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Overcoming the R7bn office crisis

More than fours hours a day is spent managing documentation.

Read time 3min 40sec

Business management professor Dr Peter Richardson has discovered that as much as 50% of managerial time is devoted to document management. That amounts to more than four hours per day, or more than 120 days each year.

Inefficient document management can impact companies' performances and lead to their failure. Dr Richardson, who is based at Queen's School of Business, in Ontario, Canada, points out that 40% of the time that business people spend on documents delivers "little or no value". He estimates the time spent finding, reviewing, writing, editing and sending documents costs businesses about $50 billion each year in lost productivity in Canada alone.

Bringing his findings closer to home, we can see our own businesses here in SA are wasting something in the region of R7 billion each year through employing unnecessary, outmoded and inefficient document management processes.

Many companies are completely unaware of this waste. A recent poll carried out by research organisation MORI found 49% of businesses were unable to estimate how much their organisations spend on document management.

Document costs, including materials, labour, production and maintenance, constitute 5% to 15% of companies' annual revenue. Yet effective implementation of document management can save businesses 10% to 30% of these costs. Clearly our businesses could be saving themselves thousands, if not millions of rand each year.

Importance of documents

A recent poll carried out by research organisation MORI found 49% of businesses were unable to estimate how much their organisations spend on document management.

Rob Abraham is MD of Xerox distributor Bytes Document Solutions.

It is easy to forget the importance of documents; they are so prevalent. Yet if we consider how much documents cost, it is evident how critical they are to a business, but only where they are effectively managed.

The bottomless paper and e-mail lakes that impede so many companies today have left many standing on the edge of chaos. A significant proportion of paper and electronic communications goes astray, or is not sent or not read. Document management has become a major issue.

Many of our businesses, especially our small and medium-sized companies, have not adapted quickly enough to the document explosion of the last decade. Many businesses are making critical business decisions with only 10% of the information that could be available to them. Why? Because this information is stored in people's briefcases and heads, local PCs, hard-copy files, or even in the heads of those no longer with the company.

Imagine how much more productive and responsive our businesses could be if they electronically stored and managed all information, so they could make decisions with all the relevant facts immediately at hand - just in time.

Simple to achieve

With a change of mindset and a willingness to invest, this transformation is simple to achieve. To reduce document costs and increase efficiency, companies can migrate their separate electronic and paper document processes onto a network, connected throughout their offices.

The key is digital, multifunctional technology. With a mid/high-volume output, multifunctional machines can fulfil all a busy office's document requirements on their own, eradicating the need for four or five costly devices. Production costs are reduced too. These machines process multiple jobs from multiple users, simultaneously printing, copying, scanning, faxing and online networking.

We have compared the power of multifunctional devices against standalone machines. In a live demonstration, we pitted a traditional system of an inkjet printer, copier, scanner and fax against two multifunctional machines.

The test involved everyday office jobs, from printing and distributing a document to multiple recipients, designing and producing presentation slides, faxing and colour scanning. The multifunctional machines completed all jobs on-site, controlled from the user's PC. They also completed the jobs more quickly and with less labour. Most importantly, the cost of the job was far less, R180, compared to R1 309 using the combination of standalone machines.

Additionally, beyond the benefits of improved quality, reliability, productivity and cost, companies can respond more flexibly to subtle changes in the market. As document processes are more efficient, production and delivery times become quicker too, leading to faster response rates to enquiries and orders. This allows market trends to become apparent earlier, giving companies competitive advantage.

* Rob Abraham is MD of Xerox distributor Bytes Document Solutions.

Rob Abraham

MD of Bytes Document Solutions

Rob Abraham is MD of Bytes Document Solutions.

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