The concept of the “paperless office” started as a PR slogan nearly 40 years ago intended to describe the “office of the future” and the rise of automation in the workplace. It has since evolved into an aspirational goal that businesses have strived to achieve over the last several decades.
In today’s digitally fueled enterprise, paper is a burden, and doing business at the speed of paper just doesn’t cut it anymore. The benefits of removing paper from business processes are well-known. It enables organizations to improve customer service, reduce costs and more quickly and easily share and access information. Still, businesses are far from being paperless. Here are some sobering facts about the challenges paper presents for modern companies:
- Only 17 percent of organizations say they work in a “paper-free” environment.
- Though more and more “paper-free” projects are put in place, 56 percent say the volume of paper in their business is increasing.
- The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper each year – and wastes 1,410 of them. For example, at 6 cents/a page, a business with 500 employees could be losing $42,000 each year to wasted paper.
It’s evident there is still some work to be done to move towards a more paperless office, but it’s a task that will be necessary for organizations to undertake if they want to drive a higher degree of business efficiency and become more competitive in today’s digital economy.
The new rules of digitization
Digital transformation is rewriting the rules for the capture of paper documents. One thing is clear: no company – regardless of size – can afford paper-based processes in addition to digital business applications. So the fundamental question becomes, when and how shall paper documents be digitized?
These six guiding principles can help organizations reduce and automate paper-based business processes:
- Input management is part of the overall digital strategy. Companies should always keep their eyes on the big picture in conjunction with ECM, ERP, CRM and other central applications of their business and view business transactions from "end to end". The first step of digital transformation is the digitization of paper documents.
- Eliminate media disruptions - focus on end-to-end digital processes. Not only are paper-based processes expensive, they inhibit digital transformation. Even if paper reduces in the coming years, it will probably take years for organizations to truly become paperless. The solution is an early digitization of paper documents, where they accrue. Create a "paper firewall," so costly paper-based operations do not enter into the business processes in the first place.
- The future belongs to browser-based capturing and mobile apps. With web-based (browser-based) and mobile capturing methods, any employee can – at any time and any place – digitize paper document independent of hardware and operating systems. There is no need to install any additional software on the terminals of employees. The software runs centrally on servers, which reduces the expenditure of IT infrastructure and administration considerably.
- The new freedom: "Wireless." Wireless devices offer enormous advantages: These can be "shared resources," i.e. flexible, network connected, and capable of being used by many employees. Here, significant cost savings can be realized because the administration is handled centrally and the use via browser.
- Modern license models. In the past, transaction- and volume-based license models have dominated. This is usually a good payment model for manufacturers but for the user it is sometimes rather problematic. Especially with fluctuating volume, it is difficult to reliably calculate the costs. So-called flat rate or "concurrent" license models, in which licenses are shared, will become the rule.
- Decentralized capture complements the central input management. Whereas central input management was the "state of the art" in the past, due to the trend "bring your own device" (BYOD), which is driving more use of mobile devices at work, decentralized capture will play an increasingly important role in the future. Centralized scanning will be complemented in the future by efficient distributed capture via web browsers and mobile capture devices.
Going paperless is not something that can happen immediately, but implementing these rules can help organizations achieve digital transformation and reduce the bottlenecks created by paper so they can be more efficient and productive.