The invention of paper records was a major milestone in the development of civilization, and certainly an upgrade over clay tablets. But a far more versatile option has come along, and paper may someday go the way of clay.
If your company isn’t already on the path to a more digital way of doing business, here are 5 reasons to make the switch from paper to digital records management as soon as possible.
1. Paper is a waste of space
Paper may not seem like it takes up a lot of space, what with a standard sheet of paper only being about 1/10 of a millimeter thick - but it really stacks up fast. According to one study, the average office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper every year. Of course, paper records only make up a fraction of that total, but it still gives you an idea of just how prevalent paper still is in today’s business world.
A standard 4-drawer filing cabinet takes up about 17 square feet of office space when you include the space necessary to open the drawers and access its contents. How much floor space is devoted to paper records at your organization? A digital records management system allows you to free up valuable real estate to be used more effectively - or even not at all, which could greatly reduce your overhead.
Even better, with decentralized cloud computing, you don’t need to worry about large banks of computer mainframes and servers taking up entire rooms at each of your locations.
2. Going digital saves you time and money
Just as paper may not seem to take up much space, it also may not seem expensive. However, one study found that the cost of managing paper could actually be up to 31 times more expensive than the cost of the paper itself.
Managing records physically also requires a lot of time. In fact, according to Record Nations, a typical employee spends between 30% and 40% of their time looking for information stored in filing cabinets. When you go digital, rather than manually digging through drawers of old paper records, workers can quickly and easily conduct a simple computer search to access the documents they need.
3. Digital records are more secure
Apart from taking up space and slowing things down (there’s more? These things really are the worst!), paper documents also pose serious security risks. Paper can easily be lost or stolen. On the other hand, strong encryption protocols on electronic records allow you to create strict permission structures, granting access only to those with proper clearance or via your company’s secured network.
Paper records are difficult to track, meaning it’s relatively easy for someone to tamper with them without getting caught. However, digitized records produce a clear chain of custody and allow you to track who has accessed documents and when.
Additionally, paper documents are at a greater risk of being damaged during an unexpected disaster, like a fire or flood. Digitizing your records and keeping them in a cloud-based server can be an important component to securing business continuity in the event of a natural disaster.
4. Achieve greater collaboration
One of the most commonly cited issues within businesses is information silos. In one study, 86% of executives and employees attributed most team problems and failures to bad communication or lack of collaboration. Another found that 69% of CFOs said that keeping information siloed in departments is the biggest or most common financial mistake that companies make today.
Digitizing documents is an important step toward tearing down information silos and removing barriers to effective communication and collaboration. Put simply, digitally managed documents are easier to access and share. Records can be accessed by anyone with permission in the system and information becomes more widely available, making it far more useful and valuable.
This is vitally important in industries like healthcare, where quick access to a patient’s medical records - which may have originated in an entirely different part of the country - may be the difference between life and death. But businesses in all industries are likely to see a boost in productivity and innovation after switching to digital information systems.
5. Reducing paper usage is eco-friendly
The demand for paper is a major contributor to deforestation across the planet, and it’s up to environmentally-friendly businesses to look for ways to limit their paper consumption in order to help protect our planet. Switching to a digital records management system is an important part of the larger project of digital transformation - and it is one that companies can fairly easily undertake to transition to a more eco-friendly and sustainable operating model.
Paper documentation has played a central role in the way we maintain important records and information for thousands of years, so it’s not surprising that many are reluctant to let it go. Of course, we can’t ignore that certain highly-regulated industries, like the financial and legal industries, have specific requirements for how records should be maintained. However, as scanning and data capture technology continues to improve, and with eSignature services providing viable alternatives to traditional “wet signatures,” the trend is clearly shifting towards digital records keeping. While the modern office may never be entirely paperless, companies looking to reduce costs, save space, and improve document security should look for opportunities to transition to a digital records management system.
Digitizing documents can also support business continuity and create new efficiencies that make it easier for companies to bounce back after a crisis. Find out more about how technology is aiding recovery efforts in How Digital Transformation Can Help Companies Survive COVID-19.