What’s Keeping Companies From Going All-Digital?
APR 02, 2018 02:02 AM
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What’s Keeping Companies From Going All-Digital?

by Larry Alton
The advantages of an all-digital, paperless office are overwhelming, and eco-friendly organizations and big companies have been talking about them for years. Some companies have even made a dramatic statement by going wholly paperless, even banning disposable cups and paper towels from the office.
An all-digital model could help you:
  • Save space. Switching to all-digital record keeping will help you save space, minimizing your incoming and outgoing mail, and eliminating the need for bulky filing cabinets and similar storage spaces.
  • Reduce paper costs. You’ll also see a dramatic decrease in paper costs, up to $80 per year, per employee by some estimates.  
  • Increase efficiency. Storing your information in a centrally accessible, digital software platform makes it far more searchable (and easier to access) than paper records. Employees can access data anywhere, and find things much faster.
  • Look good to customers. Having a positive effect on the environment can also boost your reputation with customers—especially if they’re invested in environmental concerns. Touting your brand as all-digital could be the extra reputation boost you need to remain competitive.
So why aren’t more businesses going in this direction?
Technological Limits
First, there are some fundamental limits to what technology can do. Not all software platforms are compatible with each other, and may not be conducive to content sharing; for example, if only your accounting team has access to your accounting software, it will be harder to share the information on a given invoice with someone from a different department.
New technologies, like paperless scanners, are making it easier to transform paper-based materials to a digital format, but they still aren’t perfect; depending on the model, they may not be able to make the content editable or searchable automatically, and they may require manual operation that companies aren’t willing to pursue.
Combating Tradition
Fighting against tradition is also a major challenge, especially for entrenched corporations. If your head of finance has been in the same position for 20 years, and is used to approving all invoices and purchase orders with a stamp in manila folders, it may be difficult to persuade him to change his approach. Similarly, if you have an entire team of people all following the same manual processes for documentation, going paperless would require an intensive retraining program—and one that not many managers would be willing to spend the time or money to invest in.
Paper Advantages
There are also some advantages of paper that remain, despite the allure of advanced technology. Taking notes on paper, for example, helps to keep you alert during a meeting, gives you more flexibility for formatting, and may help you remember the material you’re taking notes on. In addition, reading content on paper materials may aid in boosting retention, and reduce eye strain during the reading process. This is especially important for roles that require hours of reading each day.
Partner and Client Preferences
If you have a partner or a client who strongly prefers paper-based interactions, you’ll have even more difficulty making a full transition. For example, let’s say your client is a traditional, bureaucratic organization that mandates all invoices be sent by regular mail; if you try to transition them to an all-digital process, you may lose them as a client.
Finally, businesses need to think about security. When your sensitive client information is stored in a locked filing cabinet and you have the key, you’ll feel in control, and like your files are secure. If you’re not familiar with the latest security standards for cloud computing, however, you won’t feel as in control when those same files are uploaded, digitally, to the cloud. Of course, in many cases, cloud platforms are even more secure than their paper-based counterparts, but it’s not always easy to convince someone this is the case.
We might see enough breakthroughs in both technology and corporate culture to make the paperless office a more common reality in the next decade, but for now, going paperless is more of a challenge than we like to admit. Digital technology is enormously helpful in reducing our paper consumption, but paper systems are too integrated to make the full switch (at least for the time being).
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