More than 33% of businesses are almost completely paper-free and only 3% are not doing anything towards reducing their reliance on paper. With the Government pledging to be paperless by 2020, it’s clear that reducing and eliminating paper usage is a business strategy that can no longer be ignored.
There are many businesses still reliant on paper in their day-to-day operations. Perhaps the perceived time and cost implications of managing the evolution to paper-free, a fear of change or a phobia of technology is holding leadership teams back.
However, the benefits of making an office paperless far outweigh the obstacles. Research finds that within six months of going paperless, 28% of businesses gained a full return on investment. And a further 59% achieved a full ROI in less than 12 months and 84% within an 18-month period.
The Considerable Business Risks and Issues with Paper
Paper has been around for thousands of years, however in the age of technology, it is quickly becoming replaced by digital methods.
Today, there are a number of disadvantages to using paper:
- Environmentally un-friendly – paper is made from the pulp of trees. Paper production has numerous detrimental effects on the environment including air, water and land pollution. Producing paper also requires a significant amount of water. Using less paper means fewer trees cut down for pulp, fewer carbon emissions, less toxic waste seeping into water and land, and a reduction in the use of water.
- Expensive – the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. That’s 20 reams of paper (500 sheets per ream) or four boxes of paper in total with an estimated cost of £10 per box. And it’s estimated that 6,800 of those 10,000 sheets are wasted. This massive consumption of paper quickly adds up. Purchasing less paper, printer ink, machinery such as printers, and postage to send paper communications will save a business money. Staff costs could also decrease as automating data on management systems saves time and reduces workload.
- Storage requirements – two-thirds of UK businesses admit they are struggling to manage too much paper. Physical paper needs to be stored somewhere and the more paper generated by a business, the more storage is required. This can lead to higher rents for more filing space and cluttered office environments. And when a paper-heavy business comes to move, the cost of shifting the paper from one place to the next could be substantial.
- Risk of loss or damage – paper can be misfiled, mislaid or lost. There is also the business-critical risk of permanent damage caused by fires or water leaks. Data that is stored on paper and damaged can’t be recovered, unlike digital data storage that has numerous backups enabling swift disaster recovery. Losing an audit trail could be deadly for a business in a highly regulated industry.
- Increased admin – on average it takes businesses between five and six days to retrieve paper documents, although for 44% it takes over a week and for some it takes over a month. Spending time searching for documents, filing and completing paper forms all adds up. This admin time is a drain on productivity when automated systems take seconds to do the same tasks.
- Time-consuming to interrogate for reporting – retrieving various paper files from different cabinets, scouring through them for pertinent information to then add it to reports is unproductive. That data could be found at the click of a button if stored online.
- Lack of management oversight – the problem with paper is that the data is hard to find, often buried in files stored in filing cabinets. This makes management oversight harder as managers don’t have a clear, real-time view of which jobs have been completed, any issues or task status.
- Slow communication – relying on paper as the primary form of communication with suppliers and customers is slow compared to emails, instant messaging or communicating via social media, all of which can be instant and happen in real-time.
- Insecure – the issue with storing confidential customer data and information on paper is that there’s potential for anyone to see it. A filing cabinet might be locked, but it can be broken into, keys can be stolen or it might be accidentally left open. Storing data in the cloud, or on servers, means it’s encrypted and protected by the latest in cyber-crime precautions. Companies must now also comply with the GDPR law, which has stringent rules for storing personal data.
Embrace the Digital Transformation to Purge the Paper
If your business wants to modernise its systems to successfully compete in the digital age, reducing your reliance on paper and transforming paper-heavy operations to make use of the latest tech should be a priority. Here are five tips to make a paperless office a reality:
- Reduce and discourage paper usage by staff
Track staff usage of paper and identify areas that can be decreased or eliminated entirely. This could include a ban on printing out emails or making it more inconvenient to print by reducing the number of printers in an office.
- Update employee tech with cloud storage
Paper is often used because it’s easy to transport and means information can be accessed wherever your employees go. But cloud computing offers the same benefits with all the added advantages that digital technology brings. Even without an internet connection, your team can access files, capture and share information with colleagues and customers.
- Sign documents digitally
Often documents are printed so they can be signed. There are now applications that manage this process online, so that no paper – or even pen ink – is required.
- Move to online applications
For every paper-based task there’s an online app to match. Collaborate in real-time using Google Docs, jump on Basecamp for project management or harness Dropbox to share large files.
- Use data capture technology and workflow management systems
For staff who are mobile or not based in the office, reduce their use of paper by using software and/or dedicated hardware that captures data in real-time and stores it securely. They can fill out forms or note task updates on online systems rather than using paper.
The Benefits of Being Paper Free
Becoming paper-free as a business and moving operations online can be daunting, particularly when your business is used to operating in a certain way. But working with the right provider makes the transition smooth and sets your business up to reap long-term benefits.
And one in six businesses achieve a full return on investment in less than 12 months of ditching the paper.
Doublezero Solutions helps a wide range of businesses modernise their data capture, reporting and audit trail abilities with its unique integrated IT software solutions. These include mobile workflow management solutions, mobile data capture and paperless compliance platforms. Contact us today for more information.