Many organizations have attempted to reduce their costs of printing by redesigning the way they carry out work in their offices. There have been many who have attacked this by pushing the use of print documents out of their primary workflows. Unfortunately, there are still many companies who are still stuck with outmoded processes which seem to stop them from accomplishing these kinds of reductions.
Of course there are still attempts made to reduce print costs by consolidating devices, finding the lowest cost of supplies and perhaps foregoing service on their print devices. By doing some of these things there can be some reduction in cost, although often at the risk of not providing as efficient an operation as before.
The kinds of processes which make it most difficult to make change are those which involve multiple hands needing to access information which has been held in paper. I have seen operations where as many as sixteen persons might be involved in some approval processes necessitating multiple copies of documents to be circulated. You can imagine how hard it would appear to be to change such a process to one not involving all of these copies.
These kinds of processes also get complicated when filing systems for both paper and electronic documents are not established in a well structured environment. In the electronic area using the basic windows filing structure (often through shared drives on a network server) as both a file storage and as a transfer mechanism generally does not work well.
Too often the solution to many of these problems is just to produce more copies of each document so everyone affected can have a copy and the information contained can be move around an office or organization with apparent ease. Of course the problem with this type of system is often there is no one who is assigned the task of ensuring that the documents being circulated are then properly filed (or multiple copies are destroyed when their useful working period is ended) so that a 'final' or 'official' record is established.
In very sophisticated operations elaborate electronic workflows can be built to handle all of the intricacies of of these large processes. In smaller organizations or on a departmental level it is often hard to find the resources, both in cash and personnel, to be able to build an electronic solution.
With the advances which have been made with web based document management platforms it is possible to begin to come to grips with these issues with a lower expense and with less complication. Simple workflows can be built to address some steps in the process while leaving some of the more complicated ones as they are for a time. By building incrementally in small pieces the complexity of the change and the costs of moving to new solutions are reduced. Along with these the risks of total stagnation in the change process are also reduced.
Looking for ways that you could move your processes ahead in small steps using these kinds of tools can be a significant opportunity to reduce costs and also to improve productivity.
One further feature of this type of staged approach is no one is asked to give up all of what they have known about how work is carried out in one single step. Little pieces can be changed, finding the most easily altered processes or those where the most significant gains could be impacting results. Do the work on these and get them running more smoothly, and then you can move on a few steps at a time. This reduces the push back from those who like the comfort of the old tried and true, without having to avoid making no change at all to keep them happy.
Over time (often much faster than most organizations think) you can substantially improve your work processes, while not disrupting the operation.
How have you attempted this kind of change? What was most successful?
Photo Credit: By RRZEicons (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons