Paper-Free Progress Has Been Made – But We’re Not Out Of The Woods Yet

As we gear up for another World Paper Free Day next month, global information management leadership group AIIM has come up with some timely research into what remains to be done when it comes to ending the business process paper chase, says Bob Larrivee

The good news is that more and more businesses are breaking their addiction to paper.

We’ve just conducted a major global probe into the rate of progress AIIM members are making when it comes to the move towards a paper-free workplace, and I am incredibly encouraged by what we’ve been told.

Two-thirds of business executives say the demand for paperless processes in their organisations are on the rise, while the amount of paper arriving at the door is decreasing for half of organisations while digital inbound documents are increasing for two-thirds our respondents.

Even more notable: 18% of our respondents last year said they were paper-free, and that number has now increased to 25% – so one in four of our members are paper-free. (And that’s a significant number – as we got this data from a statistically representative sub-set of our entire 193,000-plus membership base.)

In terms of specific business functions and use of paper in certain parts of the organisation, you can see why this progress is being achieved. Paper use in HR is well down around recruitment processes (49%) and employee lifecycle (48%), while paper use is also decreasing for 41% of people in Accounts Payables and 39% in Accounts Receivables.

Is the real enemy not paper but the filing of that paper, perhaps?

What’s driving this trend? Simple – clear business benefits, like faster customer response (50%), and higher productivity (42%), while 36% indicate some ROI on paperless technology investment (led by ECM) between three and six months (and 36% confirm it will happen in less than six).

So I can conclude that the once elusive concept of paper-free business operations is today a real possibility, based on the progress made over the past 12 months.

Now, you might be asking, why is AIIM not demanding that we get even higher figures for digital only ways of working? The reality is that the role of paper in modern life more complicated than we might think. There are researchers on the psychology and cognition of paper and how we use it, for example, who tell us that paper can be the ideal medium for supporting certain processes (see here for an excellent review of the paperless office and why we still need at least some paper here).

What research like this shows is that paper is often less of an issue than filing, and there will always be certain processes where paper really is the ideal medium for information exchange.

However, what we can all agree on and are seeing via this great research – is how there are certain processes where paper should be removed and is being removed – and so will soon be truly friction-free and wholly electronic, increasing efficiency and making those paper filing cabinet farms redundant for good.

We entitled our summary of our findings Paper-Free in 2016, Are we there yet?*

The answer I am giving you now is – nearly, but we still need your help, as you can see with our World Paper Free Day push.

The author is Bob Larrivee, Chief Analyst at AIIM 

As Bob mentions, there’s still work to be done to get as many business processes and filing of information workflows digitised as possible.

The way AIIM highlights this need is with its World Paper Free Day annual campaign – this year featuring a Live event running 2 – 4PM UK time/9-11AM CDT and we’d like to get you to register and join if we can. That’s because thedmcollaborators is a supporter of the AIIM campaign to make organisations and consumers get more aware of the proper role of paper in their work and personal lives, and we encourage readers to get involved too!

#WPFD is scheduled for Friday, November 4 this year. You can find out more about this year’s push here [http://www.aiim.org/wpfd], where you can sign up for the live event, find out about becoming a ‘Paper Free Hero’, register for the on-going tips and updates, and get some of the many paper free resources and site badges etc. that can make it all more impactful for you and your customers.

Here are all the links you’re going to need this time – good luck!

Register for the Live Event
• Download a World Paper Free Day Twibbon to your Twitter or Facebook page•
• Join the conversation on Twitter – using #wpfd
• Facebook
• Google +
• LinkedIn
• YouTube
* Download your own free copy of this research here http://info.aiim.org/paper-free-are-we-there-yet-2016

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