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Going Paperless

So, what do you really need to go paperless in the first place? The major thing that you need is a paperless document management system (DMS). You want a system where you can check documents in and out so that you don't get inconsistent versions of them because there's only ever one person at a time who's allowed to edit the master copy of the document. It makes it easy to merge changes later, you can mark-up documents for review, these reviews can then be accepted or rejected by the relevant stakeholders, and the entire process is dealt with paperlessly. Crucially, each successive version of the document is stored in the DMS, so that it is very easy to roll back to a previous version if you decide you've made a mistake in later versions. Most companies have already got something like this in the first place, and that's the biggest single thing that you need to go paperless. 

Think about the paper you receive coming in from clients and the paper you send out to clients. Even if you are receiving paper from clients you can scan it immediately. This is made particularly good if you use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for your scanners, because OCR makes the resulting PDF documents searchable. This is very important when you may have to find a piece of information that does not occur until page 200 of a lengthy document. You can find it in seconds. That's where you really start to harness the power of soft copies. You can also copy-paste text when the text is searchable. It becomes a powerful asset. Once the document is in soft copy it can be placed in the DMS.

Also, you can communicate with your clients by means of a client portal. You could simply email soft copies of the documents. However, Centura recommends that you use a client portal for paperless communication with your clients. This has two main advantages:

  1. Security. It is possible to hack into an email in transit. The risk of this may be relatively low, but when it's moving between older servers, there is the possibility to downgrade the encryption protocol so that the email is in place text. Then it can be intercepted and read. Whereas, if you have a client portal that's connected to by HTTPS, then you're guaranteed encryption the whole way. 

  2. Digital signatures. Client portals can let clients digitally sign documents over the portal. They can be notified when a document is there to be digitally signed. They can digitally accept or reject that document. If they click Accept, then that's it: it's got their digital signature on it. It's something that's accepted by the ATO. It's so powerful that clients can digitally sign the documents if they are in, say, London while your office is in Sydney, and they can even digitally sign the documents from their smartphones. 

By far the major hurdle to going paperless is sheer cultural inertia. People handle paper because that's what they did yesterday, or the day before. It's about learning new habits, it's about trying new things. Only a company itself is going to know how to best handle its culture, but Centura can certainly handle the technological aspect of this transition for you.

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