when shifting to Appenate is time.

It can take a while to learn a new platform and build out your custom forms – Appenate is no exception. Our drag-and-drop builder makes it easier – but setting up a huge and detailed process business-wide will take time (as all good things should).

So start with a cleaning checklist or an inspection checklist – something simple – and move forward from there, adding more complexity as you go.

Start with only one department so you can iron out the kinks before rolling out to other departments. An example would be taking your preventative maintenance or safety team and switching their data processes to paperless via mobile forms. 

When that department is running smoothly, move on to the next. 

Step 5: Measure & Enjoy The Benefits

Make sure to keep a log of the benefits. Time savings, cost savings, employee sentiment, etc. Seeing those benefits roll in from your hard work is the most satisfying part – take time to enjoy it. 😎

Let your chosen platform know about those benefits, too, by way of a review or testimonial. That way they can share them with the world and help more companies find solutions to their struggles.

The Challenges Of Going Paperless

Funny image of papers being thrown away, signifying the theme of going paperless.

While you may be raring to get your paperless strategy running, there are some things pitfalls to take note of. The benefits are still more than worth the risk – you just need to be aware of the following and be proactive.

1. Security Risks And Viruses

Switching to digital is always safer. A quick example; your cloud-saved data won’t be at risk of fires or physical theft. However, there are risks in a paperless strategy to take note of.

Two major ideas to consider here… the security of your chosen platform or database, and your employees’ behaviour. 

Firstly, make sure to choose a secure platform as your base for going paperless. Investigate the digital security of each platform and make an informed decision. If they host their data on a secure server, then you’re not likely to run into any problems. 

Secondly, make sure your employees are aware of and on the lookout for cyberattacks via email and other mediums. An initial training session, along with an annual recap, can go a long way in stopping infections by user error. 

This way you can avoid a similar situation to Nyana being held for a whopping $1m ransom in a cyber attack.

Overall, however, going paperless is far more secure. Especially in terms of backups and data-loss prevention, according to this article in the Telegraph

2. Initial Costs

While going paperless is considered a cost-saving, there are initial setup costs to keep in mind. These fees, however insignificant, should be monitored. They can get out of hand if you’re not careful.

Make sure to go with a cost-effective option to ensure your new paperless business is sustainable.

Gradually going paperless can also help spread these costs out over a period. The highest cost you’re likely to see is time, not money. So make sure your team has the capacity before starting your paperless journey.

3. Software Maintenance

It’s important to note that most platforms do require maintenance. So keep this in mind as you may have to hire a new employee – or have a current employee pivot into this kind of role. 

Most platforms these days are self-maintained, so this isn’t something to worry about –  unless you’re focused on building a bespoke solution.

4. Privacy & Legal Issues

Last but definitely not least. There are tons of digital privacy laws out there these days. GDPR, FTC, COPPA, GLBA, FACTA – too many, in fact. 

It’s important to keep these in mind when collecting information on your users, clients or even your own employees. Make sure you’re covered and compliant at all times. 

All so you can avoid fines of up to €20 million (no joke – that’s the maximum fine stipulated by the GDPR!).

How Appenate Can Help

Two farmers stand in a field working on a tablet running paperless software

Our mission is to lead your essential businesses processes away from paper and it’s inherent inefficiency. In achieving this, we help lay the groundwork for a business-wide paperless culture.

Here are some of the teams you can take paperless with Appenate right away: 

  • Manufacturing teams.
  • Safety teams.
  • Maintenance teams.
  • Field service teams.
  • Sales teams.
  • Remote teams (such as agriculture or forestry).
  • Construction teams.
  • Data collection teams.
  • Just to name a few…

With us, all your documents will be stored on a secure cloud server – only accessible by you. So you can move your business into the hyper-efficient digital age with peace of mind.

Integrate With Other Paperless Solutions

Image displaying some of Appenate's integrations, which are necessary to build a paperless business from front to back

If you want to go completely paperless, there’s plenty of other software to consider outside of a mobile forms builder. Our advice is to go for specialist software in your most important areas. For example… 

Data Collection: Appenate or something similar that can help you leverage mobile forms with a drag-and-drop builder – to streamline your business. 

Document Storage & Reporting: Appenate can work for this on a basic level, but if you’re looking for specialist software, you can’t go wrong with something like Rubex or M-File.

Accounting: The two accounting powerhouses are undoubtedly Xero and Quickbooks – though there are other viable options out there too. 

ERP: The biggest Enterprise Resource Planning software (ERP) is undoubtedly SAP. But there are other, more affordable options on the market as well. 

CRM: The prominent players in the Customer Relationship Management arena are Hubspot and Salesforce – but there are plenty of others to consider

Office Communication: We love Basecamp, but there’s also MondaySlack, and so many more

When choosing any paperless solution, it’s important to follow the same sort of process as outlined in this blog post. Make sure to test each solution thoroughly and go with the best fit for your individual needs.

Ready To Go Paperless For $90?

We’re currently running a “Going Paperless” special – especially for businesses looking to make the switch. You can get 90 days of Appenate for just $90. This includes 15 premium users for the whole period (saving you 89%) and free live training and support.

This way, you get to ensure Appenate fits within your new paperless culture at minimum cost.

All you need to do is sign up for a free trial and try us out. We’ll be in touch about the special.

All the best in your mission to ditch paper!