Paper Becomes Pointless
We started to scrutinize every single aspect of our business — every process, every procedure — and making decisions based on how each particular task benefited our clients.
Stuffing envelopes does not add strategic value. Keeping paper files up to date, and in the right place, is a completely avoidable opportunity cost. Getting paper contracts signed and initialed properly, especially by multiple signors, is a frustrating, time-consuming and often messy process. Manually creating invoices is just wasteful.
While we had been utilizing digital reporting systems since 1998 for our alarm response service (starting with the original Palm Pilot), the administrative side of our company had not kept pace. Far too much Fred Flintstone, not nearly enough George Jetson.
Our administrative costs were growing as fast as our company (if not faster). It was costing us far too much to grow.
The majority of items on our list of frustrations and wasteful activities were paper-based … paper forms that we used internally, paper contracts for clients, paper proposals and, worst of all, a paper filing system.
The biggest frustration in our office was how often our team members would have to chase down a file folder that was not where it was supposed to be. Physically moving a file folder from desk to desk, from in-box to out-box and back to the filing cabinet invariably resulted in more than a few “black holes” along the way. Files would be all but lost until someone went on an expedition to find them.
So, we started by getting rid of our filing cabinets. All of them. We invested in desktop scanners to stop the flow of paper at the earliest opportunity. Secure Shred-It boxes ensured that every piece of paper that made it into our office, once scanned, found its way out.
Personally, I refused to accept anything on paper unless it was absolutely impossible to be scanned and/or E-mailed to me. Paper client files were replaced with digital folders, which didn’t move and were available to everyone who needed access and to no one who did not.
Taking the first step toward a truly paperless office got everyone at Provident to see how powerful the transition was going to be as we eliminated more and more paper processes. The less time we wasted pushing paper, the more time we had to be in front of clients.
Each quarter we tackled a new project. After our filing system was digitized, the next project was to get rid of the outdated policy and procedure manuals, employee handbooks and other internal documentation. Instead, we built a series of wikis (or Web pages), which allow our team members to add, delete or revise documentation content by using a Web browser.
Our path to paperless has not been without bumps. Moving to wikis, and especially allowing all team members to edit them, caused some disagreement. We parted ways with a member of our senior management team during the transition.
In 2009 we signed our last paper monitoring contract; 100% of our client contracts are now signed using electronic signatures. Going paperless has been much more than a project, it has caused a profound change in our company culture. And all innovation requires change.
Mike Jagger will present a seminar titled “The Path to Paperless” at the Electronic Security Expo (ESX) in Nashville, Tenn.; June 28, 5-6 p.m. For more information, call (877) 628-9558.
Mike Jagger is President of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based Provident Security.
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