Still No Victory In Sight In The Paper Wars

Doug Miles AIIM DM_4_crop_400x400By Doug Miles, Director Market Intelligence, AIIM

Many readers of The DMCollaborators’ blog will have supported last year’s ‘World Paper Free Day’ campaign set up by my organisation, AIIM, to help spread awareness of the value of going electronic in core business processes. I hope you took part in some way.

So I thought you might be interested in getting some hard data about the impact of our global paper ‘addiction’. In this blog, I’d like to give you a brief summary of a fascinating White Paper, Paper Wars 2014 – an update from the battlefield,’ which was underwritten by a variety of key vendors including EMC and Kofax.

How are we doing when it comes to reducing the amount of paper in modern business?

Given the ubiquity of email, e-commerce, mobile communications, IM, texting and, yes, Enterprise Content Management, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the answer to that question is ‘probably pretty well’.

Maybe that’s unjustified confidence … given these statistics:

  • 48% of managers say that getting paper out of their core business processes would be the “biggest single productivity improvement” that they can think of
  • paper flow through 25% of organisations is actually increasing
  • only one in three (35%) of organisations have a specific, board-level goal of going fully paperless, while
  • 13.5% of all office space is still – even today – devoted to storing paper and physical documentation.

How do we know this? Last year we talked to those who know – the information professionals at managerial level in the AIIM community whose jobs often encompass dealing with the corporate ‘paper chase’ as it encroaches on knowledge management issues. (Specifically, we spoke to nearly 450 individual members in September and early October 2014.)

The impact of all this paper in our business cycles is clear: most organisations are still fighting everyday battles with paper that clogs up offices and slows down processes … and even though the arguments for keeping electronic records to save office space, improve findability and reduce waste are well rehearsed, literally billions of unnecessary paper copies are still printed around the world each and every day.

We feel that this is a major impediment to efficiency and productivity. We’re sure we won’t find many readers of this blog, active members of the UK ECM community, who would disagree.

But the problem remains; how do we change this situation?

We make a number of observations and recommendations in our study, which I hope you have time to read and debate yourselves, but I think one that stands out and that could (and should) be put in front of the board is this:

Business ‘at the speed of paper’ alone just isn’t going to cut it, going forward. That’s to say, the business’ speed of response – the elbow room it has to have to respond to inbound mail, deal with process bottlenecks, adapt to regulatory changes, but above all, help the customer, citizen or client is going to be gravely impacted. Business-at-the-speed-of-paper is not an appealing maxim – and is likely to be just completely unacceptable in a few years’ time, in what will be an increasingly mobile, remote- working, just-in-time world.

If that isn’t a wake-up call to really aggressively complete the process and move to as much electronic business as possible, I don’t know what is. That’s not to say the environmental and cost implications don’t matter or have any force in this argument – of course they do. But can you see your business hacking it in the 2020s if it still works at the speed of paper? Do you think your competitors are going to hobble themselves by sticking with that technology either?

Thought not … which is why we must all stop fighting the ‘Paper Wars’ – and move on to the next, probably even tougher, challenges the Information Age will likely throw at us.

Don’t you think it’s time the war ended in victory for efficiency? Good luck getting rid of paper!

The author is head of the Market Intelligence Division at AIIM, the global community of information professionals which is a global, non-profit organisation providing independent research, education and certification programmes to information professionals.

To get a full (registration needed) download of the research summarised here, please visit: http://www.aiim.org/Research-and-Publications/Research/Industry-Watch/Paper-Wars-2014

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