1. The ‘Why’: Why do you want to transition to a paperless office? Document all the business challenges you want to solve (eg. document storage space, security of paperwork, reduce costs, no more posting of documents), and what opportunities you want to take advantage of (eg. mobility, improved team/client connection, technology, centralisation of business content, efficiency gains). Set objectives and goals to be achieved.
2. Business content: Understand what content your business deals with – list it out. For accounting firms, a largely forgotten area is data like Reckon Accounts (previously QuickBooks) or MYOB files that accountants work on. It’s still content just like a word document so it’s important to not exclude these files from your business content list.
3. Content location: Understand where all your content is located. One server? One document management system? Multiple servers and systems for different teams (which is often the case)? Document all your existing servers that all your business content resides as well as the methods used to manage that content. Firms undertaking this process for the first time might be surprised just how much content is located in various locations!
4. Access to content: Who accesses your content? From where and when? Is it just your internal team or do clients and external contacts access your content as well? What technology interface or devices are they currently using and what do you want them using in the future (eg. tablets, an integrated portal)? If your clients are accessing your content, is it read only? Are they able to save it locally? Do you want them to digitally sign documents in the future? A goal should be to aim for one system to store all your business content in one central location that can be easily accessed and securely shared with a team and clients at the click of a button.
5. Create a Plan and choose your technology: Once you have all the above information, create your paperless office plan then engage a software supplier to discuss solutions with you. Your plan will make it much easier to work out what solution and process with what supplier suits your firm. Too often people look at a new system because it looks great, not because they’ve done the work to understand their drivers and business requirements. Don’t make this mistake.
6. Team Buy-in: Your team’s buy-in is crucial when changing your business processes and software – ensure they understand the “why”. Many firms make business decisions and changes without telling a team ‘why’ so the first the team learns of the changes is when they are rolled out. All new business process and software changes are hard to learn so that builds resistance to the change in the team. Ensure a good cross-section of team is involved in the planning and transition process to secure good buy-in.
7. Client buy-in: When a whole team is on board and clear of new processes and technology, client buy-in will be a lot easier. Your team will start talking to clients early in the piece, promoting change and helping them understand the pending changes resulting in the buy-in and transition process being that much easier. You can never communicate major change enough. Start the communication process well before anything is rolled out. The main thing your clients will want to know is “What does it mean for me and when?”
8. Implement: Set realistic timeframes (to change business processes takes time), not just one month to plan, communicate, obtain team/client buy-in, install, train and trial. You must allow the right timeframe to achieve your business goals. When you have chosen your technology, start the implementation with your newly created key business objectives (in point 1) at front of mind – this is the criteria for success. Measurement is not how little disruption happened or how cheap it was to implement, it should be based on “did the business achieve the original goals and objectives set?”
9. Trial: Implement the new system and associated processes and allow the team and your clients to use them/work by them for one to two months. It’s only after actually using a new system that new ideas, any issues and thoughts come about. Make any required changes early rather than leaving an undesirable process in place.
10. Review: Review your business requirements and objectives every one to three years and link/review those against your current system and any possible upgrades. A common mistake is where firms implement a new system like a document management solution and never review it again, only to realise in three to five years the system hasn’t kept up with the changing requirements of the business. Often it’s not the system but the fact that no-one owned or managed it.
Written by Sam Allert – CEO, Advanced Professional Solutions (APS)
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