Where did businesses fall short responding to COVID-19?
Survey results are clear: without the technology to support a mobile workforce, companies couldn't pivot quickly enough to respond to the pandemic.
Organizations today remain at the mercy of paper-based systems, despite available technologies to reduce paper usage, if not remove it, altogether.
In fact, only 18% of companies today can be considered truly paperless. Scary, isn’t it? What’s even scarier are the BIG problems with using paper. Handling paper is cumbersome, impedes productivity, reduces operational efficiency, and costs companies money — and a lot of it.
One study estimates that the time wasted from processing paper, costs organizations close to $20,000 per knowledge worker, per year. But that’s only the half of it. Read on to learn more about the extent of the paper problem and everything you need to know about the paperless office and how it can help your business:
Paper-based systems are a cost-burden, impede workflows, and pose serious security risks.
Gartner estimates that companies spend between 1 to 3% of their revenue on office printing. That doesn’t even account for the cost of filing, shipping and storing documents— let alone the cost of the actual paper.
In conducting original ROI research studying the cost benefits of investing in content management, Nucleus Research found returns $8.55 per dollar spent for SMBs alone. This report reveals the key benefits and best practices for small and medium-sized businesses to start saving on every dollar and win back employees' time.
And, let’s not forget the indirect cost: Paper-based processes are a time-suck and remove knowledge workers from more productive and high-value tasks. The time that employees spend on these unproductive tasks could be costing your company thousands of dollars.
Indeed, according to a 2012 IDC White Paper "... information workers waste a significant amount of time each week dealing with a variety of challenges related to working with documents. This wasted time costs the organization $19,732 per information worker per year.” For an organization of 1000 employees, productivity losses are equivalent to hiring a whopping 213 employees.
An annual report submitted to Congress by The HHS' Office for Civil Rights revealed that paper records account for 62% of data breaches in companies of over 500 employees.
This statistic shouldn’t surprise you. After all, paper is, by its very nature, impermanent. Unless you have a digital back up, you remain vulnerable to such breaches. You’re also open to theft and damage due to natural disasters, such as floods, which can impact business continuity.
Furthermore, printers, which remain common in many organizations, are insecure by default and also open to hacking — yet another security risk for your organization.
Learn more about how to strengthen document security and compliance for your business with this free on-demand webinar:
The same IDC survey mentions that the wasted time associated with handling paper leads to a productivity loss of 21.3%. Indeed, many employees struggle to stay on top of daily tasks and workflows because they're inundated with information and hampered by inefficient, paper-based business processes.
Moving paper through your organization, without first converting it to electronic form, is notoriously slow. Information workers waste time capturing, storing, and routing documents to others due to manual processes.
These tedious manual processes, in turn, reduce operational efficiency and create a “document disconnect,” which results in delays and errors as documents move between critical business functions such as procurement, accounting, sales, and human resources (HR).
The paperless office is the first step toward digital transformation in your organization. It refers to the deliberate removal of paper from processes, with the goal of improving efficiency. Digitization is at the core of the paperless office.
Here are three key benefits of going paperless and case studies showcasing how companies have benefited.
Digitizing internal paper-based systems reduces printing and other operational costs:
Located in Monroe County, and home to 45,000 people, The Town of Henrietta started growing in size. The growth led to a massive increase in the volume of paper that needed processing. Searching for files became a cumbersome process as employees had to wade through filing cabinets, and storage costs grew exorbitantly.
Looking for a solution to their problems, they approached DocuWare. Docuware worked with their IT department to install high-speed scanners and ensured documents were automatically indexed and archived in a central digital repository. The town back-scanned paper records and destroyed the paper once these documents were in the system.
The results? Finding files became faster and easier, and the town saved $20,000 a year on document storage fees.
When content is stored centrally and correctly indexed, it’s easily accessible. Employees won't have to waste time searching for those files and can quickly share information across your organization.
Easy access and the ability to share documents rapidly, speeds up processes and contributes to time gains in crucial processes such as invoicing, employee onboarding, and collections. For example, you can speed up automate invoice processing by automatically linking related electronic documents like purchase orders, bills of lading, contracts and more.
You can also save time by integrating applications. For example, by integrating document management systems, invoicing, and customer relationship software, you’ll avoid siloing tasks and ensure the smooth flow of information.
Swagelok Manchester is a leading provider of fluid system solutions in the Northwest of England. As the company grew, so to did the number of documents that needed filling. Filing equated to lost productivity of 30 minutes per employee, per day.
As a result, they were working weekends to make up this time. Knowing this wasn’t sustainable, they sought to transition from their paper-based system to a digital one.
Working with DocuWare, they drafted a plan to transition without interruption to daily workflows.
Other requirements included getting buy-in from all employees and ensuring the document management system integrated with current systems such as SCALA ERP and SIMPLE barcoding inventory management solution. Order processing needed to be as simple as possible.
After digitally mirroring current paper-based processes and implementing the integrations, the company realized substantial productivity gains:
Securing your data is in your best interest. If you don’t, you risk losing business-critical information that can have a negative impact on business continuity and client relationships.
Digital systems let you work in a safer and more secure environment: You’re better protected from security breaches due to document and communication encryption and can control who has access to specific files.
Maintaining compliance with mandates such as HIPAA and GDPR is also far easier, and you’re better prepared should disaster strike: Multiple and secure redundant backups help you effortlessly recover data.
The Woodland Trust is the UK’s biggest woodland conservation charity. With an upcoming move to a new, smaller location which had less storage space, the trust needed to find a document management partner that could help:
They chose DocuWare who rolled out a tailored solution in the legal department, integrated systems, and made electronic documents available from any device, anywhere.
The Woodland Trust is now able to store documents in a digital format that is “legally admissible” and are better prepared for tax audits because documents are securely stored for indefinite periods.
Now that you understand the paper problem and the benefits of going paperless, it’s time to show you how to launch a paperless process in 90 days.
Jason is an accountant with ten years of experience with accounts payables, receivables, and more. He's data-focused and always looking for ways to improve current processes. He reports to Samantha, the director of finance.
When top management approached Samantha and told her about their plans to create a paperless business— starting with the accounting department — she knew Jason would be the right person to drive the initiative.
She set up a meeting and explained the situation. Jason grabbed the opportunity with both hands and, under Samantha's guidance, managed to launch a paperless process in 90 days by following six simple steps.
Ninety days serves as an achievable quarterly target. It’s not too long, which can cause employees to drag their feet — and it’s not too short, which can lead to poor implementation. As Jason discovered, it’s the perfect time frame to inject urgency while providing an achievable goal.
Here are the steps he followed:
Painful processes are tedious, impede workflows, require much human input, and remove employees from high-value work. Focus on common business areas that need digitization — including HR, accounting, marketing and sales. Then, identify specific processes that are reliant upon individual documents, such as invoice processing and employee reviews.
With top management deciding to start with the accounting department, it was now up to Jason to identify one process needing digitization. He knew the key was to start small by focusing on only one process to gain momentum — succumbing to the urge to start with several would only slow him down.
After analyzing all the processes, Jason chose accounts payable as it involved processing hordes of paper documents, was riddled with clerical errors, and had no automated workflows in place.
The success of any initiative will depend on getting buy-in from C-level executives and top management. That’s why it’s crucial you form an enterprise content management (ECM) leadership team consisting of these executives, directors and internal representatives of specific departments.
These representatives will feed information back from departments about both the opportunities and challenges of going paperless. Setting up this leadership team will ensure everyone is vested in the process, has a voice, and drives the initiatives forward.
In Jason and Samantha’s case, they already had top-management buy-in and Jason was the representative who would feed information to Samantha, and also drive the initiative.
The only thing Jason had to do was create awareness in the department by explaining the reasons for the initiative and the benefits to the users. Why? He understood that many employees only cared about their daily tasks and would only use a new system if they saw value in it.
This meant he would have to properly communicate the value early on. Jason set up a presentation that highlighted the reasons for going paperless, the problems with current workflows, and the benefits of a new system.
Finally, because Jason lacked IT knowledge and understood that the success of the initiative depended on getting buy-in from IT, he arranged a private meeting. They discussed the details of the project since IT would have to work closely with the ECM vendor to design and deploy the solution.
Understanding all the steps involved in current processes helps you identify inefficiencies and pinpoint solutions to fix these problems.
Jason started by focusing on how employees in the department handled documents in three core areas that are typically part of any process:
To help him map out current processes and pinpoint digitization opportunities in accounts payable, he asked himself the following questions.
The design step usually leads to excitement building as end users begin visualizing the final product and how it could benefit them. This solution will depend on your process, bottlenecks and the integration points.
Jason got to work researching potential vendors. Samantha gave him the following advice:
The point Samantha was trying to make was that there are vendors focused on small and mid-sized businesses with features built for real-world workers. A company like DocuWare, for example, provides unique paperless office solutions for various business areas such as employee management, marketing and sales, and yes, you guessed it, finance and accounting. What’s more, these solutions are cloud-based — and that does matter.
The cloud requires minimal maintenance compared to on-premises systems, allows for rapid deployment, enables solution acquisition at the departmental level, scales better, improves operational flexibility, and does not require huge upfront license costs.
Jason eventually chose his vendor — the only thing left to do was deploy the solution.
The deployment will vary depending on your company, the solution and the vendor. You could, for example, start with a test system or implement it in several steps.
Jason worked closely with his document management provider and the IT administrator to implement the system in phases:
The proof of concept offered Jason’s team insight into how the solution would address their core business issues. Using their documents, the document management provider demonstrated how the software would automate and improve key processes.
Ideas for improvements to the design emerged after every stage of testing. The team wanted to make sure the solution was intuitive as possible. They accomplished this by increasing the use of checkboxes and drop down menus whenever it was appropriate. Jason’s team also tweaked the workflow processes by breaking some tasks into two. Or, conversely, deciding it made sense to combine two processes into a single one.
Before the roll out, Jason’s team created awareness of the project to get end users excited about the upcoming changes. The team created a series of You Tube videos that gave a high level overview of the solution. System administrators and power were trained to use the solution first. They spread the word about how the solution would automate routine tasks and make everyone’s work lives easier. Then, end users came on board and reinforced the message. There was a company-wide lunch party to celebrate the launch of the new solution. Then Jason’s company was ready to go live.
The final solution included:
Jason also trained employees on how to use the system. Together, he and the IT administrator took employees step-by-step through the new process, so they understood precisely how it works.
You can’t implement a system and forget about it. Instead, view your paperless process as a constantly changing one you’ll likely want to replicate in other business areas as your organization grows.
Because the accounting department was the “guinea pig” for the solution, Jason documented the entire process along the way. Documenting the process would not only help with the successful implementation of a paperless office in other business areas but also with the transfer of knowledge.
What would happen if both Jason and the IT administrator decided to leave the organization and there were no documents to reference?
Finally, Jason measured the impact of the initiative to go paperless in 90 days by asking the following questions:
Slowly, but surely Jason and Samantha built a document management ROI story for their organization — and realized the new system was a huge success and could easily be replicated across the entire organization.
Survey results are clear: without the technology to support a mobile workforce, companies couldn't pivot quickly enough to respond to the pandemic.
DocuWare is the leading document management software for small and mid-size businesses seeking best-in-class paperless solutions. With over 12,000 customers and 500,000 users, DocuWare has the experience and technology to deliver digitization and automation tailored for your team.