The real cost of traditional document processes is far more than just paper. European businesses spend an average of €147 billion per year processing critical documents, and allocate 362 million man hours for processing. If this wasn’t significant enough, an average of 42.5 per cent of all business information is still contained in hard copy format.
A study by Ricoh across Europe revealed some interesting truths about the cost to businesses of adopting a paper-based administrative system. The term ‘business critical document process’ refers to regular interactions within your industry that are document heavy. These interactions have an impact upon businesses, both in terms of revenue, efficiency and sustainability.
When asked, businesses across Europe maintained that their top three priorities were as follows: increasing knowledge sharing (67 per cent), improving security (67 per cent) and workforce effectiveness (65 per cent). Yet across the countries Ricoh researched, only 22 per cent of European businesses had a fully automated process for managing key documents. Efficiency improvements are clearly needed, because the cost to businesses has been found to be significant.
The cost to staff
As mentioned above, the process of managing critical business documents has a huge impact on staff productivity. In the UK, the cost to business of using staff to manage critical documents is €28 billion per year, which is a staggering figure. This equates to over 69 million man hours in the UK, the second highest in Europe next only to Germany. This figure clearly shows that managing paperwork is costing UK businesses an extraordinary amount of time and money, the question to think about now is where could that energy be better placed?
The cost to business processes
Industries that lacked an optimised process often struggled to maintain an effective audit trail. In healthcare, 29% of respondents did not have any audit trail at all. Businesses that can automate, or part-automate their documentation processes often provide a better service to their clients, and better reach their own internal goals. By optimising processes, businesses can improve knowledge-sharing and thereby the effectiveness of their workforce. The majority of companies that participated identified security and collaboration as key business goals. Both of these key areas could be vastly improved if we began to look more closely at how we can more effectively manage internal documents .
The sectors most affected
Our research shows there is significant room for improvement across many business areas. In some sectors, the research revealed more resistance to change than others. Legal departments in particular were less likely to be automated fully (15% of all legal departments fulfilled this). Similarly, finance and accounting were unlikely to use an automated process, as 12% of all departments polled still operated with fully manual processes.
What does all this suggest? Quite simply that businesses ought to adopt more electronic and digital processes. Business leaders agreed that electronic documents were easier to find, and faster to use than their paper counterpart. The difficult thing for many corporations across Europe will be the cultural shift required to achieve this change, but as the figures suggest, the rewards will undoubtedly be worth it.