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  • Writer's pictureJack Arnston

Gardening Your Paper and Electronic Documents

Here in the upper Midwest, it’s that time of year where we are past the threat of frost, which means it’s time to plant our gardens. The process of preparing the soil, planting the seeds and plants, watering, fertilizing and weeding, will pay dividends in a couple of months. As we harvest fresh vegetables and fruits we are reminded that all of the upfront efforts were well worth it. The same could be said for how we handle the paper and electronic documents within our organizations.

Ask yourself, are you a gardener?

Are you a gardener of your organization's information? Do you take the time to organize your documents, assign retention schedules, limit access to information and secure it from outside evil forces? Just like gardening at home, taking ownership of your information pays huge dividends down the road. The one significant difference, the results come much quicker in your office.

A green thumb applies to your organization's records too.

We have all heard that a successful gardener has a green thumb. It seems that whatever they put in the ground grows. Well, the same could be true of you in your work environment, by helping to eliminate paper and reduce storage space. Your green thumb reflects your commitment to the ecology of your work environment and the world outside your office.  Reducing your carbon footprint not only helps your company, but others outside your organization as well.

How is the ecology of our office affected?

That’s simple, think how much more efficient you and your coworkers would be if your information was available when and where you needed it. Your office would run more efficiently, and workers would feel less stress when needing to access information. Tasks are completed on-time and without hassle. Information flows effortlessly without the risk of loss or delays. Managers can track documents that flow through workflow processes, always knowing where information is located. Analytics provide tangible feedback to these processes which allows for adjustments to me made.

It is time to start planting new seeds.

Now’s the time to begin planting new seeds, starting new projects and making a difference. For many organizations, summer is the perfect time to start new projects. Begin by assessing your needs. Take a hard and objective look at your processes and how you manage your documents. Start slow, and in a controlled environment. In a single department with one application. Identify your goals for transforming your work place. Then roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Don’t try and do it on your own.

A sure way to fail is to try and do this on your own. The thought of managing a transformation project can be enough to stop you in your tracks. Instead work with others, both inside and outside your organization. You might be surprised at how many of your coworkers share the same passion for improving the work environment. Consult with outside companies that have the same needs as you do. There are many user groups available to assist in this. Finally, consult with industry experts who have helped other organizations like yours get over this hurdle and become paperless.

Start now before it gets too hot.

Just like your home garden, it is important to start now before summer heats up and you have other distractions. By not delaying, you will reap the rewards that you sow now.  Come fall and winter you will see the benefits in tangible improvements to your workplace while improving the environment in which you work. See, you do have a green thumb!

Jack Arnston is a Principal at The Priton Group. He can be reached at

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