The first step is to audit your paper documents; what documents are worth keeping, and what should go to the shredder? Filtering your documents from the get-go will save a lot of time avoiding storage for documents that are unnecessary to keep.
After you’ve brought your paper forms down to what needs to be kept, the next step is categorising the different type of paper documents in groups such as:
By grouping your paper documents it becomes easier to manage the digital conversion and storage of them.
Now that you know what you want to store digitally, you have to decide where you want to store them. The first consideration is if you should store them digitally on-site, or if you should store them on the cloud.
Storing your digital documents on-site would be keeping them on a computer or external hard drive, whereas storing your digital documents on the cloud would be keeping them securely on the internet. Generally speaking, storing your data on the cloud is always best so that they are easily accessible, and so your documents are less vulnerable to theft or disasters.
One concern for storing your documents on the cloud can be security, which may make on-site seem more appealing, but so long as you are serious about security and use a reliable provider, keeping your documents on the cloud is, if anything, the most secure option.
For where you store the data on the cloud, that depends on the documents you want to store. For documents such as letters that you would be scanning, an option like Google Drive, OneDrive, or DropBox is best, and financial documents like receipts or invoices are best stored in dedicated account software like Xero.
For paper forms or checklists, consider storing them on a data collection app, such as Locale Central, which you can create a free account with. A data collection app can help you both store and capture your paper forms and checklists, when picking a data collection app one that’s right for you, consider what kind of data you need to record for your forms, and if the options you’re considering can store that data in the way you want it. Other features to consider is if it’s possible to export your data, and if you need a mobile data collection app that works offline.
Before you start converting and storing your current set of paper documents, it’s best to create a plan for future documents so that you do not continue to accumulate paper records. Typically, an action plan is a set of guidelines or instructions on how to store documents, such as:
After you have created your action plan, make sure everyone in the office is aware and on-board with it, so you can stop the flow of new paper documents being created.
Now that you’re no longer accumulating paper documents, it’s time to convert your old paper documents into their digital counterparts.
For some paper documents, this is as simple as scanning and saving them on the cloud. For a data collection application, you will typically need to create a form template to capture your data, then use that to import your data. This can be the most time-consuming part of going paperless, which is why it’s important to have an action plan in place for future documents before you start turning your old documents digital.