One of the biggest paper pile-ups in offices is meeting notes and handouts. One of the easiest ways to reduce this pile-up is to start using Microsoft OneNote. Microsoft OneNote is part of the Microsoft Office suite and usually available on most computers. OneNote was designed as a meeting note application and does a great job of organizing meeting notes by type and date of meeting.
Some of the features include:
- It has 3 levels of hierarchy-1) a “notebook” ideally one notebook for each year 2) a “section” that is a tab at top that can be used to label all standing meetings and projects 3) and the “Pages” for the actual meeting notes.
- It has a good integration with Outlook that allows users to export emails to OneNote for quick reference in a meeting. As well as identify tasks and move them in two clicks to Outlook tasks.
- OneNote is also a mobile app and can sync notes to tablets, phone and any other computer. So take notes on your tablet and go back to your office and open OneNote and they are right there.
- Great embed functionality of pictures, documents, audio or video files. No need to print handouts anymore, just embed them in the page of OneNote and you have all information about the meeting in one spot.
- The ability to create custom tags and symbols to identify text and information. It is the electronic version of highlighting, circling, making a checkbox or underlining in handwritten notes. OneNote provides a long list of default tags and users can modify or create new tags depending on their own coding needs.
As with any application or new habit it takes a little time to get used to it. But once you do, you will be glad you did, especially for busy executives and managers who are often in back to back meetings. Microsoft has a good basic tutorial on OneNote to get users started.
Scanning is the process of converting paper into digital documents. If an organization would like all its official data in electronic form, then it is important to clearly identify the historical documents that need to be scanned as well as future documentation received that would not in electronic form.
The following questions are intended to guide and counsel the client in determining the types of documents and records to scan along with selecting a scanning process.
- Which historical documents should be scanned in?
- What documents that currently are received in paper should be converted to electronic format? Is it possible to request receiving those documents in an electronic format? What is the best process to request that (i.e., online, website, email, phone, etc.)?
- Who in the office can provide on-going scanning support? Are there any employees who should have access to a personal scanner?
- Which documents, once scanned, will need to be retained in their original paper format? Is this noted in the Records Retention policy and guidance?
- Which documents, once scanned, will need to be shredded for confidential purposes?
- Are there any documents in which text recognition is required (OCR)?
Starting the paperless momentum has four primary advantages to an organization; it will improve knowledge and data management, it will increase data efficiencies; it will improve worker productivity and prepare the organization for the remote and mobile workforce environment.
The following are recommendations to reduce paper used by individual employees;
- Reduce Desktop Printers: Employees who print electronic data create their own paper pile up. The easier and more convenient it is to print documents, the more likely it is that paper use will increase. One way to reduce paper use is to reduce individual and desktop printers. By making printing less convenient, employees begin to be more mindful before printing their data.
- Improve User Skills on Managing Electronic Data: If users understand how to organize, file and manage data electronically well, then they will feel more comfortable keeping data electronically and will have fewer propensities to print it. Provide training and instruction to users on best practices of filing and organizing electronic data.
- Improve User Knowledge on PDF Conversion and Use: Users need additional training on using PDF software. In particular how to merge and combine PDF documents, how to convert emails and other MS Office documents to PDF, how to extract/add pages into a PDF and how to make comments/notations. A large portion of paper printing is to re-scan in documents in a certain order, to remove or add pages or to add a copy of an email to an official paper file.
- Implement e-signatures: Implement the use of signing documents electronically. Provide clear guidance and training on how to use and process e-signatures.
- Automate Paper Processes: There are still paper-based processes (mainly with multiple signatures needed on a document) that could be automated and managed electronically. Identify those processes that require paper printouts and engage a productivity or IT consultant to suggest electronic alternatives.
Box is similar to Dropbox or Google Drive in that it is a cloud-based content management application that syncs with your desktop. It provides 10GB plus syncing capabilities with its free profile. Box can be accessed by any mobile devises such as iPad, iPhone, Android and tablets. It also has a very nice document preview capability without opening the document. Users can add comments and view versions with documents with a paid subscription to the app.
The advantage of Box over DropBox is that it allows online editing of documents and has 8 GB more space with a free account.
When restructuring the shared drive network, it is likely that there will be a considerable number of historical documents that need to be kept and archived. Often, records that are considered permanent, such as financial and personnel records, must be retained by the organization. Other records, such as strategy and business plans, provide history and background to an organization.
Historical data can be identified with the following criteria:
- The data does not need to be accessed again and are solely being retained for historical and archival purposes;
- The data are closed, completed, and finished, such as with projects and initiatives that do not have to be accessible;
- The data relates to old businesses, sold assets, and dissolved entities or departments that do not need to be accessible but may be required for historical purposes; and/ or
- Former employee work files (not their personnel file) that have been reviewed do not have to be accessible any longer but are still important to keep if future access is needed.
Be cautious moving historical data onto external hard drives. Although external hard drives are plug and play devices, once data is moved to an external hard drive it becomes forgotten and less accessible to staff. The following are ways to manage historical files on a Shared Drive network. These options should be discussed with IT and management before implementing an option.
- Integrate into the file structure: Within the file structure, data can be organized chronologically to archive historical data, as shown in the screenshot below.
- Create a “historical” file folder: A folder labeled Historical or Archive can be created in the first line of file folders. Within this folder a mirror image of the first line of folders (i.e., divisions of an organization) can be made. When documents become outdated for each division, they can be moved into the same topical folder in the historical folder. Or sub-files can be designed by year. As files and documents become outdated they can be moved into the appropriate historical year folder.
- Archive them on a separate drive: Another option to manage historical data is to create a separate drive allocated on the server solely for archived and historical information. The structure can be designed in one of the options recommended above. Keeping the archived data on the server enables the data to be accessible quickly. It also will update files and documents automatically as software and operating systems are upgraded. Another option is to store historical and archive data on an external hard drive.
To learn how to organize electronic files on the shared drive, download the report How to Organize Electronic Documents on Shared Drive Networks. Or you are welcome to contact us and we can assist you.