Guest Column | May 2, 2018

Transitioning To A Paper-Light Office Benefits More Than The Environment

By Tracey Mustacchio, Nuance Document Imaging

PepsiCo’s Paper-Based Bottle

With brands increasingly expected to engage in eco-friendly practices, business leaders are searching for ways to demonstrate their environmental stewardship. Adopting new document management strategies in pursuit of a paper-light office (can any office truly be paperless?) is one way that they can begin reaching that goal.

Business leaders looking to “go green” can enact multifunction printer (MFP) policies, such as restricting printing and converting paper documents to digital files, to reduce paper waste. However, many businesses are hesitant to undergo the transition to a paper-light office because the prospect of digitizing mountains of paper is daunting and many anticipate pushback from staff. The reality is techniques are available to make transitioning to a paper-light office easy, and the benefits are not limited to the environment. Businesses making the move will also cut costs, enhance the efficiency of internal processes and improve data security.

Reduce Paper, Save Money

According to a 2018 study by the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the average U.S. worker prints as many as 10,000 sheets of paper in a year. The World Counts reports that offices in the United States print 12.1 trillion sheets of paper annually. IDC has found that the average business eats up between 5 percent and 15 percent of its annual revenue on document costs. Offices that allow unrestricted printing are prone to high paper consumption and waste. Environmental impact aside, printing so much paper can quickly dent the bottom line.

Businesses that do not set printer parameters invite employees to abuse printing privileges and disregard resource consumption levels. Equipping office printers with software that creates an audit trail of print jobs can help businesses manage costs and resources by allowing them to see who is printing and the associated volumes. There is also software available that can connect printers with billing software. This ensures that every print job is categorized by client or task which enables finance departments to bill the appropriate client or account – helping recoup expenses.

Easy And Efficient Transition

With filing cabinets full of paper documents, many businesses think it’s impossible to transition to a paper-light office. One reason is because of employees’ reliance on paper and their familiarity with paper-based workflows. Moreover, many decision-makers believe they aren’t capable of transitioning hundreds of thousands of paper documents to digital files. In both cases, these barriers are easily surmountable.

Current solutions can accurately convert millions of documents at one time with minimal manual intervention. Paired with OCR technology, information in these electronic files can be identified (for example, an invoice account number) and the files can be made searchable. This means scanned documents can be more efficiently routed to the appropriate recipients based on the kind of data in the document (i.e. the finance department). Search features also make it easier to identify document data, which can help with mandates such as the “Right to be Forgotten” rule which is included in the European Union’s pending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Strengthen Data Safeguarding

Most businesses’ data security strategies are aimed at fortifying cyber security and the network perimeter – protecting against hackers, phishing attacks, malware and ransomware. However, the role of paper-based document security is often overlooked. This is a critical oversight when recent studies note that insider threats represent nearly 75 percent of security breaches, with a good proportion of these being human error rather than malicious intent.

Many businesses do not adequately understand and address the risks coinciding with the electronic-to-paper transition. Employees commonly send print jobs to incorrect printers or leave documents sitting on print trays. This leaves the document and sensitive data vulnerable to interception or, even worse, circulation to unauthorized recipients. Businesses can protect themselves from printing data breaches by requiring user authentication at the device. Documents sent to a secure print queue cannot be released until the user who sends the job is identified at the printer. This carries the added benefit of allowing employees to print from any printer.

Better Paper Management – Good For The Environment, And Good For Business

In addition to creating a more environmentally-friendly business, getting a better handle on paper use can improve the efficiency, profitability and data security of today’s businesses. By equipping staff with technology to easily convert piles of paper into electronic files and set parameters around printing privileges, businesses will be better able to validate their reputations for sustainability and corporate social responsibility while simultaneously streamlining costs and maximizing worker efficiency and overall data security.

About The Author

Tracey Mustacchio is senior vice president of product & marketing for Nuance Document Imaging.