Paperless or Paper-based: Should Organizations Consider Digitization

Posted by James Bailey

organizations should embrace digitized enterprise content management

If you are reading this blog post you probably still have contradictory feelings about paper-based and paperless office.

Whether we are talking about startups or established vendors we’re all looking for every possible way to streamline operations, cut costs, and save precious time.

Moving away from paper-based content management to a fully digital workflow is one of the easiest ways to cut costs. Still, there are so many organizations that are fearful of making the switch to a fully digital enterprise.

If you’re in such a situation, it would be good to start thinking of some questions:

Are you afraid of the process of migration? Are you afraid that your employees would have difficulties in adapting to it? Or, are you still lying to yourself that you don’t need digitization and you are well of this way?

Whatever the reason is, let’s take a look at how your current way of managing documents could be harming, rather than helping your enterprise succeed.

The Weight Of Paper-based Enterprise Content Management

paper-based vs. paperless enterprise content management

I love the 80es. Such an optimistic era. In 1975, Businessweek predicted that by 1990 paper would be dead.

30 years later, we are producing more paper than ever before.

According to the estimations made by Gartner Inc. things aren’t so “80es cool”:

  • 3% of a company’s revenue is spent on managing paper, printing, filing, storing and maintaining files of information.
  • An average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper a year.
  • 50% of the waste of businesses is composed of paper.

Terrifying. Not that we didn’t reach the Businessweek’s predictions, we’re boldly going in the wrong direction.

Paper misuse in companies is not only an environmental tragedy, but it is also a monument to inefficiency.

Why? Because paper does not give enterprises the business intelligence and insight they need to succeed. Instead, paper is very often the cause of many harms.

Let me cover the most obvious ones.

1.   Data Loss

Imagine a fire breaks out in your organization’s archive room.

All data is gone.

Customers call.

They demand answers.

But your organization is incapable of providing the information they need.

And yes, it doesn’t always have to be this dramatic. But the truth is things like this can happen, and physical files are much more prone to destruction compared to electronic files.

As an enterprise, you don’t have the luxury of doing nothing, and hope for the best.

You must plan ahead.

You must prepare for the worse, so you can always offer the best.

The best way to protect your business documents it is to implement a document digitization and Enterprise Content Management System that will lower your dependency on paper-based documents and rely more on digital documents.

2.   Delays & Cost Escalations

According to the Paperless Project, an average worker spends around 40% of their time searching for information stored in emails and filing cabinets.

Also, the Paperless Project reports that a typical four-drawer cabinet keeps around 12,000 records and managing it costs $1,500 per year.

They also found that large organizations lose a document every 12 seconds, which can cost a company $350 to $700 a piece.

As you can see, paper archives are too time-consuming. They are too difficult to work with. Very expensive, and quite unreliable.

This is why paper archives very often cause delays and unwanted expenses. Digitalizing paper documents would make sure that the paper management cost goes down significantly. It would also ensure no document-loss happens ever again. And companies would keep expenses in check.

3.   Communication Gaps

Document Management is a complex process. It encompasses many stages, processes, departments, and institutions. All of this requires communication.

Communicating around a single document within the same department is manageable. Scaling this up to thousands of documents, hundreds of employees, dozens of departments every single day… You get a very, very messy situation. A disaster waiting to happen.

If each document could be digital, and all communication to be “attached” somehow to that document, then every person that opens that document could instantly see all the necessary communication around it.

4.   Poor or Wrong Decisions

Communication gaps lead to poor and even wrong decision. If there is a communication gap, that means that your employees don’t have all the information they need to respond to a certain task.

Your employees are decision-makers who are faced with time-bound goals that they must achieve. In such conditions when a decision is made in “an uninformed hurry” there is always the risk of mistakes.

5.   Disappointed Clients & Bad Reputation

No organization wants the same client calling over and over again, asking for the same information for days on end.

Yet, it’s so easy for this to happen if the information they require is somewhere in the archive room at the end of the hall. In a box or a drawer, unorganized, unlabeled, and difficult to search through.

Sometimes, hiring more staff can’t solve the problem.

Sometimes, technology needs to step in.

6.   Failing to Comply with Legal Requirements

Laws and regulations like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) and the HIPAA require the maintenance of records in an organized, secure, and accessible way. And in the absence of digitized documents and Enterprise Content Management System, it is very difficult to organize an information repository so that it complies with applicable laws.

Businesses that use an Enterprise Content Management System will be able to follow legal requirements much easier, much faster, much cheaper.

Let me wrap up this section on paper-based Document Management.

Data loss, cost escalations, communication gaps, all these lead to one undesirable result: Your organization is outpaced, outperformed by similar organizations that have taken the step to go digital.

Despite all these problems that come with keeping things physical, there are organizations that still can’t take the next step toward digitalization.

Organization heads usually fear the unknown. They fear the workload, cost, problems of becoming a paperless organization.

One thing I can say is, the benefits outweigh all fears of any unforeseen problem. And, if you rely on an experienced company, there’s almost no risk of digitalization.

Why Go Paperless?

why organizations should embrace digitization

There are many reasons to accept digitization and go paperless. The first and most important one is to avoid all the harms I’ve mentioned in the previous section.

But, going paperless isn’t only about avoiding problems, reducing the carbon footprint and eliminating costs. It’s also about proactively improving productivity and reliability of government agencies and enterprises.

In a form-driven industry, digitization can reduce error rates, wasted time and automate repetitive manual data entry.

With that being said, the further you move away from paper files, the closer you move toward:

1.   Better Security

Enterprise Content Management Systems have advanced security capabilities, especially when it comes to data access. With electronic Document Management Systems, it’s very easy to set up access rights for user groups, individual users, and even change these settings on a per-document level.

But, the security capabilities of Electronic Document Management Systems go beyond access rights. I am talking about electronic signatures, redacting confidential information, a creation of audit trails and much more.

Modern Enterprise Content Management Systems store all the data on a Cloud server. So even if your local archive burns down to the ground, and all your organization’s computers break down, your data will be safely stored on an Amazon cloud server.

2.   Instant Data Access

When all of your documents are digital, accessing them is much easier.

With digitized documents and an Enterprise Content Management System, you can access data much faster and easier. If you use a cloud-based Enterprise Content Management System, you can access your data from anywhere in the world, from any device with an internet connection.

Another added benefit of going digital and using Enterprise Content Management Systems make your documents content searchable by keyword as well as using tags and other metadata.

The instant access and searchability that digitization brings will significantly improve your efficiency, your workflows, and the entire customer experience.

3.   Effective Collaboration and Communication between Teams

Collaboration and communication are crucial to teamwork. And as we saw, paper-based Document Management is not the first thing you think of when someone mentions collaboration and communication.

Digitization, on the other hand, and Enterprise Content Management Systems do not only reduce the amount of paper in your office. They also make sharing of knowledge and information much easier.

Digitization will bring your employees closer even though they may be located at different places.

All of this makes modern Document Management Systems the go-to thing for collaboration and communication. I am talking about using one interface for communication, easy and fast access, pre-determined permissions, pre-determined workflows and so on.

And let’s not forget about customers and the collaboration and communication you are expected to accomplish with them too. Digitization will undoubtedly benefit everybody involved because your clients will also enjoy the interface for communication and the benefits of having an easily accessible digital copy.

4.   Unlimited Data Storage

Paper takes up a lot of space. From archive rooms, storage rooms, filing cabinets, climate control, disaster prevention etc. and that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that paper keeps piling up and often it is so fast that your staff will struggle to effectively and efficiently keep track of what’s where.

Digitization allows you to store all documents either on an on-premises server or on the Cloud, requiring much less space than a physical records archive. And the best part is that it is much more efficient than physical storage.

Large amounts of documents can be stored in a single computer, in just a few minutes and organized and sorted without a mistake.

5.   Backup & Restore

The only physical way to backup paper documents is to make copies of them and add to your paper mountain. Digital files, on the other hand, allow an easier, faster and safer way of backup entire archives.

Thanks to these modern technologies and the Cloud you no longer have to worry about backup and restore. Modern Enterprise Content Management Systems will do that for you with a few clicks of a mouse.

6.   Satisfied Clients

Having instant access to information means no more delays and unsatisfied clients.

Digitization allows you to respond to the changing dynamics of your customers, from customer demands to material shortages.

Well organized, stored and managed data undoubtedly increases the productivity of your staff which further results in increased efficiency. This, of course, makes the client satisfied with your work.

Another very important segment is the communication and collaboration we mentioned. Namely, with good collaboration and communication with customers, the customer experience is raised on a higher level.

7.   Eco-Friendly

Paper production is a massive contributor to greenhouse gasses, uses a lot of water, and is one of the major causes of deforestation. Printer ink and toners are no better. They contain volatile and hazardous substances that complicate waste management. All this makes large enterprises and government agencies to have a growing carbon footprint.

While recycling improves the situation a little bit, it still doesn’t and cannot undo the damage. Huge quantities of paper still end up in landfills or incinerators.

The best way to mitigate this eco-footprint is to simply reduce and even eliminate our dependency on paper documents. The idea of reducing paper on the other side is much more sustainable.

More and more companies value the environmental effect of digitization. The importance of a paperless office is not only about the business and workflow advantages. It is also about being considerate of the world at large and eliminating as much consumption and waste as possible.

8.   Reducing Costs

Investing in digitization means reducing costs.

Imagine: no more paper, no printers, no ink, no postage fees, no more bulky filing cabinets occupying office space, no more energy wasted on document handling.

Paper itself does not cost that much. What costs enterprises with paper-based offices is the management of paper-based documents. Digitization changes all of this.

Time spent filing, organizing, and searching for paper documents is a time that could be spent on more productive tasks. Digitization allows you that and much more. As I mentioned, digitized documents are stored in a central repository which is basically a well-organized digital filing cabinet where all of your documents are secure.

All in all, Enterprise Content Management Systems provide a better communication and collaboration, lower costs, unlimited storage, instant access, and security.

Going paperless means increased efficiency and productivity. More satisfied clients and a safer environment. All of which could never be accomplished in a paper-based office. A paperless office is a smart and prudent goal for businesses and organizations.

We at Armedia have been on the cutting edge of helping agencies and businesses switch to fully digital Enterprise Content Management. Throughout our work since the early 2000es, we’ve literally digitized truckloads of documents. We’ve decluttered many offices, reduced the paper footprint of agencies, helped them serve more clients with less effort and less time.

How Armedia Can Help You Go Paperless

Armedia can help you embrace digitized enterprise content management

Besides all of the benefits mentioned earlier, Armedia also takes care of deliverables like a modern Document Management System, a customized Case Management System to fit your workflows, and in-house training of staff. Also, we are providing on-site interventions whenever necessary or online support when needed.

Throughout the years we found the need for a database migration software that will help us migrate large amounts of digital data from proprietary systems onto new, Cloud-based storage systems. For this reason, our team built an Enterprise Content Management migration software that we call Caliente.

Caliente can be used to import content from external feeds into managed content containers. With this migration tool, you can process millions of content files daily, without the risk of data loss or data corruption.

Using our Caliente database migration software we can do quick and painless one-time content migrations from one CMS to another. So in case you’re stuck with some old technologies that are no longer supported, Armedia can help you move off of these old Enterprise Content Management system onto new ones, like ArkCase.

Caliente has been used by many projects performed by Armedia and now it’s in use as a key element of many more projects. One such case was when we used Caliente to migrate millions of structured and unstructured pieces of content into a new ECM Documentum based Case Management system for the US Government Enforcement and Intelligence Agency.

The vision behind it was to replace the existing mainframe structured and paper-based data case system with a modern system that supports electronic workflows, records, comprehensive search, evidence tracking, and reporting.

To learn more about this awesome tool feel free to read this blog post

Our goal at Armedia was never to be someone that will offer just another solution. We strive to provide the best for our clients. In doing so, during the last 15 years, we have made many successful integrations that improved our work. Caliente is certainly just one of the many.

Trough Ephesoft we help many clients to achieve full digitization. Ephesoft advanced capture solutions help enterprises and Federal agencies to run more efficiently, to increase information accessibility, searchability, organization, and data extraction from scanned documents.

We used ArkCase for customizing Case Management.

We relied on AWS as a Cloud service provider.

We turned to Alfresco for compliant data storage.

Since recently, Armedia has earned ISO 9001:2015 certification for Quality Management System (QMS). ISO 9001:2015 is a globally recognized quality management standard developed and published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

If you have any unanswered questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. And please do not forget to share this blog post on your Social Media so other people can learn about the perks of digitization and Enterprise Content Management Systems.

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