Guest Column | February 26, 2018

Ignore The Benefits Of Going Paperless At Your Peril

By Katie Sullivan-Armento, General Manager, US&C Region, Kodak Alaris Information Management

Paperless Field Service

For organizations of all sizes, there has never been a better time to embrace digital transformation and accelerate the journey towards paperless working. Yet, for all too many businesses, the promise of a paperless office is still more a dream than a reality. This means organizations are missing out on some of the huge cost and efficiency benefits that going paperless brings.

It was June 30, 1975 when Bloomberg Businessweek first proposed the digital, paperless office and astonishingly, four decades later, we’re clearly not there. Despite the optimism in the 70s and the abundance of ways to cut down on paper use, most businesses and public agencies still have a long way to go.

Our everyday lives are still permeated with paper - and there’s a clear resistance (especially from businesses) to the thought of digitization. Research firm Keypoint Intelligence explored the status of business going paperless in a December 2016 survey. When asked if they thought it was possible to move towards a paperless office, only 15 percent of the respondents though it was something they could achieve and another 23 percent thought it was impossible.

This reliance, in the experience of Kodak Alaris, could boil down to several factors, including:

  • Convenience: Working with paper documents is a given and team members can come up with lots of justifications, like “this is easier to read”, “I need to file it”, “we need to archive it”, or “we have always done it this way”.
  • Compliance and regulations: For many years, paper documents were required to complete business transactions.
  • Perceived affordability: At a glance, paper seems to be a more affordable option.

However, thanks to advancements in technology, these excuses no longer fly. Formats like JPEG and PDF are well on their way to outlasting many of the different businesses that refuse to digitize their operations, simply because they help streamline operations. It is true that some older computer records can be difficult to access for now, but with standard migration efforts and long-term preservation processes, they can be handled as part of the entire document life cycle management practice.

Regulations have moved on to the point where many now include requirements that can only be met by digital processes, so that a complete chain of custody and audit trail is maintained. Meanwhile, those businesses that follow the false belief that paper-based processes are cheaper, do so with a heavy price tag.

The total cost of operating a primarily paper focused office comes with a list of externalities including printers, network connections, ink, toner, the paper itself, and the maintenance of all of these. As businesses grow, so do these costs. At enterprise level these costs are scaled up only to culminate in waste. When paper is a part of a business input, like an insurance claim form or paper survey submission, there are still significant labor costs needed to manually process information coming into the business.

Momentum Is Building

The good news is that enterprises are starting to realize the value of transitioning to digital.

“Slowly but surely, organizations are coming ‘round to the idea that digitizing much of the content and information flowing through their business can have both financial and operational benefits,” AIIM Chief Evangelist John Mancini says. “We are never going to eliminate paper completely, but when it becomes clear that going paper-free delivers return on investment and can improve overall productivity, businesses will be more willing to invest in the technologies that allow them to go paper-free.”

The Benefits Of Going Paperless

The benefits are far reaching and, while there are key functions within organizations that are ripe for digitization, more general benefits can easily be achieved. These include:

  • Organization: No more piles of paperwork on the desk or shelves. No more clunky filing cabinets, either. This avoids misfiled or misplaced documents that take up valuable time that should be spent serving customers or working on other business priorities. Files and documents will be far easier to find, access, and share.
     
  • Efficiency: Digital documents are much easier to manage, store, and retrieve than paper ones. Having documents available to access and share with customers/employees regardless of the location, improves team productivity and brings a better customer experience. Extracting required data from a document (through automated recognition of machine print, handwriting or optical marks) is much quicker and less error-prone than keying from paper.
     
  • Scalability: Without rows of filing cabinets towering throughout the office, a paperless operation requires much less space. Personnel required for handling high volumes of business inputs during peak times or during a business expansion is hard to scale, while it is an easy task in a digital environment.
     
  • Environmentally-friendly: Reduced printing means fewer trees will be cut down to produce paper. Paper is also highly energy consumptive both in production and transportation. The eco-friendly aspect of going paperless is a popular and relatively easy concept to garner support from employees, customers and stakeholders.
     
  • Faster Communication: Unless footing the bill for overnight delivery, such as when insurance claims need to be processed quickly and an agent needs to rush the documentation to a claims expert, paper documents will take at least a day to transfer from Point A to Point B. Even then there may be delays, misplacement, or complete loss. Once digitized, a document is available where it is needed, instantly. 
     
  • Document back-up and recovery: It is costly and time consuming, or in many cases impossible to replace a paper document when it is damaged or misplaced. Stakeholders may never be able to access important documents because someone misplaced a file, or when disaster strikes, like a fire, or flood damaging irreplaceable documents. With a paperless office, documents are stored electronically for simple and easy back-ups to a remote server or cloud repository that safely stores essential information.
     
  • Less costly: Storing documents is costly, especially for businesses in prime locations. Printing costs money too - the paper itself, plus the printer, ink, postage, and printing equipment maintenance. Businesses can eliminate storage expenses by shifting to digital documents. With reduced, or eliminated need for storage of paper copies, an organization may even be able to move into a smaller location with a lower rent further accelerating the cost efficiencies of going paperless.

To sum up the advantages of the paperless office, it’s safe to say it provides enterprises with more control over documents, better data security and enhanced efficiency and organisation - all of which are benefits no business can afford to ignore. For more information, please visit the Alaris website.