Ensuring Your Paperless Office Doesn't Breach GDPR Back

Ensuring Your Paperless Office Doesn't Breach GDPR

In this post, we reveal that many businesses are actually increasing the amount of paper they use as they intensify digitalisation. This statement may seem contrarian, or even shocking. Many businesses are adopting the ‘paperless’ office, but in many situations, this is not significantly reducing the amount of paper use, and in some situations, ‘going paperless’ has in fact resulted in greater amounts of paper being used up in these businesses and organisations.

Businesses chose to go paperless in order to reduce costs, cut carbon footprints and to enhance security. Why is this the case? One theory is that many of these businesses lack a clearly thought out paper lifecycle strategy.

The EU is to address this issue by enacting the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). If businesses do not adopt a suitable paper lifecycle strategy, they risk breaching the CDPR.

Recent research from the legal sector

Research conducted by DocSolid reveals in the legal industry, 58% of printouts also exist in digital format in a document management system. This is clearly at odds with the core objectives of ‘going paperless’. DocSolid revealed this figure didn’t take account of paper existing in desks and scanning rooms, so the true figure is likely to be significantly higher than 58%. DocSolid says this is probably the case for most professional service companies and not a problem that’s contained to the legal industry.

This research reveals the fallacy of the ‘paperless office’ fo. How may business claim to be paperless when in reality they are creating mass duplicates of digital records in paper format?

Security risks arising from this situation

One important consideration to consider is the security risks posed by duplicating digital documents into paper versions.

You may wonder why companies are behaving in this manner. Quite simply, if a document exists in electronic format, why create a paper counterpart at all? The answer to this question is largely down to the fact that old habits die hard.

Many employees choose to print out documents simply because they like to work off paper. Furthermore, employees may print off a document through concerns that their colleagues may alter their work by accessing documents through a network or shared drive. Employees thus duplicate documents to reduce the risk of losing documents or having documents altered.

Why chose to go paperless at all?

If the above state-of-affairs is indeed true, then you may wonder what is the point of going paperless in the first place. If you examine the merits of going paperless, you will likely agree that it’s worth the effort. For instance, going paperless reduces the cost of paper storage. Digital documents are also generally much more secure than paper equivalents, plus digital documents are easy to back up offsite. This means digital documents are less likely to be destroyed due to fire or other risks.

Creating paper versions of digital documents means businesses aren’t realising these above benefits as much as they could be. Furthermore, creating paper and digital versions of important documents weakens the audit trail and means information loss or theft risks are intensified. Lastly, having paper and digital documents makes it almost impossible to administer an effective records management and document retention policy. This means many businesses will breach the upcoming EU’s GDPR.

How to solve these problems

Many businesses will clearly be in breach of GDPR by not adopting a well throughout paper lifecycle management and retirement strategy. This strategy will solve many of these problems caused by these practices concerning paper-to-digital methodology. This strategy will ensure paper is correctly managed throughout its lifecycle from creation to destruction. Many businesses will begin to understand that paper lifecycle management isn’t merely about document scanning!

One way to implement this is to establish an enterprise printing solution. This solution will identify electronic documents that have been printed out into paper format. This works by adding a barcode to the corner of a printed document. This barcode indicates that an electronic version of the document is also in existence, and available in the DMS.

This barcode informs employees not to re-scan the document where an electronic version is currently in existence. Employees may merely destroy the paper document once it has been used. If an employee has annotated important notes over the document, the document may be scanned into the DMS and then labelled as an annotated version of the original document.

An enterprise printing solution will note the barcode on an annotated version when it is scanned into the system. The printing solution will then automatically move the newly scanned document into the same folder as the unannotated digital document. This creates an audit trail that’s compatible with the GDPR. This will also help businesses stop the habit of printing and then re-digitalising documents in such a haphazard fashion. Businesses will be able to say with certainty what information is stored, where it is stored and what format it is stored in.