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The 5 Steps of Paperless

You are a change agent in your district, so why are you still using paper processes? "Going paperless" has been a trend for a while now, but you might as well do it right the first time.

In 2013, Yale University published an article on its Information Technology Services site showcasing its sustainability practices. During the 2011 fiscal year, researchers found that the university consumed 211,033 reams of paper – enough to span three-quarters of the way around the earth if each sheet was laid end-to-end.
To give another visual, this amount of paper required about 12,662 trees. Yale discovered that it could save $100,000 – and the environment – if it transitioned to electronic timesheets and decreased its dependence on paper.
In the 2012 fiscal year, the university’s paper consumption decreased by 2.4%. That number may seem insignificant, but this means that the university used 7,797 less reams than the prior year. (Yale’s Sustainability Strategic Plan aims to decrease its 2013 paper purchasing levels by 10% as of next June.)
Who says similar results can’t be achieved in your K-12 environment? 

According to an Education World blog post, paperless school board meeting packets saved an Arizona district about $4,500 per year. Again, that’s just paperless board packets. Multiply that $4,500 by a factor of 10 and you'll start to gain an understanding of how much you could save by moving all factions of your district operations to a digital environment.
The technology already exists for everything from classroom work to progress reports, time off requests to payroll, and even testing and assignments to be moved to a paperless model. The return on an investment you'll receive even if you have some upfront infrastructure costs will be through the roof.
If your district is looking to give the paperless model a try, there are a few aspects you, as a district administrator, should consider. Think about the current systems you are using and the various workflows that are in place. You'll likely want to determine how such a change will affect business and learning operations and how you can leverage those benefits to achieve success for your district and its stakeholders.
Highly successful transitions have occurred, and your district can achieve the same results. Looking for some guidance? Well, you’re in luck. We’ve outlined five tips to make "going paperless" a smooth and enjoyable experience:

Going paperless is about more than just moving your filing cabinets online.

1. Complete a District-Wide Audit

Take a close look at your current processes from the central office down to the classroom and evaluate each area for potential efficiency gains. Assess the steps you already may have taken toward moving to a paperless model, and then create an action plan for moving forward with an effective team of leaders to help drive the process.

Determine early on whether it makes more sense for you to start by looking at potential replacements for your enterprise-level technology solutions, like an ERP or SIS. If your technology can't support your move to paperless, then your plans are dead in the water anyway.
Complete thorough research to ensure any new solution can be configured or customized to match your unique processes. By deciding early on what you want to streamline and in what order, you’ll be better prepared to make decisions about implementation timeframes and keep the process transparent for the benefit of your staff.


2. Create a Content Management Strategy

How will you organize paperless records and information? Going paperless is about more than just moving your filing cabinets online. Take this time to collaborate on a scalable strategy that will make it easy for your stakeholders to find the information they need in a timely manner.

You can do this by grouping documents based on how they will be needed during retrieval of the items. This way, it will be faster for those in every role at every level of the district to get all of the pertinent information at once. Be sure that your enterprise solutions are tied to content to avoid redundant data entry and out of sync resources. This not only saves time and increases efficiency, but will reduce the risk of inaccurate or outdated data permeating your system. 
Be aware of the common research needs of your district when creating a management strategy. Something as basic as a search function to easily locate information without going through menu paths can save hours of productive time over the course of a year. 
A rushed implementation results in a loss of buy-in and makes the second attempt that much more difficult.

3. Initiate Change One Step at a Time

You’ve heard the old adage that Rome wasn’t built in a day; well, your district will not become paperless overnight. Segment the project into short sprints to be taken on one at a time. This focus on a single process or department will not only ensure a smooth implementation, it will also leave flexibility for change management and post-mortem reflection.

One good place to start is your payroll process. if your district still distributes employee pay stubs by mail, we promise there's a better way. On the student management side, you can begin by distributing one round of student report cards electronically and monitoring the results. Consider moving your district’s news distributions to an e-newsletter format. You can even use your first edition to promote the big picture goals of your paperless transition.

We've seen districts attempt to take on too many areas simultaneously, to the detriment of the process. A rushed implementation results in a loss of buy-in and makes the second attempt that much more difficult. 


4. Take Advantage of Tech Resources

In addition to your enterprise solutions, there are a variety of tools available to help your efforts to go paperless. Online resources like Google, Weebly, and YouTube will all prove invaluable in filling the gap once filled by those stacks of binders and paper worksheets. From a hardware standpoint, you'll be able to backup your district's entire operations, improve storage capacity, and prepare for emergency with a disaster recovery program. 

For more ideas and tips on technology your district can utilize, check out this Edutopia blog post on classroom tools available to help teachers go paperless.

5. Take Automation to the Next Level

Automation across the board is key for taking your paperless transition to the next level, but it’s not just about moving away from printing report cards and stuffing envelopes. Consider change on all district levels, from classroom activities and front office procedures to homework assignments and employee paychecks.

Start thinking about expanding the paperless environment to include automated notification systems and real-time updates. Manual online processes can be just as detrimental to productivity as those that are paper-based.

Streamlined workflows will eliminate the need to trudge through the muck in order to locate information. Review what data should be made readily available to staff, educators, students and parents, so you can plan to provide easy access to the information most applicable to all parties.
Think beyond the obvious and imagine the possibilities. What else can your district do without paper to save even more? Collaborate with your peers, user communities, and staff to share and learn best practices. 

Remember: Eliminating paper is just the beginning. The ultimate goal is to organize, restructure and streamline your approach so your district can be even more efficient, transparent and accurate. By evaluating current procedures, creating a plan for paperless organization, initiating change one step at a time, utilizing proper tools, and eventually taking your district’s paperless model to an across-the-board level, your future ready culture will finally be within reach.

To learn more about the time and cost savings already being enjoyed by paperless districts, check out this success story or contact us today. 


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