Jan 22, 2009

Initiating an Almost 'Paper-less' Office


I work in a health care insurance industry and in this business, paper works are undeniably enormous and quite unsightly too. Though the initiative of doing 'paper-less' has been floated before, no real plans were laid out and no real participation by the management has been committed.

We all clearly say that doing 'paper-less' provides many potential benefits, and cost is one of them. Whenever people encounters challenges on implementing this program, all of a sudden they withdraw and not talk about it. True enough, it is very challenging - so this is where the fun and excitement begins!

When we talk about a 'paper-less' program, it is synonymous to using a special software to manage all paper works for distribution and storage. There are many softwares (aka Document Management Softwares - DMS) available in the market but many of which are insanely expensive and will surely make you lock-in to their service - that is something we do not want of course.

For several years, I have had the opportunity to work on several different DMS's and I would say there are many good ones out there as there are many bad ones too. One thing to consider as well is the company that makes these software and we wanted to make sure that they will still be there even after two decades of use.

What are the qualities of a good DMS?

A good DMS must atleast have the following properties:

  • Easily accessible: All employees must have a ready access the uploaded documents for retrieval and review so there will be no physical distribution of documents that will eat up their desktops.
  • Sharing: Uploaded documents must have the capability to share it with others based on the privileges provided by the owner of the document.
  • Accountability: This is done in two ways: 1) version control to monitor all changes made by every single user and, 2) document permission to set security restrictions to every document.

GoogleDocs & Spreadsheet - A good way to start.

To give you an idea on how our office is setup, we have 60 plus employees both in our insurance business and medical clinics which are located in other parts of the city. Yes, papers are used a lot so my challenge here is to significantly minimize paper usage as much as possible if it cannot be remove at all. Since we are using GoogleApps platform anyway (thank goodness for that), for our email, calendar and instant messaging service; we might as well maximize all other services like using GoogleDocs & Spreadsheets as our Document Management System (DMS).

Implementation Plan

Sometimes, the only best option to make a plan like this successful is not to give your employees any other option. ;) Really! Believe me it works all the time. Below is my way of implementing an almost 'paper-less' office:

  1. Make a memo to everyone concerned telling them about your plan and when it will be effective. The schedules of training, transition and implementation must be clearly stated to avoid potential conflicts in the future.
  2. Create a simplified guideline and policy regarding this initiative. This will help the transition to paper-less easy for everyone to follow.
  3. Provide training sessions and learning resources. Since most of the things they need to know can be found on the Internet. I provided our employees links to videos and interactive tutorials for them to study. training sessions are provided only if there are some advanced questions to be asked. Doing this saves time and effort on my part.
  4. Remove all MS Office or Open Office applications installed on every desktop. This will ensure that all employees will be forced to use Google Docs and Spreadsheets and that these documents will be saved in Google servers.
  5. Disallow document saving in any local hard drives or USB drives. This ensures better security and protection in cases of theft, calamity or virus attacks.
  6. Provide regular review and feedback sessions to measure success of the project plan.

I have given my staff relatively three(3) weeks for the transition. With that, I think that is ample time for them to adopt to the new system.

How are you implementing yours?

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