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Just one percent of EU businesses achieve a paperless office

January 17, 2014

paper binResearch by Iron Mountain finds very low percentage of businesses in EU operate paperless offices.

Ronan Lavelle wrote on Real Business about the reasons why companies are finding it hard to operate paperless offices after Iron Mountain discovered that only one percent of EU businesses have achieved a paperless office, despite global industry association, AIIM, finding that two-thirds of companies that do have a paperless office “reported a payback within 18 months”.

Lavelle, who has 18 years of experience in information, document, content, contract and workflow management technologies, noted the vast amounts of paper used in offices each day, with WRAP’s Green Office guide from May 2013 estimating that the average office worker uses up to 45 sheets per day, half of which can be considered waste.

In the US, according to Gartner, between $25 billion (€18 billion) and $35 billion (€26 billion) is spent each year on filing, storing and retrieving paper; while PWC has estimated that 7.5 percent of all documents are lost and 3.5 percent misfiled. Furthermore, it was indicated by companies surveyed by AIIM that they believe by eliminating the use of paper, productivity of process by staff would increase by 29.7 percent.

Among the reasons that offices are still using paper, suggests Lavelle, is the need to print out documents requiring signatures, with recent YouGov research finding that 80 percent of UK organisations print documents just for this reason and AIIM estimating that “42 percent of processes are interrupted by the need to collect a physical signature”.

This however may be unnecessary, as Doug Miles, Head of AIIM’s Market Intelligence unit, explained that “the laws on this have been standardised in most jurisdictions for 10 if not 20 years”; and it can be argued that digital signatures are “more secure and legally robust” due to them being more “tamper-proof”.

Another significant way in which paper is used in offices is for mailing purposes – AIIM found that 40 percent of mail rooms process over 1,000 items each day, yet only 14 percent of businesses in Europe have digital mailrooms. Lavelle therefore suggests that the volume of paper generated by an organisation could be greatly reduced by “encouraging suppliers and customers to submit content digitally”.

In terms of how to combat the need for using paper, Lavelle highlights the impact that a mobile workforce could have, with AIIM finding that 51 percent of those using mobile capture reported a payback period of up to 18 months.

WRAP’s Green Office Guide meanwhile suggests auditing information to identify which processes involve the use of paper and why; enlisting a senior member of staff to champion a paperless strategy; and providing technology training to those who are less comfortable with using new processes.

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