Businesses are steadily upgrading to digital core processes. Incoming forms and documents are captured into digital systems and moved through various workflows, automatically flagging some for review and processing others for payment. Purchase orders are automatically verified and sent to the warehouses. These are referred to as “back office” systems.
Customer-facing employees, known as the “front office,” have seen their efficiencies improved by implementing CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, help desk support and website improvements.
While both of those business segments have seen an increase in automation and digitization, the “middle office”, where meetings occur, projects are managed and decisions are made, is lagging behind.
According to a study conducted by AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management), the activities that occur in the “middle office” are deeply entrenched in manual processes and paperwork.
“34% of respondents admit that their offices are piled high with paper...
Only 16% run a clear-desk, mostly paper-free office.”
Let’s face it, people like paper. We like the feel of a paper book, the smell of a freshly-printed newspaper, the sheen of colorful magazines, etc. In the business setting, however, paper can be cumbersome and lead to inefficiencies. Some of the reasons people continue to use paper are habit, security and a lack of clear alternatives. For instance, instead of bringing an iPad or laptop to meetings, many people still prefer to take printed documents for taking notes. In the AIIM study, a full 52% prefer the convenience of taking a paper document with them to review and edit.
Those who work in the financial or legal industries also continue to lean heavily towards paper. When a signature is needed, 51% still want the person to actually sign on the dotted line instead of creating a digital version. According to AIIM, “A so-called “wet signature” is often deemed to be the only legal option, despite the fact that the representation of a signature as a bit-mapped image is enshrined in most legal jurisdictions.”
With the introduction of cloud-based options like Office 365, Google Docs and DropBox, sharing and collaboratively editing documents has become a lot simpler. Even so, 58% of the survey respondents admit that they store local copies on their PCs and share via email. Only 15% collaborate via cloud file share. Some people are just not yet entirely comfortable with the security offered in “the cloud.”
Another area in which “middle office” workers can improve productivity and document storage is by taking advantage of the scanning function within their MFPs (Multi-Function Printers). In fact, 26% of those surveyed admit that their MFPs are primarily used for printing and copying rather than scanning.
So, what can be done to help ease the transition to a paperless office? Here are a few suggestions from AIIM:
- Verify that MFPs are being used to their full potential. Train users on how to use the scanning functionality and how to route scanned images to specific locations or workflows.
- Prioritize the move to a paperless office by reinforcing paper-free processes and digital filing.
- Train office staff on the full range of available e-signature solutions, and discuss any concerns with legal advisors.
- Implement an integrated collaboration platform that provides a full range of office productivity solutions.
To bring the “middle office” into the digitized age, each organization must come up with a clear set of alternative solutions for their staff. If people are directed and encouraged by their IT department to use specific systems, and are trained in those systems, they are more likely to adapt. It is the lack of clear alternatives, and the lack of direction, that can be discouraging and lead people back to comfortable, paper-laden habits.
If your organization is struggling to find tangible, paper-free solutions, Advanced Data Spectrum can help.
Contact us today.