It’s crazy to think that at a time where 80% of us reach for our smartphones before we’ve brushed our teeth each morning that we are still so dependent on paper in the business world. But we are - globally we are using 411 million metric tonnes of paper a year which shows that we still have a huge need for paper despite the digital age.
Whilst in our personal lives we use technology for everything from turning the lights on, doing a food shop to banking, the commercial world has been slower to embrace digital transformation. That’s why with a new year ahead of us it’s the perfect time to assess the current level of paper use in the work place and evaluate whether digital solutions may bring multiple benefits.
The Trouble With Paper
Before you assess paper use in the business it’s good to understand the limitations of it and also why there is a reluctance to let go of it.
It’s Not Secure
For many of us paper provides security. A hard copy of an important document seems safer if we physically have it, however this is rarely the case. Hard copies are often easier to misplace or been seen by unauthorised eyes in an office environment. Teamed with the introduction of GDPR it means companies need to ensure that documents are stored appropriately and it’s often easier for this to be done digitally.
Paper also contributes to waste which is a growing problem for businesses as it can cost up to 4% of turnover. With environmental concerns growing companies should also be looking at how they can be reducing their carbon footprint and reducing paper and printing is a great place to start.
It’s Too Hard To Find
Paper also makes it hard to locate. 57% of us spend an hour every day searching for documents alone and more time on filing and printing. This can often lead to employee’s feeling frustrated but is also costing companies a huge amount of time that could be better spent elsewhere to improve business outputs and productivity.
For some departments the problem is larger than others. Accounts Payable (AP) for example still rely heavily on paper to process invoices which can lead to mistakes, slows payments down and creates a backlog for the team.
Digital Transformation Is The Key To Improve Efficiencies
Moving away from paper may seem daunting to the team, especially for long term employees, who may not embrace it as easily. However, once the team sees the benefits of automation with document management and Accounts Payable systems they will embrace it.
Locate Documents In Seconds
Being able to locate documents quickly and securely in seconds, rather than minutes, is invaluable as teams try to increase their productivity. Amongst busier departments the extra time this gives across a week will help significantly with work load, freeing up time for more important tasks. In addition, documents can be safely destroyed if requested ensuring GDPR compliance.
Have More Security And Accessibility
The security aspect means that documents are only able to be accessed through secure logins giving peace of mind to the company. In addition, digital document management and automation means it’s no longer a requirement to physically be in the office as secure cloud-based systems can be accessed via smart devices or computers anywhere – speeding up time and again improving efficiencies.
Automated systems such as those used for AP teams diminish errors as they eradicate the need for manual input. This speed up the process as invoices don’t have to be held back to be changed if information is incorrect.
How To Do Audit
See Where You’re At
The best way is to start off with a basic survey tool across the business and ask everyone how much paper they use, how much time they spend on locating documents and if they feel automation would help. In addition, you can look at the expenses departments incur with paper and printing to see who is spending the most. Once you have the information you can identify which departments need to undergo a closer investigation to see what process could be improved with automation.
Figure Out Who Needs What
For each department the needs will be different. Finance and HR will typically hold significant amounts of documents and a large part of the role is processing paper. Whereas other departments may require less process automation.
Once you have understood what level of support the teams need you can investigate solutions to digitise and automates paper-based processes. Such solutions are based on converting paper documents to digital format and then extracting the key data for onward processing in a workflow. These might include process-specific options that deal with a particular functional process such as Accounts Payable Invoice Processing or more general Document Management and Workflow Automation solutions that can be applied across a number of different processes and departments. Successful implementation of these types of solutions can deliver a reduction in processing time of up to 80%. Robotic Process Automation software is also an option as this can be applied to many manual tasks such as data entry to help make time intensive work much more efficient. Consideration of such solutions should include review of their functionality to meet the pain-points in the process as well as measures of improved efficiency they offer.
Once your new systems are in place, don’t be passive. Conduct regular audits with staff and senior management to ensure the new systems are improving processes and decreasing costs and errors. Once you and the team see the benefits of digital transformation, you’ll wish you had ditched the paper before.
James Smith, Head of UK Sales, Kefron. Kefron simplifies the document and information management world for our customers. We work to understand our customers business processes so that we can take the pain out of paper, enabling customers to focus on what matters to them. Our services range across the Document Life Cycle, including the latest cloud-based Document and Invoice Management and Process Automation Solutions, as well as services for confidential Data Capture and Document Destruction. We have been managing sensitive documents and data for over 29 years and have four ISO Certificates to support our commitment to quality service. Our professional team are skilled in their areas of expertise for delivering the right solution to our customers.