The Digital Office – Consistently Implementing the Vision of Paperless Work

Jan Schauenberg
24 January 2020

The digital office is a much-described concept for modern and sustainable work. However, what is the reality in Germany?

Whether invoices, time sheets or material notes, the processes in German companies are still mainly organized with the help of paper. As part of a study, the digital association Bitkom asked 504 German companies with 20+ employees about the reality of paperless work. The results are sobering: 19% are still completely dependent on paper and only a total of 75% have regulated at least half of their processes electronically. Not only could important resources be saved, but processes could also be optimized. If traditional administrative methods were converted to digital office solutions, companies would rely on a purely electronic way of processing documents and records.

Advantages and disadvantages – the digital office as a contemporary concept

In the age of email, WhatsApp and online conferences, the process of managing and filing mountains of documents seems almost antiquated. However, many companies still work like this. Naturally, it is difficult to say goodbye to long-standing, well-established traditions, although email has long since become a matter of course in corporate communications. The disadvantages of the digital office revolution then lie rather in the complex conversion from traditional to digital, which requires a certain degree of consistency and discipline.

However, there are many advantages to going digital, and not only in terms of saved resources and space. Key benefits are the availability of documents, data, and information, as well as the increased efficiency of processes. For example, if all documents are consistently scanned in, they can be stored centrally in a stringent IT system. This system can be used by several teams for various processing steps and then archived in a way that is easy to find. This is a prerequisite for automated processes and no company will be able to avoid this step.

Implementing the digital office – with systems and discipline

It is, therefore, worthwhile to embrace the digital office as this is indispensable in the course of Industry 4.0. As a framework, an IT structure is required that maps out the processes in the company, and which contains intelligent document management systems and, ideally, is executed in the cloud. Such an implementation or modification is naturally associated with an effort. However, you can tackle paper consumption in your office with just a few small steps:

  • If you switch to electronic invoices, you not only save money on paper and postage, but you also save time. As a rule, invoices can be sent directly from an ERP or customer management system at the push of a button.
  • With regard to travel expense accounting, there are already many apps available, and even common communication devices like cell phones allow the user to take pictures of receipts and then electronically transmit them. This lack of manual processing will also make your sales staff quite happy.
  • If applications for leave are digitized, processing is accelerated. This enables both employees and managers to access important information quicker, such as whether other colleagues have already been granted leave.

These small points can be the start of the digital journey and will develop the employees' understanding of the changes. If workload and error rates are noticeably reduced, it will be easier to digitize more processes. It is therefore important that you first clarify the internal time- and cost devourers in order to determine the digitization possibilities and the subsequent results that need to be achieved. The following approach has proved to be an effective one:

  1. Take stock of the current situation; for example, the amount of paper used and the working hours employed
  2. Describe the target or end goal
  3.  Plan implementation step by step
  4.  Continuously optimize processes

Choosing the right tools for the digital office

Depending on your specific requirements and the results you would like to achieve, you can choose the appropriate IT structure and tools such as bandwidth. For example, you can store certain data for mobile access to everyone and then make other information only accessible to certain employees. Particular attention must be paid to data security and encryption to ensure a successful transition to the digital office in the long term. We offer a high standard of this, which is preferred above all by cloud providers.

As with anything new, a project like this appears to be a real challenge at first glance. However, you will quickly see and experience the positive effects. We have compiled everything you need to know about how to approach the project and which practical tips you can use for digitization in your company. Simply download our e-book here.

Conclusion: The digital office as an important and feasible milestone

The idea is almost 70-years old, but only today can the digital office be realized in the way that it was meant to be. This concept can be the important first step towards the future, especially for companies that are still in the early stages of digitization.

Using this ebook, you can become an agent of change, successfully forging a path for your organization into the digital future. 

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