The increased adoption of cloud-based storage and software, coupled with the rise in remote work, is motivating organizations to research and implement paperless office software.
Depending on what's needed, there are some critical features that organizations need to look for when shopping for paperless office technology. If there are plans to use the software to digitize documents, it needs to have strong scanning and optical character recognition capabilities, according to Will Cannon, CEO of Uplead. Ideally, the tool can work with various scanning hardware to maintain and index documents, integrate with ERP and customer experience management software, and employ a content management system to let users design their workflows and access documents.
Overall, a tool should be easy for employees to learn and use, integrate with other technology in the office and include security features to protect data.
5 paperless office software tools to consider
Despite the wide variety to choose from, five paperless office software options have risen to become the most recommended and popular among organizations and featured on review sites such as G2 and Capterra. Particularly noteworthy is that each of these tools is available in a SaaS model, making it easy for employees to access remotely from any device.
1. Microsoft 365
The Microsoft 365 suite has several plans to choose from that feature Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and collaboration tools for meetings, file sharing and document management. It offers calendar management, commenting and notes, document generation, reporting and analytics, and templates for different documents and tasks.
Users have called out two features as particularly helpful: the ability to access files remotely and the streamlined collaboration tools. However, users also cite the mobile apps as needing improvement and that the suite is challenging to use without an internet connection.
Pricing starts at $6 per user, per month for Microsoft 365 Business Basic. The other tiers include Microsoft 365 Apps for business, Microsoft 365 Business Standard and Microsoft 365 Business Premium.
2. Google Workspace
Another highly recommended tool is Google Workspace, which includes features to share calendars, notes and documents, as well as the ability to hold meetings and store and manage documents. Google Workspace also lets organizations add custom branding to their workspaces and includes workflow automation tools, reporting and analytics, and customizable templates.
Pricing is divided across four tiers and starts at $6 per user, per month. The tiers are Business Starter, Business Standard, Business Plus and Enterprise.
3. Dropbox Business
Dropbox is a great option for companies that primarily need a place to store and collaborate on files, whether in the cloud -- such as those in Google Docs or Microsoft Office -- or files stored on a hard drive. Dropbox also includes calendar, contact and task management features and offers offline access to documents.
Users often cite the process for sharing and organizing files, the ability to work on files without downloading them and automatic file syncing after saving as standout features. However, others caution that there can be sync conflicts and that finding older versions of files can be difficult.
For team plans, Dropbox Business Standard pricing is $15 per user, per month, but goes up to $24 per user, per month for Dropbox Business Advanced. Dropbox Enterprise pricing can only be accessed by contacting the sales department.
Notion is a project management tool that includes functionality for note taking, document management and collaboration. Some of its specialized tools include document classification, file recovery, task management and version control for documents. And while it lacks an offline mode, Notion can guide users to create custom workflows and workspaces so that teams can personalize how they handle projects.
Team pricing for Notion is $8 per user, per month, although an Enterprise plan exists with pricing available by contacting the sales team.
5. ADP Workforce Now
For paperless HR departments, ADP Workforce Now includes applicant tracking, benefits management, time and attendance, payroll and performance management. There is also a marketplace for APIs and integrations so that users can employ third-party applications alongside Workforce Now to create a personalized tool to fit their needs.
The benefits tracking has a simplified view to see what's available to employees, and there are several customization options for reports. However, some users have noted that the interface for requesting paid time off or for other small tasks isn't intuitive.
Pricing is available upon request.
How to choose paperless office software
Before an organization can choose a paperless office software, they need to know what problem they're trying to solve, said Duniya Moore, CEO of Helastel. That driving force will help guide organizations through the other deciding factors.
The first is mapping the desired user experience and comparing that to the main focus of the software -- its features and capabilities. "Let's say you need to streamline your HR enrollment system to accommodate an increased workload. It may be best to simplify the admin process through integration, or you could look for a system that automates tasks like document reminders," Moore said. "Once you've mapped the user experience, you can use it to work out the key capabilities you need."
Next is examining the price of paperless office software options. According to Moore, companies need to look at the cost of the software against the amount of improved efficiency. "For example, purchasing an HR software subscription could cost the company $850/month. However, the efficiency savings gained from moving to a paper-free system might free up 16 hours a month from your HR Manager -- which could be worth twice that."
Finally, if the feature list and price of the software match expectations, the IT team will need to weigh in on how it integrates with the existing technology stack. Many companies are moving toward fully integrated software to eliminate siloes and create a single data repository that's open across the company.
While paperless office software is already part of the technology stack for many companies, organizations can, and should, continue to look for ways to eliminate paper and make it easier for their employees to do their jobs from anywhere.