Going Paperless? Then you must read this!


Did you know that 1 in 5 paperless organisation implementation fails! If you think getting the state of the art software will make your organisation paperless then you are wrong!

First thing to understand going paperless is a change in the organisation. More than the software it’s the change that you should put your attention to. Mistakes here can affect the success of the project.

Small case study

An organisation we worked with, implemented a handheld data entry system for their state of the art waste management system. This implementation was worth thousands of dollars. After they implemented the system things went wrong. They figured out that most of the places from where the data has to be entered don’t have network coverage. And the people who use these systems were old generation folks who hated everything digital! Eventually they resorted back to the old paper-based system and the expensive devices and the software were left unused!


More than the software it’s the people who use the software that needs to be addressed. Going paperless is more about the change in culture than new software. Plan to avoid mistakes here

I have broken down the paperless implementation mistakes in following categories

  • Strategical mistakes you can make when going paperless
  • People don’t like change and going paperless is a change!
  • Adoption / Acceptance of a paperless system
  • A final word

Strategical mistakes you can make when going paperless

Not having a plan

Not having a plan is the biggest mistakes that most of the organisations make while going paperless. Depending on your organisation and the volume of your information documents. You have to spend quality time with a good team to create a good strategy for document management system. I have written two articles here on why a document management strategy is important and how to build a document management strategy this should help you.

Make a plan write it down on a paper (trust me paper works best here)! Pass around the plan with your implementation team which might consist of your consultant as well. It’s always best to bring the end-users also into the plan.

Don’t do it all at once!

DON’T TRY TO DO IT ALL AT ONCE. Getting it all done at once is a disaster don’t even think on those lines! This is a sure-shot way to throw your paperless initiative along with that lots of organisation money down the drain. ROI from a Document Management System can only be derived if we go at a slow and steady pace. Work out the dynamics of the organisation starting with the simplest department. Getting the people of that department to empathise to your cause.

Choose the right DMS software

The third strategic mistake that you can make is to choose the wrong document management platform. Either you bring in a consultant early on to make a plan. Or you do it on your own. A decision has to be made on what software needs to be used to implement your plan. Usually, every software out there in the market has its niche. You have to understand that Document management Systems can range from a few dollars a month to millions of dollars. You have to decide which is the best. (maybe a good topic to write on). Let me know if you need an article on how to choose a document management system.

Anticipate future needs of your organisation

Anticipating future needs of your organisation is very critical. Deciding to change the software later is a problem. Migration of existing information to a new document management system can be an expensive affair. So a visionaries thought is very important while selecting the software for your information management system.

Think how much its going to cost in the future

Cost foresight is another area where strategically the implementation of document management system fails. As they say, get them when they are young! Successful implementation of a document management system needs you capture the information right at the beginning into a digital format. And then have people work on it digitally. But capturing information means you will have to have scanners, mobile applications, handheld devices etc. All this can mean that if you have not planned including procuring of these devices, budgeting and getting funds approved! Your paperless initiative will fall flat on its face with its rear end facing you! Not a good situation to be in I suppose.


People don’t like change and going paperless is a change!

I am not a great movie enthusiast, but I have a few favourites. One among them is 300, in which King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fight against Xerxes and his massive Persian army! A group of 300 soldiers almost win the battle with their might resilience & courage! Read more about the movie 300 here!

Well, you don’t need the skills of Spartans to implement a document management system! To achieve anything we need to work in a group and that’s how we can accelerate our pace towards success.

To ensure the successful implementation of an enterprise content management or a document management system you need a good team. A team in which people are

Humble who lack excessive ego or concerns about their own status. Emphasise team over self,

Hungry who are always looking for more—more things to do, more to learn, more responsibility. Hungry people rarely have to be pushed by a manager to work harder. Because they are self-motivated and diligent.

Smart who are emotionally intelligent and have common sense about people.

If you want to read on good team dynamics I would recommend the book Ideal team player by Patrick Lencioni. It’s a good read, that I can assure.

Involve everyone in the initial phase

Not bringing the end-user into the planning phase. The line users and the knowledge workers who use the system makes an ECM implementation a success. You need to get them in as early as possible so that you can figure out possible pitfalls in implementation. They are the ones who face problems. Usually when information is added into the system or when they collaborate on all the information.

If their needs are not met your paperless initiative will fail. Instead of changing their way of working empathise with them and jointly figure out what works for everyone. Upfront they might be difficult to handle but as you understand them and their needs magic will happen.

Get the buzz going with enthusiastic pilot users

Have a team of pilot users who are equally enthusiastic of the new endeavour. They will provide you with honest feedback on how to improve the system for others.


Adoption / Acceptance of a paperless system

You will face adoption or acceptance of paperless initiative difficult because of the people problems. I have tried to address that above.

Don’t under estimate the power of a good training plan

The other aspect that most organisation never plan for is the training part. Without proper training plan and a feedback mechanism in place, the adopters of this new system will get lost. Work stops and everyone gets frustrated! I am sure you wouldn’t want to step in such crazy situations as a referee.

When the early adopters are stuck there is no one they can get back to for help. Put someone or a team of people with good emotional quotient as a point of contact.

You may be the tech wizard of your company who has come up with the latest AI-backed document management system. Which is commendable. But you also can’t go and make a legal contract on mergers and acquisition!

Remember everybody is important in the organisation. Each person is hired for their unique skills not for learning the technology you created! Be humble show empathy when they come asking questions. Just remember how you taught your mother how to log on to windows. (Not applicable to millennials they have digitally smart parents). I will come up with a better examples for the millennials!

Never let an IT guy/nerd be the support person for the knowledge worker.

Pitfalls while going paperless

IT guys job is to make software thing technology. For him if the browser blocking an upload is as simple is going to preferences and changing the security system. But for a Legal Departments Executive, not being able to upload a file means a total failure of the software. Now just imagine legal executive calling the IT guy and screaming your software &&%%$# SUCKS!! Well, your paperless initiative just failed!

A final word

A final word. Implementation of a paperless office is the sum total of small failures. You learn slowly with every failure. Improve your plan when you fail. Slowly put everything into place. Going paperless is a change and it has to be managed well. Do drop me a mail if you need more information on going paperless.

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