2014, Our Year Without Paper

4 minute read

In 2014 we took the business decision to make a versatile app that helps companies to reduce their paper use and increase their operational efficiency. Naturally, part of our new brand identity  was, as far as possible, to operate in a paperless way.

Going paperless was a conscious, determined decision and using a minimal amount of paper in our business is an ongoing commitment.  It wasn’t something that we were able to do overnight, and over the year we invested a significant amount of time and effort into finding and trialling the right set of tools that work well for our team.  

One year on we’d like to share the impact it has had on the way we work.

  • We can work from anywhere.  Running a small business is not 9 to 5 Monday through to Friday, we need to be able to work from home or in fact anywhere, and from where ever we are we need access to everything.  There can be a lot of disruptions in a modern office and not everyone gets their best work done in an office environment, being able to choose where we work allows us to be more productive.

  • Our security is better.  Our electronic filing system (Google Drive) allows us completely control of who sees what inside and outside our organisation. We generally only send links to documentation to customers, which means that we maintain ownership and control of our work and can maintain it remotely.  Only authorised users are able to retrieve the documents, making it more secure than paper which can fall in the wrong hands. In addition we use a business password manager which ensures that every password we have is long, strong and unique. If we need to share a password we can do this within the system, which also saves a significant amount of time.

  • We implemented mobile device management. We have complete control over who and what device can connect to our data. We can block, wipe or find any mobile device instantly and remotely reset passwords or access from PCs.

  • It’s tech savvy and professional.  We want to use cutting edge tools that are time efficient and impress our clients.  We don’t carry around important client information in paper files that could be easily lost or stolen and we save time by signing everything electronically.

  • Collaboration has increased our productivity. When we need to, we can all logon to a document at the same time and, using Google hangouts, we can all work on it together until we have what we need.  Comments and notes on working documents mean that if someone else is busy and getting on with their work, they can pick up on it when they are ready and look at it.  Version control and audit trails are automatic, and any document can be reverted to any previous or original state.  We have changed to using an Instant Messaging system for all internal communication and now only use email for dealing with customers.

  • Integration with other applications.  A powerful convenience of digital data is that you can integrate it with other business applications instantly and easily. We’ve tried and carefully chosen tools that work and synchronise together in a very tight way, saving us significant time over the course of a year.

  • We can search everything, instantly.  We don’t need to waste time looking for anything. The powerful search in the tools that we use means that we can find anything that we need straight away, even if it is in a PDF or text within a photograph.  Whether it’s in a client meeting, phone call, a networking event, or training session we now try to only use digital tools to record notes, saving paper and preventing any important data loss.

  • If our offices burned down we’d be OK. Everything is backed up, multiple times. In the event of a disaster we could be up and running again from another location within a matter of hours.

  • Reduced costs and consumption. Printer ink costs a shocking amount of money so we print as little as we can get away with.  Going paperless has meant that we have done away with paper, ink, toner, paper clips, staples and fancy presentation folders. We’re great believers in the best way to be environmentally efficient is to start with reducing consumption. We ensure that the minimal amount of paper that we do still use in our business, including business cards and direct mail, is recycled.

6 tools that have changed the way we work.

  • Google for Work. We didn’t realise how much of an impact moving to Google for Work would really make. Looking back it's hard to see how we managed without it. We can now work from anywhere, securely, from any device and everything is in sync.

  • Google Drive.  Although Drive is a standard part of the Google for Work package it’s worth a separate mention. We’ve set Google Drive up as a shared network storage area, it’s everything we need for document management  and has tight integration with the other Google for Work tools, particular Google Documents which is the equivalent of Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. What sets it apart from other services like Dropbox (which we've migrated to Drive from) is the ability to collaborate.

  • Using 2 computer screens, one of which can be portrait orientated. Pages are portrait and yet all of our computer screens are landscape. We use desktop monitor arms that allow us to instantly rotate our screens from landscape to portrait when needed, a simple trick that prevents the need to print documents.

  • Evernote Android business card scanner. After a networking event I scan all of the cards straight into my phone, which automatically offers a connection on linked in and adds them to my contacts. This tool has cut my post networking event admin down from several hours to 15 minutes.

  • Adobe Echosign. We will never need to pen a signature again. No more printing, signing, scanning and emailing of documentation.  

  • Slack.  A team communication and collaboration platform that has replaced our internal email.

Tools we’re thinking about for 2015

  • A portable scanner.  Getting work done there and then saves a huge amount of time. Scanning clients paper forms straight into the relevant project folders at their offices will allow the rest of our team to engage straight away, perhaps even while we are still onsite.

What tools do you use to streamline your business, reduce paper clutter, and work remotely? Not everyone works best in an office environment, perhaps you work from home or get your best work done at a service station, on the train or even in a coffee shop. What are your “must have” tools when working remotely?  

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