If you’ve talked about going paperless, perhaps set a January 2017 goal to truly do it. But preparation NOW, in the last 5 months of 2016 will be key to a successful paperless roll-out at the top of the new year.
Below are five candid things you need to consider (and do) NOW to go paperless THEN.
1.Gather your team
2.Review your technology
3.Update your technology
Here is how to implement each of these steps:
1. GATHER YOUR TEAM: Discuss the current issues (perhaps more than once) with paper and respectfully identify the firm’s biggest culprits and make sure everyone is completely on board and committed to paperless success. This means to confirm that everyone will make the commitment to follow new policies and procedures and EVERYONE will attend required training. Allow for input from everyone and be sure and weigh it all appropriately. Consider everyone’s opinions, even if you view them as insignificant.
2. REVIEW YOUR TECHNOLOGY: If you plan to keep everything digitally (which you most likely already do), make sure you have the required network storage space and that the storage location will be compatible with your goals. IN other words, if you plan, for example, to employ a document management system (DMS) to manage your digital content (recommended), be sure that the storage location is compatible with DMS requirements. Make sure you have solid, secure and easily accessible backups as well. Let me reiterate that…check and be sure your BACKUP system is solid and reliable. Even if you don’t go paperless…do this anyway.
3. UPDATE YOUR TECHNOLOGY:
a. SCANNERS: You will absolutely need desktop scanners at most document processing workstations (if not all workstations). Expecting to have a successful experience by having your staff line up at large, central scanners is a recipe for little or no success. Admit that you must scan everything (including inbound mail) and discard most, if not all, paper (but for “key” originals….and most of what you think you need to keep as an original…you don’t need to keep as an original). Desktop scanners make scanning easy, affordable and quick. The desktop scanner you’ll most likely want to look at for your staff is the Fujitsu ix500. You can buy it on AMAZON, Staples.com, Egghead.com, etc. It runs about $400.00-450.00 and include Adobe Acrobat Licenses. Seriously, don’t skip this step…invest in desktop scanners for true paperless success.
b. DUAL MONITORS: If you don’t already have dual monitors for everyone, get them. Without a paper surface upon which you will read and markup documents, you’ll need a surface to do so without disrupting your current digital experience. And, if anyone says “I don’t need dual monitors…” Simply insist that they accept the dual monitor. I guarantee that people who go from one to two monitors will NEVER look back and say…I don’t like having 2 monitors. It’s simply a necessary part of the paperless process.
c. PDF PRODUCTION SOFTWARE: You’ll need to invest in real PDF Production software. That means something beyond the free “Acrobat Reader”. Acrobat Reader allows you to “read” a PDF that someone else has prepared. You’ll need the full version of Acrobat or one of the other very well written providers of PDF production software like Nuance Power PDF, NitroPDF, Foxit PDF, etc. PDF Production software will allow you to do things like mark up a PDF, modify the PDF, flatten a PDF, make a PDF “readable” with OCR (optical character recognition) functionality, and more. Perhaps the lawyers who never create documents could possibly make do with the free “Adobe Reader”, but everyone else MUST have production software.
d. UPGRADE YOUR WORD PROCESSING SUITE THROUGHOUT THE OFFICE: Get everyone on the same version of Microsoft Word or WordPerfect and create a protocol as to which word processing suite is to be used as the primary production software for documents throughout. Allowing some people to use Word and allowing others to use Word Perfect doesn’t give you any consistency in process and procedure. And, if you’re thinking that you want to make WordPerfect your primary word processing suite at your office, perhaps rethink that. Most of the rest of the business world is using Microsoft Word (and work successfully everyday without “reveal codes”). Keeping your firm on WordPerfect may make some of the more established paralegals and legal assistants happy, but adds a layer of complexity between you and the rest of the document collaboration world. Transitioning WordPerfect users to Word…it’s not that hard to do…and perhaps now (before starting the paperless endeavor) is the time to do so.
4. CONTENT MANAGEMENT: Now that you have the hardware and software foundation you need a content manager to help you organize your digital storage, make everything easy to find, easy to access, easy to change, and easy to manipulate, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. You may think you can stick with your tiered folder structure, and you can, for a little while, but ensuring that everyone properly stores documents (and emails…and attachments to those emails) away in the right place, with the right name, is an exercise in inviting frustration. I won’t go much further as the feature article by my partner Paul Unger, in our August 2016 newsletter, covers the reasons you need content (or document) management. But for success in going paperless, you need to budget for and employ (and get good training on) a content management system.
5. TRAINING: Seriously…don’t skip this all important part. If you want the people who’ve all huddled together and promised to “go paperless” to be successful, you have to make it so that they know what they’re doing. If not, just a few months into your paperless project, you’ll find the paper footprint increasing again because staff will easily become frustrated by *not* knowing how to do something. And when you schedule training…make it mandatory. Seriously, don’t let your lawyers walk out of training. Because they’ll get frustrated and then demand paper…and there goes the paperless project…and all the money you’ve spent.
At Affinity Consulting Group, we’ve helped hundreds of firms move toward a less paper, more productive environment. If you are not ready to take this type of project on yourself, we’re here to help you realize paperless success. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (877)676-5492.Attend a Lunch & Learn with Steve Best in Atlanta on September 16 at 11:30 a.m. to learn about making your office paperless. Details and Registration info HERE.