Reducing the Role of Paper in SMBs

Paul Mah

Stop what you're doing right now and take a look around your workstation. Unless you are sitting at a local cafe or reading this in bed, chances are there are some computer printouts or reports within arm's length. For some of us, this can add up to quite a lot of paper indeed.


While the ideal of the "paperless" office never quite materialized as originally envisioned, we are at a unique intersection in affordable, yet highly available storage, common document formats and interconnectedness, making it possible to dramatically reduce the role of paper in our offices. For SMBs and enterprises alike, reduced reliance on paper not only saves space or money, but also offers an opportunity to demonstrate environmental responsibility.


While I've written on the topic of reducing paper consumption in the office before, Chris Strammiello, vice president of product management and product marketing at Nuance sent along some tips to help.


I've reproduced some of them below, and appended my own thoughts about how SMBs can practically implement them.


Strammiello: Make document scanning available to everyone - Decentralize scanning with multifunction peripherals (MFPs) and desktop scanners so anyone can scan documents into a business application. This step will allow the person most familiar with the information to capture documents, which improves productivity and speeds workflows.

Mah: One critical but overlooked aspect of digitizing (or scanning) documents into archival systems is the availability of a document feeder. After all, nobody wants to scan documents one at a time on a flatbed scanner. The downside, though, is that scanners with the proper document-feeder attachment or dedicated document scanners tend to be expensive. With proper planning, however, it is possible to seed the office with multifunctional printers with built-in document feeders for a cost much lower than that of a stand-alone printer and document scanner.


Strammiello: Improve document handling - Save time - and money - by unlocking the information that's trapped within increasingly common PDF file format documents by using document-conversion software to convert those PDF documents into Word, Excel and other editable formats. This mitigates the risk of typing errors and the costs of retyping documents.

Mah: Some of the newer PDF software on the market, such as the free Nuance PDF reader, comes with the ability to convert PDF files back to source formats such as Word, Excel or RTF. Depending on businesses processes, some organizations might find this capability irresistible.


Strammiello: Resist the urge to print [by using] large monitors - Monitor prices continue to drop. Larger monitors reduce eye strain and make it easy for everyone to view document images at their desktops.

Mah: I've always been an advocate of increasing productivity by the use of an additional monitor. This is especially pertinent as more SMBs make the switch to laptops, which comes with correspondingly smaller displays. Do remember to pair it with a good monitor stand that allows you to position your screen at just the right position.


Do you have any suggestions on how to reduce the role of paper in corporations? Feel free to give us your feedback below.

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Jun 2, 2010 6:13 AM jennifered jennifered  says:

Not sure if you saw this in a very different online publication (Mashable), but their #1 recommendation for a paperless office was using Nitro PDF. They have a new free Reader. Could be worth checking out:




Jul 6, 2010 5:28 AM Sheila McEwen Sheila McEwen  says:

While converting PDF documents to their original format is important for some companies, it's not an important consideration for a lot of companies.However, there are a host of affordable ways to reduce the amount of paper in the workplace, while gaining efficiencies at the same time.

The first thing a company needs to do is determine where most of their paper is coming from - mail, fax, in-house forms, printouts from business applications, etc.

Once you've found where most of your paper is coming from, that's one of the first areas you should target to reduce paper in your company.If the majority of your documents are coming in via fax, investing in a fax server, which digitizes the documents coming in, or switching to an online email fax service would be a smart way to go.Both of these can be fairly inexpensive and save both time and money.

If your business uses a lot of forms, hiring a company to turn those paper forms into intelligent eforms not only saves paper, but also saves time and can help automate some of your business processes.eForms can be put online for your customers to complete and the data in the fields can be stored in a database while the form is sent to the appropriate person in digital format.

If you have a backlog of paper that's sitting in cabinets and boxes, and you can't get rid of it anytime soon, think about outsourcing the scanning of it to a backfile conversion service bureau.They are experts at converting your paper to digital form and usually cost less than what it will cost you to scan the backlog yourself.

If you send advertisements or notices out with your bills or if you use an application that prints data on pre-printed paper forms, consider purchasing a variable print application which will generate the forms for you and can either email them to the appropriate people, store them on your computer, and/or print them out.These applications can print advertisements directly on your customer invoices or employee forms.This will reduce your cost for each of those pre-printed forms and advertisements and reduce the amount of postage you pay.

Companies who receive most of their paper via mail can take a couple of steps to reduce the role of paper in their environment.First, request that documents be emailed to you rather than sent through the postal service.If you're still left with a lot of paper coming in, have a vendor set up an electronic mailroom for you.Paper is brought in, opened, sorted, scanned, indexed, and sent through a workflow process.The electronic files make it through the organization much quicker and with less loss than a paper-based system.

And most importantly, if you're going paperless, you need to make sure you can quickly and easily find and use the documents you're storing.You also need to make sure only those authorized to see those documents can access them, keeping them safe and secure.That's where a good Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution comes in handy.These systems can be purchased relatively inexpensively and make finding, sharing, and securing documents a breeze.

ECM solutions offer several other benefits on top of document storage and retrieval.First, several people can read the same document at the same time, minimizing the amount of time necessary for the document to work it's way through a particular process.Second, many business processes can be automated with these types of products. Reply

Jul 6, 2010 5:28 AM Sheila McEwen Sheila McEwen  says:
This results in increased customer satisfaction, a faster return on accounts receivables, and ensures regulatory compliance.

While there is cost involved with each of these suggestions, the ROI is often quite substantial.Yes, you'll have to spend some money up front, but in the longrun, you'll gain a lot more than you spend.

The company I own focuses on helping companies "go green".Each company has a different set of needs and goals, so each set of recommendations and solutions are different.While converting PDFs may be important to some companies, for many it's a very insignificant piece of their paperless goals.

Sheila (our website is under construction at the momemt)


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