5 Steps You Need to Follow to Go Paper-Free in 2021 (+ 7 Benefits of Running a Paperless Organization) 

Table of Contents

Business-wise, we’ve done good in the last ten years or so…

… powerful pocket-sized computers that allow us to work on the go? Check

… tech that serves ads to folks who as much as think about our company? Check

… apps that manage our time, our appointments, and our investments? Check

That said, there’s one thing we’re still universally drowning in, and that’s… paperwork.

More accurately, papers.

Drowning in paperwork

Unlike most of us, John Oliver’s paperwork is probably fun… 

The dream of the paperless office has been around for several decades now, but it’s a mystery that remains uncracked. And even though we made a lot of progress, the majority of organizations are far from the 100% paperless goal.

For example, did you know that an average office worker still uses around 10,000 sheets of paper every year? Or that United States companies spend around $120 BILLION each year on printing and storing documents?

I know… your brain hurts from trying to picture all those zeros.

Let’s put this in more familiar terms.

For every employee in your organization, assume footing a $500/yr bill for paper, printing, and storage. Ten employees? That’s $5,000. 100 employees? That’s $50,000. The math is ruthless.

Wouldn’t you rather invest that money back into your company?

In this post, you’ll learn how to minimize paper use, declutter your processes, and yes — free up money that you can then use to build up your business in a paperless work environment.

What do you say — ready to take the paper out of the equation?

The Top 7 Benefits of Going Paperless In Your Company

Benefits of going paperless

One of them is ease of access and collaboration now that we’re all working from home.

Thanks, global pandemic… I guess.

Before we dive into the how of the paperless office, you should understand the whys behind it. Yes, there’s more than one why. The costs associated with running a paper-heavy operation are significant, but they’re not the only thing driving this transformation.

5 Simple Steps to Becoming a Paperless Organization

Become a paperless organization

See that clean desk up there?

That’s the goal… zero clutter, streamlined processes, and an optional notebook for jotting down the lyrics of that new pop hit percolating in the back of your mind.

Here are six simple steps you can follow that will get you closer to your paperless office goal.

Get Executive Buy-In Early On

A change in company culture needs to be spearheaded by the management. Once you have at least one top brass member in your fold, getting everyone else to fall in line becomes a lot easier. You get less pushback and more cooperation.

Hassle of paperwork

Colleagues will hop on board your ‘paperless office’ boat at first… but old habits die hard.

Hastwell and Bush (from Great Place to Work) published a great post on how to work on getting executive buy-in for your ideas (read the whole thing here). Some key takeaways include:

  • Pick an exec who is likely to support you some execs have a better understanding of what going paperless means. Approach your CFO or your CAO to discuss your paperless office idea, as their roles make it easier for them to understand the benefits.
  • Arm yourself with data — come with actual numbers. Time spent waiting for paper contracts to come back from clients. Cost of storage. Lost productivity cost. You know what they are. This makes for a much stronger case than saying: “I think we should cut down on paper use.”

Create and communicate your business case — when pitching your idea, the important thing is to make sure it’s worked out completely. Create a business case that details the stages of your proposal and what you’ll do in each of them. Give an estimate of how long it will take to complete the project, how much it will cost, and what the advantages will be to the business.

Choose Your Tech Stack Carefully (& Train People to Use It)

Before making any major decisions, take a couple of days to review your current processes. Pay special attention to those areas that generate a lot of paperwork — and, by extension, a lot of paper-associated waste and costs.

Some examples include:

  • Client paperwork that just piles up. Even the tiniest of changes usually result in new forms or contracts being drawn up, printed, sent for signing, and then stored.
  • Employee onboarding forms, workflows, surveys, and reviews come out of HR departments as if on a production line.
  • Meeting minutes… meeting notes… meeting doodles. A 2-hour all-hands-on-deck meeting can easily chew up a large oak tree, without any real need.

Now, your document management digital software needs to be able to tackle all of this. The only exception is note-taking (mandate digital note-taking. Evernote and similar solutions integrate well with most DMS solutions).

You’re looking for a platform that’s intuitive, easy to deploy, integrates well with other solutions, and can scale as your needs grow. Some basic DMS features include easy online access (desktop and mobile); the ability to create customizable digital forms, checklists, and workflows; and digital signatures functionality; robust security, and the ability to create various access portals for departments and handling the client-side of the document collection.

When your team members get more comfortable with the switch to paperless software, you can look into adding extra features — in-app messaging, payment collection, auto-reminders, and more.

Use Clustdoc to manage & collect documents, streamline workflows and get payments

As for the training… everybody needs to know the basics of using your new paperless system.

There’s no way around that.

You can’t invest in new processes and tech only to have 20% of your workforce completely clueless when it comes to using them.

To speed up the training process, organize a crash course on document collection and sharing for everyone. For certain departments — sales, HR, and admin, for example — set up additional training early on. They’re the ones who will be using the new system the most in the beginning.

Review, Organize & Downsize Your Paper Documents: As you transition to a world with no less paper, you need to review and organize that see of document types you’ve opted into throughout the years. Client contracts, NDA agreements, employee onboarding forms, requisition forms…

They add up quickly, don’t they?

Here’s a step-by-step process that will help you inject some order into that chaos.

  • Task every department with organizing their paper documentation. Sort documents by client, year, and any other relevant category so that you can sort through them easily.
  • Review every document type you’re currently collecting. If a document is not crucial for your process (or compliance requirements), consider not collecting it in the future.
  • Set expiration dates. Do you need the birth certificate of an employee that’s been with you for 20 years? Or the outdated NDA for a client that left 10 years ago?
  • Create a timeline for departments to follow. For example, give them 30 days to organize client documentation and 90 days to organize in-house files. Keep tabs on the progress.
  • Set a deadline by which all existing documentation needs to be entered into your document management software.
  • Invest in a robust scanning solution that will let scan, organize, and convert batches of documents fast enough for departments to reach your document conversion goals.
  • Create a designated storage space for those paper documents that you need to keep (client/compliance requirements). Plan extra space where you’ll keep new documentation for three months (to safeguard against upload issues).

Have Customizable Templates Ready On Day #1

As soon as you start to organize your existing documentation, be ready to digitally capture anything new that comes in.

Your goal is to avoid a situation in which you’re creating more work for departments because you’re collecting more paper documents than they can process.

The best way to do this is to take a look at the types of documents you use most. Thanks to careful planning (from step #2), you’ll have a tool that will make these initial stages easier.

  • Review your most commonly used document types (contracts, forms, checklists) to find the ones that you use every single day.
  • Create templates inside your document sharing portal (ensure these are customizable — you want the process of turning in documentation to be as simple as possible).
  • Set up workflows to guide employees, clients, and vendors through the process of submitting various forms and documents.
  • Collect new documentation separately from the one you are uploading manually. Review it for consistency and adjust templates if needed.
  • Have at least one person in each department/location/shift trained in the ins and outs of the software you’re using. They can help their colleagues if there are any hiccups.
  • In the beginning, print out and store paper copies of the most important documents you collect. This helps you safeguard against software issues or faulty uploads.

Go Paperless with Clustdoc

Click Here to Start Your Free 7-Day Trial (No CC Required)

Click Here

Share Your Paper-Free Process With Clients

Paper-free process

I’ll list this as step #5 but, in truth, you’ll start with paperless client onboarding the minute you begin your paperless office initiative.

Every new client that you close from the moment you start scanning old documents will go through your online document collection process.

Nine times out of ten, they’ll have zero issues with this.


Well, two reasons are at play here:

  • online client onboarding is not so unusual these days… at least not enough to raise eyebrows. We all do online applications all the time, and we understand the benefits, and;
  • you’re starting a new relationship. New clients are likely to go with the flow here, especially since online onboarding is simpler for them.

That said, you might experience a certain amount of pushback from your old clients.

This happens when old clients are too set in their ways… or when you make the process complicated for them. The fix is simple. Reach out to your current clients a month in advance to let them know about the change in the way you process documentation. Create a step-by-step guide on how the document collection flow will work in the future, and offer to guide them through it. One thing to pay special attention to is the e-signature feature. Most clients won’t know how to use the functionality, so shooting a video tutorial could save you a lot of back and forth.

Once clients understand that this means faster processing/delivery/outcomes, they quickly adapt to the new way of doing things.

Are you ready to make 2021 the year in which you make a serious dent in your use of paper? Clustdoc can help you streamline document collection. Create bespoke forms, workflows, and templates for your clients and employees, and quickly access them wherever you are by using our mobile document sharing portal.

Now that you’re here

Clustdoc is a client onboarding orchestration platform used by modern teams around the world. With Clustdoc, you can run automated workflows for requesting, reviewing and verifying new customers’ data, documents and contracts – without juggling between tools. 

If your team is managing new customers using emails, spreadsheets and PDFs, you’ll probably love using Clustdoc.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 3.1 / 5. Vote count: 61

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?