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A reliance on manual, paper-based processes to store, manage and distribute crucial data continues to hold back many companies on their digital transformation journeys, says Steve Mulroy, Portfolio Marketing Manager, Information at Kodak Alaris 

Steve Mulroy

Steve Mulroy

Paper is a pain for businesses. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly to CIOs and CFOs, a dependence on paper can have a negative impact on a business’ balance sheet, both directly and indirectly.

For example, many organisations have no clear system in place for storing critical documents, leaving them distributed across numerous tools, systems and people, and they are almost always difficult to locate. Employees can spend a large part of their working day wading through paperwork in the hunt for critical information, which can translate to thousands of man-hours wasted per year.

This problem will only get worse as the amount of information and data employees receive, continues to increase. In its Digital Universe study, IDC predicted that the amount of data on the planet is set to grow ten-fold by 2020 to 44ZB. And research conducted by EDM Group revealed that 56 per cent of people claim that they now receive more information at work than they did three years ago, with 18 per cent saying they have seen an increase of more than 50 per cent.

An obvious misuse of an employees’ time – the financial implications are significant, particularly when that team member could be focusing on other revenue-generating business activities instead. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the average cost of locating a misfiled document is $122 and the cost of reproducing a document is $220!

While we’re talking about a drain on resources, organisations spend thousands collecting and storing paper documents each year.Aside from the obvious limitations on office space, the sums can quickly add up,PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that on average, a company spends $25,000 to fill,and an additional $2,100 per year to maintain,a single filing cabinet.

Elsewhere, one of the biggest problems with paper is that gaining approval from multiple stakeholders often takes so long that it delays progress on important projects. Workers are forced to use methods such as email, courier, or overnight delivery, to secure approval on important documents, which again, add significant costs. There’s also the risk that emails are overlooked, lost or blocked by internal firewalls.

And don’t forget the sheer waste, and its effect on the environment. A survey conducted by research firm Loudhouse, found that the average employee uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year, and as many as 6,800 of those sheets end up in the rubbish bin.

Another problem is that critical business information is often locked in with certain individuals or stored in disparate systems across the organisation. This is a tremendous risk to businesses – without transparent access to critical data, companies can find themselves being held hostage to events outside their control. The Paperless Project cites an alarming statistic that more than 70 percent of today’s businesses would fail within three weeks if they suffered a catastrophic loss of paper-based records due to fire or flood.

Some other indirect costs of paper-based processes

  • Siloed, unusable data: Information doesn’t get integrated into centralised systems, and can’t be acted on
  • Lost revenue: When paper is lost or misplaced, it prevents decision makers from analysing business performance, slows down the deal closure process and could potentially incur a fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if there is a data breach
  • Unproductive employees: Staff spending time looking for information are not being productive and the overall cost to the business is increased
  • Poor customer experience: Faster customer on-boarding translates into growth.

Manual processes delay communications and customers who have a ‘low-effort’ experience are more likely to buy again

While it appears that organisations are aware of the problems with paper and looking to achieve a competitive advantage by capturing information as close to the point of origin as possible – 41 per cent of respondents to a study by AIIMsaid that they are usingOptical Character Recognition (OCR) in some form – many are still lost when it comes to developing a digital strategy to document management. Only 17 per cent of organisations say they work in a ‘paper-free’ environment. Furthermore, 20 per cent say paper consumption is increasing and a tiny three per cent of companies questioned have a comprehensive multichannel system to aggregate and process information from paper documents, electronic communications and social media.

So, what’s the answer? Data capture and robust automated information management can be a lifejacket when you are drowning in paperwork. Where Kodak Alaris excels is in helping organisations to capture information from paper and other sources right at the point of origin. Web-based capture, often referred to as cloud capture or thin client capture, streamlines processes, delivering increased efficiency and overall business value. With thin client capture, businesses benefit from reduced operating costs. IT support can be centralised making it easier to deploy, upgrade and administer with substantial savings, resulting in higher profitability and ROI.

Wireless scanners enable seamless connectivity through the office network or over Wi-Fi. Equipped with standard drivers, they can be easily and securely integrated within existing and legacy business applications and used alongside cloud- or web-based capture applications.

The AIIM study points to the fact that improved search and share capabilities are the primary drivers of scanning and capturing technology investments. 43 percent of businesses questioned say the biggest benefit of going paper-free is fast customer responses, while other advantages include increased productivity and improved compliance.

When non-digital information, practices and processes are converted into digital formats, organisations see increased agility, improved productivity among employees, better customer service and long-term cost savings. Businesses operating in regulated environments are also turning to technology to assist with compliance.

The ever-increasing flood of data is one of the greatest opportunities facing businesses today. How it is managed can have a huge impact on the future of an organisation. Investing in sophisticated information management solutions can be the first step for many on the road to digital transformation.

“Original publication in Finance Digest Issue 1
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