The benefits of going paperless are very real and most authority bodies (such as HMRC) are very happy to acknowledge and even encourage.
There do however, have to be safeguards in place to ensure that important documents are scanned accurately and that originals are only destroyed when it is safe to do so. Here is a basic guide to document scanning.
Important documents must be scanned to the BIP 0008 Standard
Documents needed for compliance purposes (e.g. tax documents) must be scanned in accordance with the BIP 0008 Standard as laid out by the British Standards Institution (BSI).
This not only sets out the steps which must be followed to ensure that the electronic images are complete and accurate reproductions of the originals, but also to ensure that the organisation in question can demonstrate compliance with the standard.
In principle, if documents have been scanned in compliance with the BIP 0008 Standard, they can usually be destroyed afterwards, however, as always, it is strongly recommended to check with the relevant governing body and, of course, if in doubt hold on to them.
You can always put them into offsite storage until they cease to be required.
Once documents are scanned they must be appropriately secured
Security starts with organisation. Basically, you can only protect something if you actually know that you have it (and where it is). If your original paper documents were well-organised then you might just want to replicate that organisation electronically.
If they weren’t, then your first step is to get to grips with organisation.
Once you have your documents organisation, you then need to make a decision on which documents you need for active work and which need to be archived.
In some cases, you will need both an active copy and an archive copy of a document.
If this is the case, then you will need to make a decision on whether or not the active copy might need to be edited and if so you will need to create a process by which the archived copy will be updated.
The good news is that securing electronic documents needn’t be complicated.
If it’s too much for your internal IT team (or if you don’t have an internal IT team), you can always enlist the help of a specialist service.
Revise your current processes to reduce the amount of paper you produce
Seeing all the benefits of your initial scanning process may give you a great feeling, but the fact is that, sooner or later, you will end up back where you started unless you commit both to reducing the amount of paper you produce and to scanning unavoidable paperwork as quickly as possible.
Be aware that when you’re talking about general paperwork (as opposed to paperwork needed for compliance purposes), you can often afford to take a more relaxed attitude to the scanning process (within reason).
For example, you could have staff use their mobile phones to capture the details from tickets and receipts. In fact, there are now apps which can transfer the relevant information straight into your accounting system.
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No matter what sector you work in, businesses can always do more to protect your customer and staff data. Our services include document storage, document shredding and document scanning to ensure personal and private data is kept secure or destroyed appropriately. Get in touch with our team to find out more.