Going Paperless and Cashless, and Others for Improvements in Business Efficiency

I’ve developed a minor service for 12 years which manages business processes (Cloud-type Business Process Management: SaaS BPMS). I have got many opportunities to advise on “process improvement”. However, in some cases, I have some trouble providing an answer because the current process (As-Is Process) is so far removed from the digital era, so of course, they’re forced to use traditional methods. In this article, I reconsider the mindset as an adviser, an expert, and a consultant to handle such cases in the age of digital transformation.

1. Paperless

I think paper documents (e.g. documents for plan, report, approval, estimate, invoice, etc.) are not necessary for the following reasons:

  • The amount and thickness of the paper can be intimidating.
  • You will get a sense of relief by seeing the documents stored in a steel library.
  • You feel a sense of accomplishment just by searching for documents (and copying them).

However, the purpose of paper documents is just to deliver information, their look and feel are meaningless if the business doesn’t proceed smoothly.

Today, there are a lot of communication tools instead of paper documents and most of them require less time to process. However, you may be worried about the following things:

  • The authenticity is suspicious
  • IT deployment and operation cost
  • Learning security cost
  • Your handwriting may be bad
  • The sales of the printing shops and stamp shops may drop
  • Copying and shredding work may disappear

As for history, the “hikyaku messenger” system was replaced by the postal system (and later, the Internet) as a public communication infrastructure because it was quite wasteful and expensive. Paper documents are no different from that. I honestly believe that the traditional way of passing around a paper document will disappear. At least, your routine work should be able to proceed without relying on this.

Basically, paper documents don’t have a “search” function.

The people in charge of promoting business process improvement should first regard “paperless” as the standard.

Digital Transformation for Paperless Workflow

*In order to digitize these tasks, you should utilize email systems and workflow systems, for example, you need to establish a corporate account based on cloud offices (G Suite, Office 365, etc) plus cloud workflows. In addition, I suggest you use cloud storage (Box, Dropbox, etc) in parallel with these cloud products.

*As for national strategy, I suggest that the government try to change the legal text that values paper documents (It would require a lot of political power, though), which means the government can regard the digital documents as legal documents.

Cashless Workflow

2. Cashless

I think cash (bills and coins, petty cash, change, etc) is not necessary for the following reasons:

  • The amount and thickness of cash can overwhelm you.
  • You will get a sense of security by seeing cash stored in a cash box.
  • Moreover, you feel a sense of accomplishment even by calculating the total.

However, the purpose of cash is just to transfer money (payment) and there are no companies where wages are paid in cash.

Today, there are a lot of payment tools besides cash and most of them require less time to process. However, you may be worried about the following things:

  • You need petty cash to buy stamps.
  • You may have a problem with paying on delivery
  • Some people have to reimburse others for unexpected expenses
  • You may hesitate to use cashless payment.
  • You may forget the benefit of sales.
  • Management of bills and coins may become unnecessary.
  • (Are you worried somehow?)

As for history, the system of exchanging value (deciding the value by weighing coins) such as using gold and silver was replaced by the “managed currency system” (currency by table: just count the number of notes and coins) by the state power because the former system always starts with weighing and the exchange procedure was complicated. Cash is no different from that. I honestly think that the traditional payment system with cash will disappear. At least, your routine work should be able to proceed without relying on the traditional payment system with cash.

Basically, notes and coins have a cost for their security.

The people in charge of promoting business process improvement should regard “cashless” as the second standard.

Digital Transformation for Cashless Workflow

*In order to digitize these tasks (both procurement and collection), you need to rely on online services and payment tools provided by financial institutions. For example, you have to open a corporate account based on city banks (Mizuho Bank, The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, etc.) plus direct banks (Rakuten Bank, The Japan Net Bank, etc) or online payment services (PayPal, Stripe, etc). In addition, I suggest you utilize a corporate account of cloud-based accounting systems (Money Forward, freee, Yayoi Online …) to widely manage that data.

*As for national strategy, I suppose cash should be inconvenient and disadvantageous. For example, the government implements the devaluing of currency by continuing to give reward points for cashless payment, discontinuing large denomination bills, and adopting a new currency system. (It will require a lot of political power, though)

Less Meeting Workflow

3. Meeting-less

I don’t think meetings are necessary. (Strategy meetings, report meetings, and general manager meetings, etc)

# “Meeting” has some elements of an event so it is difficult for me to compare it with paper and cash because they are physical objects. However, the meeting is unnecessary! I have some reasons:

  • If you just hold a meeting, you feel like explaining and discussing the project.
  • You feel like approval has been obtained because no objections were made.
  • The participants also feel like they are working for some reason.

Actually, the conclusion is often not determined even after the meeting is over, despite the purpose being this determine a conclusion. (Approval of budget, plan, payment, and accomplishment report, etc)

So, Why? I considered some reasons below.

  • The draft as the input for the meeting has not been refined. (Everyone should improve it)
  • The draft has only been explained verbally. (Everyone should supplement it)
  • A draft has basically not been created. (Everyone should consider it)

# Examples: a press release draft, a budget draft for acquiring the certification, a draft of the relocation plan of the office, a draft of the report on advertising effects in the month, and The draft Constitution of Japan, etc.

What you must remember is that the conclusion is only determined based on drafts. You can’t determine the conclusion no matter how many meetings you have: you shouldn’t hold a meeting without any drafts (Input).

As a precaution, you should create a business process where a draft is completed before you hold a meeting. When you draw a business process diagram, you first need to set it up to have the Task of creating a draft complete at the upstream Step, and second, you can set the Task of convening a meeting. Plus, you can set the Task of reviewing the draft as well.

A well-organized draft consequently helps the following things.

  • Participants only need to express their agreement or disagreement in the meeting.
  • You only have to ask a few questions.
  • You just take a majority vote even if there are pros and cons.
  • (Even if the draft is rejected, its creator can rework it.)

Besides, meetings are tough for those who have a lot of business trips or are in a different time zone (or who are telecommuting).

The people in charge of promoting business process improvement should regard making improvements to become meeting-less as the third standard. (Reducing frequency/time)

Depending on some cases, the meetings may be implemented online or the approval may be done in the workflow system.

Approval Workflow

4. Aiming for automation and saving

For improving business processes, business knowledge is essential.

Furthermore, much motivation is also required.

Plus, the content of reforms must be supported by colleagues and supervisors.

In other words, improving business processes is a very stressful job.

For example, I think it is a luxury if a railway worker continues to be dispatched to sell tickets even though the automatic ticket gate is invented, a paper invoice is mailed by a seller and a buyer continues to manually enter the data in the mail. And if the commodity manager orders an old computer, a payment order for the warehouse clerk and a receipt order for the section chief are made, moreover, the warehouse clerk manually updates the record book of merchandise in and the department chief manually updates the record book of merchandise in service in response to the order.

An excessive thing destroys an organization. I’m worried that the business process may be obsolete or anachronistic. Therefore, it is necessary to do a review.

Only reducing excessive operations and automating the tasks can help you to continuously improve business processes.

The people in charge of promoting business process improvement must just keep trying.

Work Smarter, Brush up your Process!!

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