Posted in Digital Transformation

How to Go Paperless in the Office

Organizations depend on paperwork for various functions, from filing purchase orders to onboarding new hires and beyond.

But paper-based processes are incredibly inefficient — they impede productivity, result in higher costs, and even pose security risks.

That doesn’t even factor in the time it takes to process paper forms or the physical space needed to store those documents.

Thanks to technology, organizations can reduce the amount of paper they use and streamline their processes. But going paperless doesn’t happen overnight.

In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of a paperless office as well as the processes you can digitize. We’ll also look at how you can create an automated paperless workflow.

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What Are the Benefits of Going Paperless?

Paperwork allows organizations of all sizes to get work done. But paper records may not be the best or most efficient option. Traditional filing systems are expensive to maintain and they require physical access.

Let’s look at why going paperless needs to be more of a priority, if it isn’t already.

Increased Efficiency

The most compelling reason for a business to go paperless is increased efficiency.

Let’s look at travel requests as an example. These forms typically need to be approved before an employee can travel using company expenses.

Employees would have to print and fill out a travel request form. Then, they have to send it to their manager for review, who will then send it to the finance desk for final approval.

All that wasted time spent on passing documents back and forth for approvals could be better spent elsewhere. 

By going paperless, you can make processes like travel requests more efficient. Employees can submit paperwork and get them approved without having to wait days or even longer.

Improved Productivity

Your business undoubtedly depends on various forms to get work done — purchase orders, sales contracts, etc. 

But how much time is actually spent on processing those forms?

Companies that rely on a manual process for purchase orders have an average cycle time of 35 hours

In contrast, companies that have automated this process have a cycle time of 24 hours.

That’s a difference of 11 hours. 

Now, multiply that by the number of purchase orders you process a year and that’s how much time you could potentially save with a paperless process.

A paperless workflow streamlines work processes and drastically reduces document turnaround times. 

Instead of spending half their time on preparing forms, employees can focus on more productive tasks.

Reduced Costs

Paper-based processes aren’t cheap, as they require a lot of paper and ink. That doesn’t even factor in other costs like the time it takes to fill out paper forms and get them delivered.

Storage costs for paper records are another major expense. 

Just the cost of owning and maintaining a standard 5 drawer file cabinet can set your business back an estimated $2,600 per year. 

Implementing a paperless system in the office not only saves on printing and storage costs, but also reduces paper waste and your carbon footprint.

Better Document Management

Filing systems aren’t always practical, as they require physical access. Hunting down the right paper form to process an order or confirm a detail just isn’t the best use of your time. 

In fact, 86% of employees have experienced difficulties locating files. 

Complicating matters even further is that paper records can be lost or misfiled. 

If that happens, you would then need to either recreate the document or spend time looking for it. This can result in processing delays and dissatisfied clients.

Combining paperless workflows with a document management system or file app allows employees to quickly find and access the files they need to do their jobs.

Enhanced Data Security

Let’s talk about another reason to go paperless: Security. 

Digital documents are arguably more secure than printed documents. You can encrypt a digital file, restrict access to key individuals, and require digital signatures — a highly secure way of signing electronic forms.

In contrast, paper forms can be lost, misplaced, or forged. 

Sensitive information on a paper document, like company financials, can even be stolen. 

With electronic forms, you can add additional security measures to ensure that contents haven’t been changed or altered.

Ways to Go Paperless in the Office

Going paperless has clear advantages for any organization. 

It increases overall efficiency, reduces paper usage, and offers enhanced security over paper forms. 

But going paperless doesn’t happen right away. Start with one or two processes to digitize before moving on to other areas in your business.

Below are some great starting points to help you go paperless for your organization.

Switch to E-Signatures

Electronic signatures offer a convenient and efficient way to sign documents online. They’re just as legally binding as wet signatures, according to the E-Sign Act.

Switch to e-signatures instead of having employees print and sign forms for approval. With frevvo’s digital signature software, you can digitize your paper forms and add e-signature fields to them.

The forms you create are mobile-friendly out of the box, so anyone can use their smartphone or tablet like an iPad to add a signature. 

Electronic signatures offer a secure and convenient way to obtain approvals. 

Replace Paper Forms

Digitizing paper forms brings you one step closer to creating a paperless office. You’ll cut down on paper usage and reduce tedious tasks like manual data entry.

For example, with dynamic forms, you can have fields automatically fill in information from your database. This reduces time spent on manual data entry and reduces human error.

Here’s an example of how you can have fields automatically populate in frevvo:

Online form fields automatically populating in frevvo

You can even use the software to generate official government forms, like W4s and I9s, and have information automatically mapped to the correct fields.

Here’s how the PDF mapping feature looks in frevvo:

PDF mapping in frevvo

This is just one example of a paper form that you can digitize. 

Use an online form builder like frevvo to create and customize digital forms to replace your existing paper forms.

Store Documents in the Cloud

A major downside of a paper-based office is having to store physical copies. Anyone working remotely or traveling on a short trip will have limited access to those documents. 

Cloud-based solutions like Google Drive and Dropbox make it easy to store electronic forms and scanned documents in the cloud. You can also take additional security measures to prevent unauthorized access.

With frevvo, you can have files automatically routed to your database or business applications once they’re submitted.

A searchable database allows your team to quickly locate and access the documents they need. 

With cloud storage, you won’t need to pay hefty costs just to maintain your file cabinets.

Digitize a Workflow

Another way to make the transition to a fully paperless office is to digitize workflows. This involves taking an existing paper-based process and making it fully automated.

Time off requests are an example of a paper-based process that can be digitized. Employees can fill out electronic forms and have them routed to their manager for approval.

It’s easier said than done, so let’s take a look at how you can digitize a workflow in the next section. 

How to Create a Paperless Workflow

Your business relies on a number of processes to get work done — purchase orders, expense approvals, etc. But doing these things manually is time-consuming and tedious.

Follow these steps to digitize a paper-based process.

#1. Choose a Workflow

The first step is to choose a workflow to digitize. 

Ideally, you should choose a workflow that follows the same set of steps and gets repeated frequently in your organization.

Here are some of the workflows you can digitize with frevvo’s workflow automation software:

  • Purchase orders: Purchase orders are necessary to procure goods and services for your business to operate. Automating this process can improve overall operational efficiency. 
  • New hire onboarding: Employee onboarding is key to making a positive impression with new hires. Streamlining this process helps new hires get ready for their roles.
  • Travel requests: Travel requests typically require approval before funds can be released. Digitize this process to get these approvals done even faster. 
  • Time off requests: Employees often need to submit time off requests well in advance and get approvals from their manager. You can create a workflow to automate this entire process.
  • Expense claims: Manually filing and managing expense claims isn’t the best use of your time. Automating this process in frevvo saves you time and money. 

There are other workflows that you can automate, but these are some of the more common ones. Start with one of the above, or choose an entirely different workflow. 

#2. Map and Build Your Workflow

Mapping out a workflow enables you to visualize all steps of a process. With frevvo’s workflow designer, you can easily add and configure each step from start to finish — no coding necessary. 

You can also install a pre-built workflow to get started even faster.

Here’s an example of the Work Order workflow in frevvo: 

With this workflow, the work order automatically gets routed to a supervisor for review and then to the client for final approval. The pre-built workflows are fully customizable, so you can add, configure, or remove individual steps.

#3. Digitize Your Paper Forms

Next, digitize any paper forms that are part of your workflow. 

In the visual form designer, you can easily create and customize your forms.

Here’s what the Work Order form looks like in frevvo’s form builder:

To make any changes, simply drag and drop elements from the palette onto the form. 

You can also adjust individual settings for each field. For example, you can make the signature field required before the form can move onto the next stage of your workflow.

Enabling this setting ensures that you won’t have to waste time chasing missing signatures. 

#4. Add Conditional Rules

In some cases, your workflow may require extra steps. 

For example, work orders over a certain value may need additional approval from a manager. With frevvo’s workflow automation software, you can add conditional rules to make your workflow even more efficient. 

Here’s an example of a conditional rule in frevvo that routes Work Orders above $10,000 to a manager for review:

If the value is less than $10,000, the form simply routes to the client instead. There’s no coding required to add conditional rules and you can add as many as you need.

#5. Test and Deploy

Test your workflow before you actually deploy it to ensure it’s working. 

You’ll want to test it yourself and invite other key stakeholders to share feedback.

Mobile-friendly forms are a must, as more people use mobile devices to get work done. All forms and workflows you build in frevvo are ready for mobile out of the box.

Everything will work exactly as you designed it, including any conditional rules you set.

The last step is to deploy your paperless workflow. 

It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your workflow in the following days and weeks. Solicit any feedback from your team and make any revisions necessary. 

Create a Paperless Office Today

Going paperless is by no means easy. It means changing how you do business. 

But it can have long-term benefits when implemented correctly.

frevvo’s workflow automation software enables you to digitize paper forms and automate business processes. Taking these steps not only improves operational efficiency, but also brings you one step closer to going completely paperless.

Get started today with a 30-day free trial to digitize your paper-based processes. 

With our software, you can easily build online forms and set up automatic routing without any coding required.