Risks of paper in your business

by Ricoh Australia 09 January 2017

Still using paper in your business? You could be at risk

Digital evolution

Digitising records provides efficiency benefits, better corporate governance, improved business processes, and reduced costs. The Australian Government requires all of its agencies to move to digital records management by 2020 and Australian businesses who follow suit stand to make significant gains. 1

The risks and costs of paper

Most businesses store vast amounts of paper documents in filing cabinets, drawers, and archive boxes; and this is putting their business at risk. It takes up physical space on premises and may necessitate paying for storage off site. Retrieving important documents takes time and can cost money.

This can be true even if the business has already moved towards digitisation, since some businesses may not consider digitising historical documents. Yet, depending on your industry, you may be required to access these documents so it is a good place to start. Digitising historical documents also contributes to good governance and helps to maintain company intellectual property.

Misfiling, fire, theft, flooding, or other disasters can ruin papers and it's unlikely that a business has backup copies of every piece of paper stored in another location. By contrast, digitised documents are usually backed up in a data centre in a different location, so even a complete disaster is unlikely to mean that all these documents are lost.

The risk is even greater if the business in question is subject to the Australian Privacy Act: losing or not securing documents appropriately can lead to fines and other sanctions.

The case for digitising your documents now

Technology advances have made it easy to digitise documents, both retrospectively and proactively. And the benefits can be substantial. For example

  • businesses can access relevant information faster, making better-informed decisions sooner
  • staff spend less time looking for information and more time acting on it
  • customers receive better service because it takes less time to retrieve their records, and they can even access the information they need online
  • the cost and space associated with storing paper documents can be put to other, more effective uses
  • organisations can more easily comply with the Privacy Act and other industry-related requirements
  • business continuity is more assured, since the business can access backups of all documents in case of a disaster
  • reporting, both internally and to external parties like auditors, is faster, easier, and more accurate
  • less use of paper makes the business more environmentally sustainable as well as saving costs
  • businesses can enable employees to work remotely with full access to the documents and information they need to do their job effectively
  • digitised information can be analysed more easily to find trends and patterns over time that may affect operations.

In fact, digitisation can have an immediate effect on the organisation's bottom line.

Where to start digitising

The easiest way to digitise documents is to either digitise them as they come in or use digital workflows to begin with. Modern scanners can seamlessly integrate with cloud storage and document management solutions, making this process even easier.

Human resources and accounting are two of the best places to start a digitisation program. For example, transitioning paper-based processes like transforming employee on-boarding documents to digital forms can improve the accuracy and integrity of records, and save time for new employees and the HR team. Similarly, digitising accounts payable invoices as they come in can avoid the paper chase that happens as they make their way through the organisation to be approved for payment and then paid.

Taking immediate control of business information will yield both short- and long-term benefits across the organisation, so it's worth starting now.

1 http://www.naa.gov.au/records-management/digital-transition-policy/benefits-of-digital-information.aspx