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…when we try so hard not to

Paper use down in more than half of businesses as SMEs call time on slow paper-based processes

Paper use down
Paper use down

Digitalisation is more than just a buzzword. As surveys by AIIM and Xerox show, the transition from paper-based to electronic processes is having a significant effect on how information is managed and distributed, as businesses continue to make progress towards eliminating paper.

In AIIM’s latest annual survey of paper use in the workplace Paper-Free in 2016, Are we there yet?, released in the run-up to World Paper Free Day (WPFD) on November 4, half of business executives say they have seen a decrease in the amount of paper received by their organisation – 9% of respondents describe this fall as rapid.

Two thirds of respondents say that demand for paperless processes is growing, with 25% claiming to run a clear/paper-free environment, up from 18% in last year’s report. The main benefits of going paper-free are faster customer response times (50%) and higher productivity (42%).

The business functions that have shown the greatest fall in paper use are Human Resources (HR), particularly in the areas of recruitment (49%) and employee lifecycle (48%); Accounts Payable (41%); and Accounts Receivables (39%).

Almost half (45%) of businesses achieve payback on their paper-free investment within six months; one in 10 (9%) does so within just three months.

Despite this progress, it is unlikely that all business processes and transaction will go paper-free any time soon. Reasons given for sticking with paper include the human factor when handling, reading and note taking (47%); a lack of management initiatives to move away from paper (47%); and a lack of understanding and awareness when it comes to paper-free options (39%). Two thirds (65%) of business executives still use handwritten signatures on paper.

AIIM chief analyst Bob Larrivee remains optimistic nonetheless. He said: “People instinctively like paper, and for many it still feels natural to print out a document to read, sign, edit or share. But things are gradually changing as people become more comfortable using technology for such tasks and realise that e-signatures are just as valid as physical ones. Enterprises are also seeing the benefit of digitising content, in terms of customer service, collaboration and overall productivity, which will only help the move to paper-free.”

Eliminating paper

In a separate survey by Xerox, more than 80% of small and medium-sized businesses in the UK, US, France and Germany said that within the next 12 months they wanted to eliminate paper from time-consuming processes, including invoicing, HR and financial reporting.

However, only 28% say their implementation of plans to digitise paper processes is well advanced. Overall, 12% of SMBs are one to three years away from implementation.

The main reasons to go paper-free are to increase productivity, grow the business and reduce print costs. Almost half (43%) of UK SMBs say they waste a significant amount of time on paper-intensive processes and 60% say this has a major impact on their bottom line.

Other ways in which businesses aim to reduce paper use include introducing Managed Print Services (MPS) – 42% already have an MPS contract and 40% plan to put one in place in 2017 – and integrating mobile devices with workflow processes to increase the productivity of mobile workers, meet customer demand for remote information and improve customer service.

Like AIIM’s report, the 2017 Productivity Trends to Improve the Bottom Line survey highlights a lack of awareness amongst businesses about their options. Only 20% of SMBs are aware of existing paper-free solutions in the market.

When it comes to seeking advice, 50% of SMBs turn to an office equipment dealer, one in four looks to their IT reseller and 37% approach a product manufacturer.

To download a copy of AIIM’s report Paper-Free in 2016, Are we there yet?, please visit:

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