You have probably heard the term “paper trail” many times over the years. It originated back in the “old” days before computers were widely used and everything was tracked on paper. The idea of a paper trail was to use paperwork like breadcrumbs. Each one referenced a previous one. In that way, people could track how all sorts of processes progressed over time.
Today, we more commonly use the term “digital paper trail” to describe this process because most information is stored on computers. Here is a closer look at digital paper trails and their advantages.
Digital Paper Trails and Work Orders
Work orders can come from different sources and involve multiple staff members. They can also involve the purchasing of materials or equipment and other situation-specific actions. Therefore, being able to track not only data for a single work order but all previous and future data relating to that work order is essential. That way there is a level of accountability for everyone involved.
Digital paper trails also allow any staff member to make a quick analysis of previous activities by looking at all “links in the chain” so to speak. That can make current work processes easier. For example, it can prevent one staff member from accidentally repeating a procedure already performed by another. Management can also monitor productivity and time spent on certain procedures. Digital paper trails can even reveal when certain equipment would be more economical to replace than to repair again.
Digital Paper Trails Allow Easy Attachment of Additional Materials
A huge advantage of a digital paper trail is how easy it is to link not only typed information, but also to link additional materials to each other. Consider receipts and photographs, for example. In the days of papers and filing cabinets you could place such items in a folder, but they could easily become separated. All it would take is a small filing error for all of those useful bonus items to be lost. When photos and receipt images are attached digitally, the connections between those vital items are much more solid. The information is also more readily available to all staff members at a moment's notice.
Digital Paper Trails and Time Stamps
Years ago, we had to depend on people to remember to sign and date paperwork. In the digital era, we do not have that problem because all work is automatically date and time stamped. Since workers know this, they often strive to be as productive as possible and it makes them more accountable for their actions. There is also less need to try to remember information than there used to be. All the information can be pulled up right in front of us, as long as we have a cellphone, computer, or other device with online access capability in front of us.
Another reason digital paper trail time stamps are handy is they can indicate when certain processes need to be reexamined to increase efficiency standards. A staff member may work to the best of his or her ability, but if the process itself is flawed time is still wasted. By tracking progress over time, areas where there is room for improvement can be more easily spotted and quickly addressed.
Digital Paper Trails and Legal Needs
Whenever a legal issue pops up documentation suddenly becomes vitally important. In the old days, finding all necessary paperwork for legal proceedings could be a tedious, and even sometimes impossible task. However, digital paper trails mean that, if a legal issue does pop up, you can find all data necessary immediately. Information dating from the first purchase or installation of a piece of equipment to the present day is all handy in one place.