By Tom Franceski, vice president and general manager, DocStar
The “paperless” workplace – where paper forms and processes are replaced by electronic forms and workflow – remains an elusive goal for many companies. A study conducted by AIIM (Association for Intelligent Information Management) showed only 17 percent of respondents have achieved a paperless workplace.
One of the biggest culprits is business forms. In large and small companies, forms are used to capture data in an organized fashion, while triggering internal and external business processes. Forms are used for simple transactions, such as reimbursing employee expenses, for data collection — such as admitting patients into healthcare facilities – and for large, complex transactions such as importing/exporting shipments of products or merchandise. Forms organize the purchase of goods and services, the movement of financial transactions, and the establishment of contracts.
Despite the pervasiveness of forms in use in today’s business environment and our increasingly technology-driven culture, paper forms persist. However, most businesses don’t recognize how much this practice is actually costing their business — in terms of hard costs, as well as productivity and opportunity loss.
Managing physical files, including allocating office space for storage and shipping from one location to the next is costly. It has been estimated that the average cost to store a file cabinet of documents is $1,400 per year and storage requirement for hard copy documents doubles every 3 years.
However, when organizations calculate the cost of employees filling out paper forms, by taking the number of forms completed per day multiplied by the average pay rate, the total cost of the form, including paper and printing can exact an even greater hit on the corporate coffers. Per AIIM, the average cost of a printed form is $4.56, and for some organizations the cost per form can be $10 or more when additional costs are taken into account such as the time required to re-key paper forms into databases and error correction.
The amount of time wasted searching for information represents another significant cost for a corporation, in productivity, efficiency, and knowledge curation. A study by IDC has estimated that “the typical enterprise with 1,000 knowledge workers wastes $2.5 million to $3.5 million per year searching for nonexistent information, failing to find existing information, or recreating information that can't be found,” and it has been estimated that the average knowledge worker spends 8.8 hours per week searching for information, at a cost of $14,209 per worker per year.
Benefits of the paperless office include:
- Cost Savings — paper might be cheap, but the cost of using paper-based processes is not. Costs skyrocket when you factor in on- and off-site storage costs, office space per square foot of storage space, cost of file cabinets, document reproduction costs to copy and scan forms, and delivery/transport costs for incoming and outgoing forms and faxes. But as mentioned previously — even more expensive is the cost of employee time associated with the physical document management and the impact on organizational productivity and responsiveness.
- Improved Collaboration/Accessibility — there is no intelligence in a paper workflow and no way to look up required information or to determine if the data already exists in a database in your organization. Electronic forms eliminate the risk of redundant entry and give users the ability capture data easily from anywhere and to share, collaborate, or use legacy data instantly.
- Shorter Processing Cycles — reducing the process cycle improves service and response time to customers. Organizations can process more transactions to scale their businesses and expand into new geographies. An Aberdeen report shows best-in-class organizations leveraging E-forms report an increase in document processing speed of 49 percent over lower performing organizations.
- Increased Visibility — immediate visibility into data and workflow keeps the organization on top of all transactions through the entire process cycle. Electronic forms also satisfy the very real issues of compliance and audit efficiency, making large amounts of information readily accessible to meet regulatory and records management standards.
Your non-paperless office is costing you more than you think, but the benefits of going paperless can deliver an impressive level of return on investment. Studies show that enterprise content management (ECM) offers some of the highest direct ROI rates ever reported. One study reported nearly 60 percent of ECM users achieved payback in 12 months or less — a single budget cycle — and 28 percent experienced positive returns after just 6 months.
If your organization is just now starting down the paperless path, you can take heart knowing there is tremendous financial growth to be had which will make the transition considerably worthwhile.
About The Author
Tom Franceski is vice president and general manager of DocStar — a division of Epicor Software Corporation. DocStar proven business process automation technology and workflow expertise empowers organizations to operate at peak performance, navigate change, and grow.