By Rafael Moscatel
The extent to which any organization can reduce its dependency on paper is largely determined by laws and the industry regulations it faces, the technology available to it and how well its leaders manage change, internally as well as for customers.
Here are some thoughts on how to begin solving the paper problem around your office:
Understand the affordances of paper – One of the most thorough examinations of the issue of paper and its role in our lives and workplaces came in 2002 when MIT press published The Myth of the Paperless Office. The book’s findings make a case for the “affordances of paper” and stress that to reduce paper production and consumption we must understand the underlying habits and processes driving how our clients and colleagues work.
Attorneys for example often require a contextual or “case at a glance” perspective that a chronological or issue focused file offers… a “story telling” approach to presenting information which can’t always be matched even with the best software. Similarly, auditors or project managers will often work with and create aggregated records which serve a specific purpose for which imaging might be overkill or too costly. And contrary to popular belief, there still exist quite a few scenarios where it remains more affordable, practical and efficient to even store information in paper form. Conversion costs and risks required to maintain the digital lifecycle of infrequently referenced documents and avoid bitrot* can often exceed those associated with retaining the same materials in paper form.
Make the right policy changes with executive level support – Every Records or Information Governance policy initiative or project your business undertakes should have senior level executive support and reflect the best practices within your industry.
Here are some policy and procedural ideas to consider that can act as catalysts for change.
Match your technology to your people and your people to their processes – Streamlining workflow starts by truly understanding your people and their processes. A proper workflow analysis helps when searching the marketplace for technology that fits your budget and meets your regulatory needs. Here are some more tips to keep people happy while achieving efficiency and staying compliant.
Continue to refine your processes and technology – Here are some excellent ways to continue to streamline your information management operations over the long run.
Don’t forget to respect your limitations – Keeping goals in context and maintaining a healthy perspective with respect to your limitations can save you both money and peace of mind. Don’t waste time on initiatives rooted in unproven technologies or which seem too good to be true.
Most importantly, be prepared to face some resistance and new challenges as a result of changes to your policies, processes and technology. Remember the risks associated with the decisions you make and the consequences they might have on current and future employees as well as customers, but don’t be afraid to take measured risks to achieve less paper!
Rafael Moscatel, CRM, IGP, is an accomplished executive with over twenty years of experience implementing world class records retention, data governance and compliance programs for large enterprises. He has an extensive background in driving long-range corporate planning strategies and spearheading change management initiatives within complex and highly regulated industries. His expertise includes development of document management strategies, decommissioning of legacy systems, performing risk assessments and audit remediation. Rafael partners with executives in helping them to optimize their legal technology investments, add value across business lines and embrace their business challenges and opportunities.