It’s certainly not long since we envisioned for the first time a “paper free” future. With the advent of the digital era we became confident that the times when we had to cut down trees in order to communicate or do business as usual were long gone. However, just like flying cars, this prediction, or wishful thinking - if you'd like - hasn’t been fully realized. As a matter of fact, we still have a lot to do concerning the digitization of every day life’s activities and procedures. As for the flying cars, I admit I haven’t heard anyone talking about them since a while ago… but it does not mean that hope is lost!
AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) is a non-profit organization that aims to tackle the issue of the slow advance towards a paperless future. AIIM organized a “Paper Free Day” on the 24th of October 2013 and revealed facts and figures about the slow digitization of businesses.
Let’s start with a somehow shocking fact: according to the data complied and presented by this organization, 19% of businesses have actually witness an increase in their paper flowing! On the contrary, 41% of organizations declared a decrease in the amount of paper used. The fact that one out of five organizations in the year of 2013 is actually using more paper than before is quite alarming.
According to AIIM, by removing paper, businesses will increase effectiveness. Therefore, apart from the urgent environmental issue that concerns protecting the planet by saving the trees, the switch to the wholly digitized era will increase effectiveness for any type of business. In that sense, there is absolutely no excuse for businesses not to make use of the benefits that the digital era gave birth to.
Most respondents to AIIM’s study believe that a paper free procedure can only mean a faster way of processing stuff. In other words, speed and effectiveness combines can guarantee business continuity and growth - it’s that simple!
In a different survey conducted by Iron Mountain (an expert in data protection and software escrow, among other services) has revealed that only one in ten European employees can describe their workplace as “paper free”. Well, that is undoubtedly a very disappointing figure, if we consider that in other (less developed) regions of the world the figures will surely be even lower.  
Iron Mountain recommends a “paper light” approach, as it is impossible to expect all business to go paper free. A “paper-light” approach is the process of digitizing documents that are frequently needed, while moving other paper documents into off-site storage sites.
Iron Mountain’s survey also informs us that 77% of the invoices that arrive in a company in PDF actually get printed. Reading these percentages, it makes you wonder: what happened to the digital revolution?
Finally, in yet another similar survey by ARX Inc. we get quite similar results. Apparently, 84% of UK businesses print documents just to get them signed in what it seems to be a waste of resources. Moreover, over 30% of organizations lose more than one day in order to collect necessary physical signatures! According to the findings of the survey, this happens because most people believe that physical signatures are more secure than digital signatures.
To sum up, even if we might be living in the so-called digital era, and we tend to be proud about it, we still don’t do much in order to take advantage of what this digital revolution has to offer to us. From bragging about something to actually change the habits and the decades-long practices takes some effort, after all.
Realizing the fact that a radical and sudden change - going paper free, that is - is not always an easy task, one can only hope that businesses and the people that make them will try their best in order to use fruitfully everything that modern technology has given to us… so, while dreaming of the day when flying cars will exist, let's not make paper airplanes instead and throw paper out of the window! It's just like throwing out oxygen away!

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    John Knoxell

    I am an independent consultant and freelance writer who has had working experience in a variety of industries in Europe.

    My research is focused on Data Protection, IT systems technologies and management. When I write I keep in mind that I don’t deal with experts but with everyday people that face everyday problems in their businesses. I can offer thoughts and ideas that can bring solutions.


    November 2013


    Digital World
    Information Governance
    Software Escrow