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Paper use declining in more than half of businesses

New studies by AIIM and Xerox highlight move from paper to digital workflows

Digitalisation is more than just a buzz-word. As new research from AIIM shows, the transition from paper-based to electronic processes is having a significant effect on how information is distributed, with half of business executives reporting a decrease in the amount of paper received by their organisation – 9% of respondents describe this decline as rapid.

People instinctively like paper
People instinctively like paper

Released in the run-up to November 4’s World Paper Free Day, AIIM’s latest annual survey of paper use in the workplace, Paper-Free in 2016, Are we there yet? highlights the progress businesses are making towards eliminating paper.

Two thirds of respondents say that demand for paperless processes is growing, with 25% claiming to run a clear/paper-free environment, up from 18% in last year’s report. The main benefits of going paper-free are faster customer response times (50%) and higher productivity (42%).

The business functions that have shown the greatest fall in paper use are Human Resources, particularly in the areas of recruitment (49%) and employee lifecycle (48%); Accounts Payable (41%); and Accounts Receivable (39%).

Almost half (45%) of businesses say they achieve payback on their paper-free investment within six months; one in 10 (9%) does so within just three months.

Despite this progress, it is unlikely that all business processes and transaction will go paper-free any time soon. Reasons given for sticking with paper include the human factor when handling, reading and note taking (47%); a lack of management initiatives to move away from paper (47%); and a lack of understanding and awareness when it comes to paper-free options (39%). Two thirds (65%) of business executives still use handwritten signatures on paper.

AIIM chief analyst Bob Larrivee said: “People instinctively like paper, and for many it still feels natural to print out a document to read, sign, edit or share. But things are gradually changing as people become more comfortable using technology for such tasks and realise that e-signatures are just as valid as physical ones. Enterprises are also seeing the benefit of digitising content, in terms of customer service, collaboration and overall productivity, which will only help the move to paper.

In a separate survey by Xerox, more than 80% of SMEs in the UK, US, France and Germany said that within the next 12 months they wanted to eliminate paper from time-consuming processes, including invoicing, HR and financial reporting.

The main reasons to go paper-free are to increase productivity, grow the business and reduce print costs. Almost half (43%) of UK SMBs say they waste a significant amount of time on paper-intensive processes and 60% say this has a major impact on their bottom line.


Other ways in which businesses aim to reduce paper use include introducing Managed Print Services (MPS) – 42% already have an MPS and 40% plan to put one in place in 2017 – and integrating mobile devices with workflow processes to increase the productivity of mobile workers and improve customer service.

Like AIIM’s report, Office Productivity Trends to Improve the Bottom Line highlights a lack of awareness amongst businesses about their options. Only 20% of SMBs have knowledge of existing paper-free solutions.

When it comes to seeking advice, 50% turn to an office equipment dealer, one in four looks to their IT reseller and 37% approach a product manufacturer.


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