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The paperless office has been a fashionable concept for quite some time; but despite the use of email and digital documentation, going completely paperless is often seen as an unachievable goal.

But what about focusing on a particular business process or department function and looking at whether there is scope to eliminate paper altogether?

 #1 – Think process & systemise
We can look at the world of property for some inspiration here. As a buy-to-let investor, I have a big file of paper, just for one property. This includes AST tenant contracts, inventory and inspection reports and various other important documents.

Consider the tenant sign-up process. Traditionally this would involve the tenant signing a physical contract, an inventory document and the deposit-protection documentation. Where this is not handled locally, there will be inevitable delays with posting documents, not to mention the risk of long complex forms being lost in the post (as has happened to me!)

Some letting agencies are now switching to a better way of doing things. After viewing a suitable property, a tenant can receive an electronic Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) document, and sign this digitally with e-signing software. Inventory and deposit documentation can be dealt with in the same way, significantly speeding up the tenant check-in process and giving the letting agent a competitive advantage.

Inspections can be carried out with electronic forms. Using compulsory fields and automated forwarding to the correct person, the right information can be captured, every time. By systemising in this way, a consistent approach results, making any corrective actions easier to manage, and more predictable.

#2 – Use software to e-sign, back-up, and store securely
At Taylor Made we use Echosign to send and receive contracts for Managed Services, speeding up IT service provision in a similar way. So the contract agreement process is now paperless, with scope to roll this out to other functions.

The documents can be securely stored and backed up in the cloud, (for example, with the TMCS Securo product) so that they are secure and easily accessible to both parties in the future.

The idea of going paperless can be taken even further with document management software, which allows searching for text within documents.

 A check-list

Finally, here are a few questions to consider:

  • How much time is spent in your organisation printing documents or forms, waiting for them to be filled in, and then scanning in to create a digital copy?
  • What business processes in your organisation could be good candidates for switching to a paperless system?
  • How much space is currently taken up by filing cabinets? Could some or all of this be converted to digital?
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