About 80% of all business information resides on paper. Advances over a period of time in imaging technologies have made it possible to move from this traditional mode of documentation to a digital one. This helps in eliminating unnecessary costs from a business. It is exactly the reason why any organisation that operates with a huge volume of paper documents should immediately plan and transition to an electronic form of document management.
Businesses usually do not pay a lot of attention to the expense that they incur as a result of using paper documentation. As things stand now, it might not be possible to eliminate paper absolutely, but there are industries that use such tremendous volumes of paper documentation in their day to day transactions that form the outside it appears that people working in those industries are overwhelmed with paper documents. Take for example the medical industry, the legal industry, the financial industry , the real estate industry; they are heavily reliant on paper. Efficiently dealing with such huge volumes of data on a daily basis is a huge drain on the organization’s resources.
The offices of insurance underwriters are full of reams and reams of paper documents. Even such organisations with well established documentation procedures it take on an average six minutes to file or retrieve a paper document. This figure is much higher for other small and medium businesses which do not have a well structured documentation process. In other words these organisations are losing money all the while without even realizing it.
Below are some facts that came to light as a result of research by Coopers & Lybrand on the resources that a norman organisation spends on paper document management,
The cost of using paper
Small and medium businesses have comparatively lower volumes of paper documentation to process as compared to large paper intensive organisations and yet using the same method as above for an average SMB spends $10,000 per year in time costs. Once we factor in the other associated costs such as cost of commercial real estate, cost of managing a printing setup and supplies and cost of physically transporting documents would take the tally of final costs to a much higher number that the initial figure of $10,000.
Another major drawback of paper based systems is that documents get lost and not all of them can be recovered. This only further accentuates the loss that the organisation is facing as a result of using paper based documentation system. The following figures listed by a PWC study help us illustrates this point in a much clearer manner,
The costs associated in dealing with both these situations are much more than the normal document expenses.
Commercial real estate dedicated to store these volumes of paper documents is another major non productive expense for all businesses. Large paper intensive organisations have to maintain separate storage units for their documents. Even though storage costs are as low as 20 to 50 cents per box per month. The cost of retrieval can as high as $10. The usual four drawer filing cabinet occupies about 8 SF of office space and assuming that it costs $100 per SF per month, it costs an organisation $96,000 per year. On the other hand a 50 GB hard drive can store 1 million pages.
These costs that we have been discussing are tangible and easily quantifiable. The figures are compelling enough to persuade businesses to rethink their document management strategies in the long run. There are several other costs that businesses incur which are not as tangible and quantifying them is a much more complex process. Paper based documentation process does not facilitate collaboration between team members like a digital system. A digital allows multiple users to access the same document at the same time. This boosts overall productivity. It is difficult to put a dollar value to this but it undeniably goes a long way in making an organisation successful. Employees shudder at the thought of having to go through cabinet looking for some document that they do not have much information about. Electronic search is an effortless process as it allows documents to be retrieved using as many keywords as they had been indexed with and allow a user to search using different values such as date of creation, figures if any, range of figure, partial search features.
Paper documents are vulnerable to man made or natural hazards and once lost their recovery is in most cases not possible. Electronic document processing does not have such limitations. Disaster recovery is an established process which allows new installations to be up and running in matter of days.
Businesses are constantly on the lookout for ways to limit costs and increase revenue. Electronic document management helps organizations eliminate unnecessary costs and helps improve collaboration and boosts productivity. The benefits of implementation far outweigh the costs and enables business to focus on their catering to their customers.