With all the lip service paid to innovation, it’s astounding that most businesses still use technology invented more than 2,000 years ago. We’ve entered the era of 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and missions to Mars — yet only 18 percent of companies consider themselves paperless.
While about four out of five businesses say they are making an effort to use “less paper,” nearly a third are actually ordering more paper than they were five years ago, according to a report by Wise.
It’s not hard to do the math: The physical reams of paper aren’t that expensive, but the hidden costs of managing paper could be as much as 31 times the cost of paper.
Paper drains productivity and profits
U.S. businesses waste $8 billion annually just managing paper. It costs an organization an average of $20 to file a document, $120 to find a misplaced document, and $220 to reproduce a lost document.
According to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers, knowledge workers spend up to half their time looking for information, and each year, the amount of data businesses create increases by more than 65 percent. Investing in more paper when the information we have is spinning out of control just isn’t a smart use of resources.
Fortunately, document management software increases efficiency and productivity in powerful ways and reduces the cost of handling important documents. Seventy-three percent of managers see the benefit of moving to a digital workflow — even for sensitive documents like contracts — and more than half say it simplifies work.
The increased efficiency of a digital-only workplace should be incentive enough, but it isn’t the only benefit to going paperless.
Digital documents increase mobility
Gone are the days of the 9-to-5 office grind. People are working more than ever before, and telecommuting is on the rise. In fact, one in five Americans already works from home.
As technology has boosted workers’ mobility, it’s also decreased the response time customers expect. When they have questions now, they want instant answers.
A digital document management system makes it easy for workers to access crucial information away from the office — whether they’re at home, in a cab, at the airport, or on the beach.
Digital documents are secure
Although security is a big concern for companies that handle sensitive data like client financials and employee health information, most data breaches in the first half of last year were not the result of external hackers poking around in digital files. According to Forrester Research, 25 percent of breaches occurred because of a “malicious insider,” and 36 percent were caused by employee mistakes.
It’s not difficult to steal sensitive data if a confidential document is sitting in a filing cabinet right down the hall. However, converting from paper to a digital document management system allows you to protect every document with customizable, role-based user permissions, a detailed audit trail (which shows who accessed the file and what changes were made), and high-level encryption.
A robust DMS simplifies compliance
The health care and financial services industries have been some of the staunchest holdouts in the paperless revolution — when it comes to meeting compliance standards, simple cloud storage is about as helpful as a pair of water wings in the ocean. Fortunately, a robust DMS with encryption, audit trails, and retention settings can be an integral part of meeting HIPAA, FINRA, and SEC standards.
The benefits of going paperless are obvious, and most organizations want to convert to digital. What holds many companies back is the perception that transitioning to digital is a painful process. However, you don’t have to bring operations to a standstill or ban paper overnight.
Here are a few tips to ensure a smooth transition:
1. Plan how you will organize files. Before you give the green light on digital documents, decide how you want files organized. Create templates and naming conventions before you start so your team can find documents in a snap.
2. Start converting existing files. The prospect of scanning all your company’s files can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Hire a temp, or appoint a handful of employees who are in charge of converting files.
3. Scan new documents immediately. As you convert contracts and onboarding documents to the digital system, paper contracts will inevitably continue to trickle in. Don’t let these pile up! Scan the paper versions immediately, and shred the copies. The more diligent your staff is about managing paper documents that are still in circulation, the easier it will be to get everyone accustomed to a fully digital office.
Although the corporate world has been slow to convert to digital document management, eventually companies of all sizes will be totally paperless. It’s not a matter of if, but when.