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Seven ways to go paperless with SharePoint

Achieving Green status and realizing savings on printing costs aside, in 2020 the real lure of going paperless in the office is the potential to drastically improve the efficiency of your operations.  Here’s how you can use SharePoint to do it:

Having trouble getting employees to opt-in to your corporate intranet? Read more: Tips for aligning stakeholders towards a SharePoint intranet revampp.

1. Leverage SharePoint Approval Workflows to automate the approval process

Document approval requires collaboration between sometimes disparate parties. Completing the process in the traditional manner (on paper) typically involves the need for a document to be moved across and between offices as the required stakeholders sign off on it.

A single weak link in this physical chain of approval can result in delays as stakeholders track down the document. Automating the process through SharePoint Approval Workflows provides much needed transparency in the document approval process, virtually eliminating delays. You can easily assign participants, automate reminders for them, and track the approval status in real time – all the while generating a secure archive of the process for later auditing and compliance. Further, once a workflow has been setup, it’s easy to replicate it or make small changes for a new process.

2. Use SharePoint Document Assembly to improve document creation

SharePoint enables the efficient integration of data across Office 365 apps. To effectively leverage the real power of that integration, the secret is to assemble libraries of document assets, then provide those assets to stakeholders with the right permissions.

This enables forms, presentations, contracts, and other deliverables to be merged into complete documents. Combined with an Approval Workflow that routes the assembled document to the needed approvers, you’ll gain the capacity for near instant signoff.

3. Combine Approval Workflows with Document Assembly and Digital Signing to speed up contract signing

Onboarding new employees – where documents need to be shared and contracts need to be signed – is a good example of how the paperless office enabled by SharePoint can be leveraged to realize massive efficiencies.

The necessary documents, forms, and company policies can be routed via automated workflow to the right people and digitally signed along the way. This alone is a big improvement but, cleverly leveraging SharePoint Workflows, the data captured during this process can be used to automatically assign tasks and update systems moving forward.

4. Leverage the improved search capacity of your digital library

Say goodbye to the bad-old-days of searching through email libraries or, worse, sifting through a network of subfolders (either digital or physical). By enabling enterprise-wide search of your entire digital library, SharePoint vastly improves your organization’s ability to track essential documents –and it only grows over time as documents are added to SharePoint. Best of all, anything you find in the archive can be instantly shared across your organization with the right permissions.

5. Collaborate in real time to improve the refinement of your documents

Rather than participants editing documents separately then merging changes manually, collaboration in Office 365 documents can be done in real-time. Invite participants – including externally to your organization – and provide each contributor with the appropriate permissions for interacting with the document (example: read only, edit directly, or edit as suggestions).

6. Switch easily between devices and share across devices

SharePoint, by providing a web-based sharing platform, makes it easy to “pick up” documents on practically any device. Moving from your desktop to a meeting or remote work environment no longer requires the printing of documents.

Now you can start reading or working on a document at your desk, then finish it on a thin client like a tablet or smartphone from anywhere else. In a meeting environment, presenters can project materials straight from the SharePoint site to both physical walls and participant’s devices.

7. Leverage analytics to continually improve the paperless office experience and efficiency

When your organization’s entire document management process is digital, it becomes possible to glean insights into how to improve efficiency.

SharePoint’s auditing and analytics tools make it easy to determine things like which documents are the most referenced, who is creating the best content, and which archives can be safely deleted – something that was practically impossible in a paper-based environment.

Having trouble getting employees to opt-in to your corporate intranet? Read more: Tips for aligning stakeholders towards a SharePoint intranet revampp.

Need help with SharePoint? Talk to a Sharepoint Development Specialist in Melbourne or Sydney.