Digital technology has long been hyped as the route to a paperless office.
In the last decade or so, most businesses have dramatically reduced their paper consumption. The rows of filing cabinets containing every piece of correspondence and documentation are long gone. The contents of those files have been scanned and digitalised, stored on a secure server to be called up in an instance when required. The post bag is a shadow of its former self, and the photocopier machine is gathering dust.
But many of us are still reliant on the office printer and the paperless office is not yet a reality. Regardless of email footers asking whether "you really need to print this email" and company policies to reduce paper consumption, most workplaces still have a long way to go before they can claim to be a paperless office.
However, we think that’s changing and 2020 could be the year we see companies making significant progress towards a paperless workplace. Why now? Read on:
3 key drivers to a paperless office in 2020
- Climate change is on the board’s agenda
Environmental concern is at its highest level since YouGov started tracking public opinion on this topic amongst a decade ago. As well as pressure on the Government to take action, activists are also calling on organisations and businesses to improve environmental sustainability. Material consumption is one of the targets and that’s driving interest in products like DocuSign as one way of reducing paper usage.
The need for signatures on documents has long been a barrier to the paperless office. Many offices resort to printing the document, signing it, and then scanning it to create a digital copy. Questions about the validity of an electronic signature have also prevented some organisations from adopting these paperless solutions.
However, products like DocuSign have overcome these challenges. First and foremost, the process of signing a document is completely digital – no paper is involved. Secondly, multiple levels of authentication ensure the right person signs the document. And thirdly, these contracts are legally binding and accepted for most global business transactions. DocuSign also has advanced signature options that can further reduce your risk for regulated or high-value transactions by complying with local or industry eSignature standards.
- Millennials don’t need paper printouts
The younger workforce - Millennials and Generation Z - has grown up with technology and is used to viewing information on a screen. While older members of staff may want to print a document, from habit or because they find paper copies easier to read, this is not a problem for younger employees.
Experts predict that by 2020, millennials will make up 35% of the global workforce with Gen Z making up 24%. That’s over half the workforce, all digitally savvy and used to reading, annotating and reviewing information on a computer, tablet or mobile.
I think their working practices will increasingly influence older generations too. For example, when attending a meeting they’re more likely to come armed with just their device to view a presentation or look through a report. With exposure, those employees who would normally requested a printout will become more accustomed to viewing a digital version, and will start to see the benefits too.
- 83% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020
Whether on public or private cloud platforms, or using hybrid models, it’s predicted that 83% of enterprise workloads will be running in the cloud by 2020.
Why’s this significant? Cloud collaboration solutions negate the need for paper as documents, spreadsheets, presentations, notes and messages can be shared digitally in real-time. There are numerous benefits including:
- Reducing human error – paper documents can be misfiled resulting in hours spent looking for them. Whereas documents stored in the cloud can be searched for in seconds.
- Greater transparency – sharing documents using solutions such as Office 365 increases collaboration and transparency. Unique documents don’t need to be physically delivered to stakeholders one at a time (and there’s no need to print multiple copies) everyone can view the most up-to-date version at any time.
- Better security – cloud solutions give organisations better control over who has access to documents and data, compared to documents sitting in a filing cabinet. Whether it’s to protect against insider or external threats, rules and security defences are better protection than a filing cabinet key.
- Fast communications – email has been a key driver in reducing paper consumption in business – provided that people don’t print them out… Other digital solutions are also removing the need for paper communications. Tools like Microsoft Teams, Yammer and SharePoint make it really easy and convenient to communicate with colleagues without needing to physically deliver a note.
These cloud benefits not only reduce your need for paper but also drive efficiencies in your organisation, increase productivity and collaboration, and reducing costs. Not just the cost of printer paper, post it notes and message pads either! It’s also a more affordable and flexible way of managing your IT.
So will your office be paperless by the end of 2020? The technology is certainly there to achieve this goal. And the appetite is also there amongst many organisations and their employees to become environmentally sustainable. Get in touch if you would like to discuss how this could be achieved in your office.