10 reasons to go paperless


This paper examines ten reasons for going paperless that can help you make the business case for digital transformation at your organization.

November 3, 202312 mins
10 reasons to go paperless


While most organizations have begun to digitize some processes, many still have a long way to go before they become truly paperless. That’s unfortunate because paperless processes offer significant business advantages.

This paper examines ten reasons for going paperless that can help you make the business case for digital transformation at your organization. It also includes five helpful tips for taking the next step in your paperless journey.

The not-quite-paperless office

By now, most organizations have digitized at least some of their processes. But paper continues to play a sizable role in most organizations. Consider:

These days, computers are everywhere. So why do organizations continue to use so much paper?

Many have older paper files that they are required to retain. Digitizing these older files can be a huge project that organizations are hesitant to undertake.

Many have forms that require employee or customer signatures. Transitioning to a digital process would require them to re-think their procedures and/or buy new technology.

And many continue to use paper simply because it’s the way they’ve always done things. Organizational inertia makes change difficult. It’s just easier to keep things the same. But just because something is easier, that doesn’t mean that it makes the most sense. When you add it up, the business benefits of going paperless are overwhelming.

Reasons to go paperless

Different organizations see different benefits from going paperless, depending on their industry, product mix, market, customer base, and other unique characteristics. Here are ten of the most common reasons to go paperless:

1. Decrease the time spent searching for information

Depending on which research you read, office workers spend between 7.6 and 12.5 hours per week searching for information. If you add in the time spent governing and preparing data, as well as the time spent duplicating work that was already completed elsewhere, they waste about 20 hours each week — 50% of their time — on activities that would be unnecessary if they had better information management tools and policies.

Simply scanning your paper documents isn’t going to solve all these problems, of course. You need a comprehensive solution that incorporates optical character recognition technology and advanced search to make it easy to find what you need.

It’s much faster to type a search term on a keyboard than to walk down to the paper files and sort through a file manually to find what you need. Plus, electronic search does away with the problem of misfiled or lost records.

Your highly-paid knowledge workers could be doing a lot of other things that would be more valuable for your organization than looking for information in paper files. If you can decrease the amount of time they waste due to poor information management, your organization can become much more efficient and productive.

2. Free up physical space

The average filing cabinet takes up nine square feet of floor space to store about 11,000 pages of documents.

That typically costs about $1,500 per year, just in storage space (though it could be much more if you are in a high-rent location). That also doesn’t include the cost for employees to do the filing. On average, companies need one additional worker for every 12 filing cabinets.

By comparison, you can store about 65,000 pages of document files in 1 GB of storage. That means a 500 GB drive could store about 3.25 million pages. If that 500 GB is on a single 2.5-inch SSD, it would occupy approximately 11 square inches or .08 square feet. If you do the calculations, the digital storage is more than 40 times more efficient than filing cabinets in terms of physical space saved. And that’s even before you consider that in most data centers, many drives will be stacked on top of each other, taking up even less space. And a single IT employee can maintain hundreds of drives.

For organizations, space is an important consideration. According to research from CBRE cited in The Wall StreetJournal, 52% of companies plan to shrink their physical footprint between 2022 and 2025. Reducing paper and getting rid of filing cabinets is one way to make that process easier, and help organizations trim their budgets.

3. Increase resiliency

The Covid-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters have sent a wake-up call to many organizations.

Before the pandemic, fewer than 6% of people in theUnited States worked primarily from home, although quite a few more worked from home part of the time. The sudden implementation of quarantines meant that organizations had to figure out how to transition to remote work practically overnight. Organizations that had already begun digital transformation projects were able to make this transition more smoothly than those that had not.

While we can hope that we won’t experience another pandemic in our lifetimes, other emergency events are probable, even likely. As climate change progresses, fires, floods, hurricanes, and severe weather of all kinds are becoming more commonplace. You likely have a disaster recovery plan, including multiple storage locations, for your digital records, but what about your paper files? If a fire, flood, or earthquake wiped out your paper archives, would your business be able to survive?

Paper records can also increase other kinds of risk, notably compliance risk. If your organization were sued or accused of a regulatory violation, finding the records to prove that you followed the law becomes more difficult if your records are on paper. Old-fashioned paper files may also make it easier for your company to experience a privacy breach.

4. Enhance security

Because we hear so often about cybersecurity risks, it can be easy to overlook the potential risks posed by printed documents. For example, while you can restrict access to a digital document in your organization using role-based access control software, any employee with access to a filing cabinet will be able to access any document stored inside it.

In addition, once someone has taken a piece of paper out of a filing cabinet, you have no way to track what happens to it. They could copy it, take a photo, or send it anywhere they wish. They could also easily destroy it, which could be costly if the document is important to operations or requires retention by law.

Even if an employee doesn’t intentionally destroy a document, they might easily lose it. By one estimate, the average organization loses 7.5% of its paper documents each year. At a large company, that can mean losing a document every 12 seconds. And it can cost $125 to find a mis-filed document, or between $350 and $700 per document that is never found.

Of course, digitizing documents is no guarantee that they will be 100% secure. Companies will still need to invest in security technologies and ensure that they have the right policies in place. But when your documents are digital, it becomes much easier to track them and to prove that you are complying with any relevant regulations and best practices.

5. Improve customer experience

From a customer’s perspective, a paper-based process tends to be slower and less accurate than a digital process. And if anything goes wrong, it’s much harder to track down paper records than digital ones.

For example, imagine a situation where a patient fills out a paper form in a health clinic waiting room. After handing back the form, they have to wait while the office staff input all the handwritten information into the computer system, perhaps even multiple systems. The staff then need to verify insurance and payment information, all before the patient has the opportunity to meet with a care provider. And if one of the staff members accidentally types something wrong, it can lead to hassles that persist long after the visit has ended.

But if the patient fills out those same forms digitally, either on a tablet in the office or on a computer or smartphone before they arrive, they have a chance to double-check that everything was entered correctly. And even if the staff simply scan the paper forms, and use optical character recognition technology to extract the pertinent information, it can speed things up considerably. Patients won’t have to wait on the office staff, and instead can see a provider as soon as one is available.

This situation isn’t unique to healthcare. Similar issues plague other industries that rely on paper processes. By digitizing their workflows, organizations can give their customers a faster, more streamlined experience.

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