By Melinda Stoker
March 15, 2012
Decades have passed since the “paperless office” concept was first conceived, and yet businesses around the globe still generate, receive and process billions of paper documents each year. Certainly most business people like the idea of working in a “greener” fashion, however the economic climate in recent years has delayed investments in technologies that help offices “go paperless,” and some business leaders have speculated whether such investments would make financial sense.
There is a significant amount of data that illustrates how businesses are investing in solutions that enable them to work smarter, faster, and more profitably while reducing their carbon footprints.
Companies of all sizes have implemented and adopted affordable, easy to use content management and scanning solutions to streamline business processes and reduce their dependency on paper. Not only is this minimizing paper consumption and related waste, it also improves staff efficiency, reduces customer response times, and positively impacts the bottom line.
A recent content management industry report - “The Paper Free Office - Dream or Reality?” revealed the following findings:
Electronic-only filing would cut the storage space needed for paper by half in five years. The average proportion of office space taken up by paper is now 15.3 percent, and it would drop to 7.4 percent, a saving of nearly 8 percent in overall office costs.
Improved sharability and searchability is the biggest driver for investment in scanning and capture, followed by improved productivity and reduced storage space.
Respondents using scanning and capture consider that it improves the speed of response to customers, suppliers, citizens or staff by 6 times or more. 70 percent estimate an improvement of at least three times, and nearly a third (29 percent) sees an improvement of 10-times or more.
These report findings are supported by real-world outcomes from organizations that have taken the paperless plunge. For example, Freedman and Company, a mid-size, New York-based CPA firm that works with high net worth individuals, ingests over one million original documents every month. The company is in lower Manhattan, just blocks from where the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center took place. During the two to three months of cleanup after the attack, staff members could not enter their office building, and their business screeched to a halt. Freedman & Co. President Paul Freedman swore that he would never again be dependent upon paper documents stored in one physical location, so Freedman & Co. created a sophisticated and technically savvy solution that combined high-speed scanners and a scalable, easy to use hosted document management system. Not only did this allow them to scan, organize, and process hundreds of paper-based documents each day, but this paperless system also created a high-tech, “green” image that is attractive to both employees and customers.
The company operates more efficiently, maintains healthier profits, and has grown at a rapid pace that could never have been achieved had they continued to rely on paper documents. Freedman & Co. now has multiple satellite offices, as well as remote employees who can securely access the information they need from wherever they are. And when their elite clients call with high expectations for fast answers, they are able to provide excellent service by instantly accessing needed information. Their paperless system has enabled them to avoid printing millions of pages each year, which is healthy for the environment as well as their business.
Organizations like Freedman & Co. are not alone in seeing the environmental and monetary value that comes from pursuing sustainability initiatives. Recently MIT Sloan Management Review surveyed nearly 3,000 global executives from the commercial sector on their sustainability efforts. Key highlights of this research report reveal:
31 percent of respondents said their sustainability-related actions and decisions added to their profits
67 percent of respondents said that pursuing sustainability-related strategies is necessary to be competitive (up from 55 percent in 2010).
25 percent of respondents cited improved innovation in products and service as a top benefit of sustainability (up from 16 percent in 2010).
Statics like these prove that that sustainability and business initiatives can run in parallel and deliver benefits that are as good for business as they are for the environment. We no longer need to speculate if investing in “green” initiatives, and particularly those that reduce paper consumption, can positively impact the bottom line. The answer is clearly a resounding “yes.”
Melinda Stoker is the director of Global Marketing for DocuShare (www.docushare.com), Xerox’s Web-based content management platform. She has authored various articles on achieving sustainability goals through a range of best practices including electronic document and business process management. She can be reached at [email protected].