By Greg Bartels
While many businesses turn to electronic document management systems to track and store their documents, the fact remains that physical paper is still a large part of today’s business world.
How do we know? The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) recently surveyed their members (professionals focused on improving their company’s organizational performance) in order to collect data on their use of paper in their everyday processes.
The survey was translated into a report titled Winning the Paper Wars. According to the report:
- 41% of businesses report an annual decrease
in their amount of paper use
- 40% said the flow of paper through their business remains about the same as in years past
- 19% said the amount of paper they see on a regular basis is increasing
Despite best efforts to streamline their information governance programs, we aren’t surprised less than half of the companies surveyed have been able to reduce the volume of paper used in their everyday business processes. One of the leading reasons businesses aren’t able to properly control paper is that their electronic document system is not being used properly.
If you can relate to those respondents pained by paper, we have some tips that will help you better use your document management system while reducing the amount of paper you handle.
Admit that Paper is Prevalent
Adopting an electronic document management system doesn’t mean paper will completely go away. You may work with vendors or partners that are stuck with an archaic paper process or worse, some of your business processes may rely on tangible paper trails. This is not to mention the volumes of paper from years past that sit, filling up your file rooms or storage lockers.
The best thing you can do for yourself and your company is to admit that paper will not completely go away. Only then can you go on to properly manage paper and streamline your processes.
Process Paper Properly By Not Processing Paper
No matter what form you receive documents (PDFs, paper faxes, Excel files, handwritten forms, etc.), make sure they can be entered into and organized in your document management system as quickly and efficiently as possible. Upon receiving paper, your first step should be to digitize the file. From there on out, you streamline your processes by ensuring you only deal with electronic files.
AIIM’s survey found that:
- Only 31% of companies actually digitize paper documents before the start of a process
- 26% of companies receive and continue to use paper throughout a process and only digitize the file afterwards
- A mere 10% reported utilizing digital mail room services to completely eliminate the intake of paper
Chances are your system either has the ability to extract data from electronic files or has a partner service that can handle the data extraction and upload to your system. If neither are true of your system, there are many companies out there able to handle document receipt, data extraction, and data upload for you.
Once all of your files are digital, align your processes to fit a completely digital workflow. There may be a learning curve when it comes to working only with digital files, but in the long run, it will save you both time and money.
Resist Hitting Print
Receiving documents in an electronic format is something companies strive for when attempting to go paperless. Unfortunately, old methods for processing data can rear their ugly heads and you may find your staff printing out electronic documents in order to process them.
According to AIIM:
- Nearly a third of organizations process electronic documents, forms, and PDFs differently than scanned paper
- 20% of companies reported that they print out electronic documents in order to process them
- 13% said that after printing a document they received electronically, they later scan the documents in order to enter them into their document management system
Not only does working off paper leave you vulnerable to losing or ruining the data, it adds to your processing time and makes it harder to track the status of the information in your workflow.
Watch as Responsiveness, Productivity, and Your Bottom Line Improve
Phasing out paper documentation not only helps businesses stay more organized, but can also help make employees more productive and improve company response time, which in turns impacts the bottom line.
AIIM asked organizations to gauge the response time and productivity increases they believe their staff would see utilizing various electronic document managing solutions. Here are the results:
As you can see, almost all respondents reported that their processes could be made more productive by eliminating paper documentation, and 95% of companies believe they would see improvement in their response time.
Most AIIM survey respondents also reported that utilizing paper-free processes—while sometimes requiring an initial up front cost—has been a positive investment for their business. AIIM reported the following results to the question "If you have made the following processes paper-free, how would you rate the success or ROI of the project?:.
In order for this productivity, increased response time and cost-savings to come to fruition, a business cannot be bogged down by paper. Even if some kind of document management system is in place, new paper can still flow in and old paper files may still need to be accessed.
To take the next step, make sure your current document management system is the right fit for your needs. Contact IPS for assistance in determining if your management system is the right fit for your needs or request a demo to see first-hand how an integrated system can help you manage documents from their receipt and indexing to cloud-based storage