Report: Going Paper-Free Achieves Payback in Fewer Than 18 Months

About half of businesses say digitizing content improves their ability to serve customers quickly and increases their overall productivity

Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM)

Benefits of digitizing paperwork and reducing paper use in the workplace are finally being realized, according to new research by information-management analysts, Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM). Of business executives surveyed, 84% saw payback from their paper-free projects within 18 months, with 26% doing so in fewer than six months.

While 20% of respondents to the new study, “Paper-Free Progress: Measuring Outcomes” say that consumption of paper is increasing in their organization, nearly half (49%) say it is decreasing. This 2015 net of 29% compares favorably with 23% net when the same research was conducted in 2014 and just a 3% net in 2011.

“Slowly but surely, organizations are coming round to the idea that digitizing much of the content and information flowing through their business can have both financial and operational benefits,” said AIIM president, John Mancini. “We are never going to eliminate paper completely, but when it becomes clear that going paper-free delivers return on investment and can improve overall productivity, businesses will be more willing to invest in the technologies that allow them to go paper-free.”

The AIIM study, “Paper-Free Progress: Measuring Outcomes,” was released as part of World Paper Free Day 2015 (Nov. 6), an AIIM initiative that challenges organizations to take solid steps on the path to using less paper, eliminating the waste and confusion that piles of office paper can create.

Organizations from all over the world have taken the paper-free pledge, including Fujitsu, Iron Mountain, and IBM. For each registration, AIIM will make a donation to One Laptop per Child, the non-profit organization offering laptops for children in developing countries.

The study identified the biggest benefits from going paper-free:

  • being able to respond faster to customers
  • improved compliance
  • increased productivity

And 80% of respondents agree that paper content and processes are a huge impediment to remote access and teleworking.

More than half (57%) say they are committed to digital transformation, but the study did reveal that in many organizations, there is still a lot of progress to be made in achieving that. Thirty-five percent of respondents say that most of the electronic invoices they receive get printed anyway, while 34% agree that most of the documents they scan are unchanged from printer to scanner. Thirty-one percent admit that their desk is “piled high” with paper.

A lack of management initiatives and staff preferences (both 49%) were the two main reasons why there is still so much paper around, while 39% feel there is a general lack of understanding of paper-free options.

“Despite the progress seen in this year’s research, paper is still being used unnecessarily in millions of offices all over the world,” concluded John Mancini. “Doing so means processes are slowed and untold harm continues to be done to the environment. Reducing paper is achievable for any organization, and at AIIM we will continue to educate on how best businesses can capture, manage and store information digitally – the paper war is not won yet!”

Other key findings in the AIIM report include:

  • The biggest driver for scanning and data capture is improved searchability and shareability (53%), followed by higher productivity and reduced storage space
  • 24% of respondents are not looking at any mobile projects for data capture
  • For those with mobile capture projects, speed of data availability and keeping paper out of the process have been the biggest benefits
  • 11% are already using cloud products for capture, and 17% have plans in the next 12 to 18 months

The research for “Paper-Free Progress: Measuring Outcomes” was underwritten in part by EMC, IBML, IBM, Iron Mountain, Kofax, Laserfiche, Opex, Papersoft and Swiss Post.

The full report is free to download here 

The survey was taken using a web-based tool by 430 individual members of the AIIM community between Aug. 14, and Sept. 2, 2015.