The paperless office is one of those topics that will continue to be discussed and debated. Why? Because paper just won’t go away. Don’t get me wrong, there are some success stories where small companies have dramatically reduced paper to the point they can claim paperless, but in large companies it’s generally a different story. The amount of paper flowing through large companies has definitely decreased, but it’s still a problem.
Most companies that have been around for more than 10 years started with paper-based processes, but the growth of digital documents and new technologies has created opportunities to move to more efficient digital processes. It’s no secret the speed of doing business increases when processes are based on digital documents, but paper documents continue to be a part of many processes. The problem is these new processes and workflows were developed al little too optimistically without considering that paper is still in the mix. The other problem is not all workforces are digitally connected; think about manufacturing, retail and logistics. To understand the challenges of processes where paper and digital documents coexist, let’s use talent acquisition and onboarding as an example.
Applicant tracking and onboarding systems are becoming more common and have streamlined processes such as recruiting and hiring. However, paper is frequently still part of these processes. Manager interview forms, employee contracts and other documents unique to an organization just don’t quite fit into these new technologies. The paper either slows down the digital processes or companies develop a separate workflow for the paper. Neither approach works that well. To complicate matters further many of these documents must be maintained for regulatory or business reasons. Trying to manage digital and paper documents separately is almost impossible so companies resort to extreme solutions.
One client I worked with decided managing paper files was the only way to be sure they had all the documents they needed to maintain. They were actually printing digitally born documents and putting them in a paper file. Another client decided digital files only were the way to go so they were scanning documents into a digital document storage technology, and spending a lot of time indexing those documents and making indexing errors which created other headaches. That digital document storage solution could not be integrated with any of the solutions creating digital documents so they printed the digital documents and scanned them. Ugh!!!
Some statistics from AIIM’s “Paper Wars 2015 – an update from the battlefield” shows how companies are struggling to work in environments where paper and digital documents and processes need to coexist.
On average 35% of scanned documents are 100% digitally born
16% of scanned documents were photocopied before scanning, and 65% are not destroyed after scanning
On average, 44% of invoices arrive digitally and 59% of these invoices end up as paper because of manual paper-based processes
If organizations take a unified approach to document management and select the right technology, paper can be integrated into digital processes. Your technology should allow paper or digital documents to be easily ingested no matter where or how they originated. That technology should also include E-forms and e-signatures so dependence on paper can be reduced. Intelligent document recognition (IDR) technology can extract important information from documents while classifying documents and automatically filing them. A unified approach to document management will increase efficiency, lower costs and improve compliance.