Document Dynamics

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Love your automation processes, love the planet

Love your automation processes, love the planet

Streamline your business processes and reduce your paper usage today with a document management system

Bansaree Millward

It may seem strange, in an article extolling the vision of an automated digital future, to start with a reference to 1975, but that was the year Business Week magazine published an article looking forward to the ‘Office of the Future’. In that article, the former head of Xerox Corp’s Palo Alto Research Centre, George E Pake, predicted that in the far-off future workplace of 1995, office workers would use keyboards with display monitors, all of which would be linked to each other and to digital filing cabinets.

Up to this point the article seems to have been startlingly accurate, but it then went onto predict the rise of the ‘paperless office’, with bosses and workers alike embracing the freedom from having to print hard copies of their documents, and here the crystal ball seems to have gone slightly awry.

We’ve written plenty of times about the benefits of automated document management systems, and experts like Deloitte have found that the average period for a return on investment in process automation is just 12 months, but the use of paper is one to which many businesses are still stubbornly clinging.

Please note, the statistics mentioned throughout this post refer to a pre-COVID-19 environment. With the widespread vaccination roll-out, there is hope that this will again be an accurate reflection of behaviour and usage from employees and businesses once things gradually start moving towards normality.

Let’s look at some numbers

According to statistics published in 2020, the average office worker gets through 10,000 sheets of paper per year, and 45% of that paper ends up as waste product. Compared to some of the figures relating to paper use in offices, the figures just quoted can seem fairly understated:

  • According to Forrester Research, one billion photocopies are made every day
  • The annual growth rate of the amount of paper produced by the average business, according to figures published by Gartner is 25%
  • In the US alone, in figures gathered by Coopers and Lybrand, there are more than four trillion paper documents, and this number is growing at a rate of 22% each year, which equates to an extra 880 billion paper documents per annum
  • According to Gartner, the average business spends 3% of its revenue on handling paper, whether that’s printing filing or maintaining hard copies of documents, and nearly 50% of the waste produced by that business will be paper
  • In the UK, it costs the average business £1,500 a year to maintain just one filing cabinet, and the average knowledge worker spends almost 50% of their time preparing, editing and creating documents.

Factoring in the environmental cost

It doesn’t take long to build up a fairly unassailable case for any business to move away from using paper and embrace the latest document management software, in terms of business efficiency and cold hard cash, but the argument against paper in the year 2021 goes beyond simple numbers on a balance sheet to embrace the environmental impact which the unnecessary use of paper has.

According to the EPA, producing 10 million sheets of paper comes at the following environmental cost:

  • 2,500 trees
  • 56,000 gallons of oil
  • 595,000 kilowatts (KW) of energy

By going paperless, the average organization can save up to 48 trees per year.

This last statistic is particular striking when two facts are borne in mind. The first is that the average tree produces enough oxygen every day to support at least two human beings and, according to a range of experts in the field, 40% of all trees cut down in the world are used to produce paper.

Why switch to document management software?

By switching to document management software which greatly reduces the reliance on hard paper copies of documents you’ll not only be transforming the way in which your business operates but you’ll also be doing your bit to cut carbon emissions and protect the environment in the face of an increasingly urgent climate emergency.

The shift to new ways of working is likely to be accelerated by a new emphasis on remote or home-based working and a shift away from the concept of a single head office where the documents your business relies on are stored in file after file of hard copies.

In addition, the new normal which emerges from the shadow of the pandemic is likely to involve a greater recognition of the need to treat the natural world with the respect it deserves.

CSR is good for business too

Businesses can play a large part in driving this change. Nor is this entirely an altruistic move; the issue of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – of which care for the environment is a huge aspect – has come to play a huge role in the thinking of major businesses in the last few years.

According to figures gathered by UNESCO, Fortune 500 companies spent £15.08 billion on CSR in 2015, and more than 90% of the top 250 companies in the world now produce an annual report on CSR according to KPMG. This shift has been driven by pressure from consumers – according to Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer 76% of the general population believe that business leaders should take a lead on issues of this kind and the World economic forum states that 25% of a company’s market value hinges upon its reputation.

In the UK, research by NatWest found that 57.5% of medium sized businesses felt that sustainability was ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ influential when it came to the decisions they made.

It all adds up to an argument for reducing the paper use of your business by switching to automated document management which is based on a desire to function more efficiently, a genuine wish to reduce the carbon footprint of the work you do and an acknowledgement of the fact that customer expectations will demand no less, and that the businesses you’re competing against will be aware of this.

By automating your business processes and reducing paper usage, you'll be showing love to the planet as well and offering a service which potential customers are going to swoon over.

Time to automate

A document management software like Zetadocs could be exactly what your organization needs to automate and streamline business processes so get in touch with us today to discover more about how our tools can help your business.

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