Still Not Paperless in 2016

AIIM, the Association for Image and Information Management, recently released their annual Paper-Free Industry Watch Report, based on a survey of 200 professionals working in a range of job functions and industries across the globe.

The survey, which has been issued annually since 2013, shows some progress on the road to removing—or at least heavily reducing—paper in the workplace. But despite the massive shift to digital technologies over the past two decades, only 25% of respondents to the 2016 survey indicated their work environment is paper-free, a mere 7% upswing from the 18% who answered the same way last year.

This year’s results showed the number of companies with some paper-free processes in place rise by just 3%, with 35% of organizations reporting that paper consumption is in fact not decreasing at all but is staying the same.

Interestingly, despite the reported slow growth in actual paper-free progress, overarching trends indicate a shift in preference away from paper and toward digital:

  • 50% say the amount of paper coming into their organization is on the decline, with another 68% saying they’re seeing an increase in inbound digital documents
  • 66% say customer demand for digital communication is increasing
  • 42% agree that the removal of paper from business processes should be a constant objective (even though it likely is not)

Based on the statistics above, we can infer a general consensus that digital is the way more people are—and should be—doing business. But why, then, do we continue to see such slow growth in the proportion of organizations reporting to be paper-free?

According to the AIIM study, one of the largest culprits is the way signature processes are managed. The majority of participants (65%) say that their organizations are still printing files to sign them. That’s right: over two-thirds of organizations continue to introduce paper into document processes that started in digital format. And with 51% saying documents are still regularly scanned in their workflows, signs point to these processes also ending in digital format.

So, what are some effective strategies for businesses struggling to make paperless progress? Addressing common barriers to success such as worker habits (like printing documents for reading or signing), lack of management or leadership involvement, and a lack of understanding or awareness about paper-free initiatives and options is a great place to start.

Work with executives to establish structured processes that eliminate steps involving paper (eSignature options can make an immediate impact). With this structure in place, loop in key stakeholders throughout your company to help communicate the new workflows, the corresponding expectations, and the reasons and achievable benefits behind the changes.

The upside to going paper-free is very real: survey respondents said they’re able to respond to customers faster and maintain a smaller yet more productive staff without paper in the way. And think about all the money to be saved on things like printer maintenance, storage, reams of paper, and waste disposal.

View our infographic summarizing the report’s results:

paper-free
See more of the results in the full report from AIIM here.

If you’re interested in learning about the ways Nitro can help your organization eliminate paper to become more sustainable, check out this article.