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Opinion: Three things you need to go paperless

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Opinion: Three things you need to go paperless

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing

Opinion: Three things you need to go paperless Opinion: Three things you need to go paperless

In a world surrounded by digital advancement we’ve all heard the term ‘paperless working’. But what does it actually mean and what are the practical implications of introducing it in the housing sector?

Gavin Hitchcock, head of ICT at Futures Housing Group, recently oversaw the adaptation of paperless working for his organisation’s board.

Here he explains how the process is as much about cultural change as it is ditching the printer and looks at three things you need to do to truly go paperless.


Choose a method and test it

It’s a paradox that in an age of unparalleled digital development we still find ourselves surrounded by paper and it isn’t like we are short of solutions.

The nature of the work we do in housing and the mountains of communication required means we are probably guilty of more crimes against trees than professionals in many other sectors. But the simple fact is that the technology to do something about it is out there and has been for some time.

The first thing you need to do is think about the technology you are going to use and test it thoroughly with the people you want to use it. That way you get a proper view on the practicality of the solution.

Our governance and ICT teams ran several mock board meetings and trialled a number of different types of software before we eventually chose one called BoardPad, which runs on tablet devices.

Bridge the technological divide

Never take it for granted that everyone will have the same ability to use technology. The use of a tablet may seem second nature to some people, but to others it will be entering a world of uncertainty. We held one-to-ones and drop in sessions for people to learn how to use the new technology before it became a reality. Some picked up how to use it straight away, others needed more help.

Be patient

Going paperless is as much about a change of culture as it is about technology so don’t try and do everything at once. Choose a part of your business for which paperless working is feasible and target that. Set clear objectives and targets and ensure these are communicated and agreed upfront.
Make sure you involve key parts of your organisation to get buy-in and make the change stick. In our case the governance and business teams were central to the project and ICT supported from a technology standpoint.

Human beings are creatures of habit and we are all used to dealing with paper. For some that’s harder to get away from than others. Ultimately as well as proving the inherent benefits to your organisation, it’s about showing people that moving to technology can actually make life much easier for them.

As well as contributing to our corporate social responsibility strategy, helping our board to go paperless has made things far more efficient. Members can confirm attendance by e-notification, access maps to meeting venues, make annotations and wipe confidential papers all at the touch of a button. And the hours spent printing off reports by our staff have been eradicated.

Going paperless can streamline your activity, boost your eco-credentials and make things easier for everyone. But paperless working, particularly in the housing sector, is not an easy fix. Plan where you want to do it, how you want to it and appreciate it will take plenty of hard work, time and some of your skills of persuasion, to make it happen. It is a process which won’t happen overnight.

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