AIIM Reports Slow Uptake of Paper-Free Processes

Paper-free is catching on, but not as quickly as you’d think.

Last year, the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) surveyed over 500 constituents to learn more about the adoption of paper-free processes. In the research, 68 percent of respondents said they believe paper-centric processes to be unacceptable, yet 21 percent find their paper use to be increasing.

Although the thousands of external paper documents that fill our filing cabinets and archives slow down response, restrict access, and involve re-keying, copying, and filing demands, most organizations have yet to address more than 5 percent of the possible processes that could benefit from electronic workflow, and 18 percent haven’t even started the process of going paper-free. Other key survey findings include:

  • On average, respondents feel that driving paper out of their processes would improve speed of response to customers, citizens and staff by a factor of 4.0X. Those with more experience with paper-free processes report an even greater speed-up of 4.6X.
  • On average, respondents feel that driving paper out of their processes would improve productivity by 29.7 percent, rising to 35.4 percent for those with more experience.
  • Thirty-one percent of respondents scan pre-process, with 10 percent using digital mailrooms. Digital mailrooms are twice as popular in Europe as they are in North America.
  • Nearly a third of respondents are processing electronic documents, forms and PDFs separately from scanned paper. Twenty percent print them out, including 13 percent who print them out and scan them back into the capture system.
  • Fifteen percent of respondents are currently using smart devices to scan or capture forms – more likely by their own employees than by customers.

Paper-free adoption challenges

Why do organizations hesitate to plan and implement paper-free systems? AIIM’s respondents mention the age-old issue of physical signatures as most important, followed by legal admissibility. Even though electronic signatures are in fact legally admissible, those who operate in a consumer environment have struggled to replace physical signatures on financial agreements and loan applications. Other objections include cost of equipment and inflexible workflows.

The most resistant groups, perhaps not surprisingly, are legal, finance, and administration. C-level executives are four times more likely to be in favor of paper-free processes than against. The Business Improvement, IT and Records/ Compliance departments are also likely to be in favor of going paper-free.

Paper-free return-on-investment

Two-thirds of those adopting paper-free processes report a payback within 18 months. Fifty percent see a payback in a single 12-month budgeting period. When it comes to the ROI of paper-free processes, finance and procurement have been the most successful, with the majority of implementations (60 percent +) rated “Excellent” or “Good” and very few (5 percent or less) showing up as “Poor.”

The biggest benefit reported by AIIM respondents was not productivity, but compliance and better records for audit trail. Faster customer response (whether internal or external) was the second prime benefit, followed by a greater ability to monitor workflow status and workloads.

Has your organization implemented paper-free systems? What obstacles have you encountered and what benefits have you received as a result?

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