Can we ever do away with printed documents? Or is it just a matter of time?
It is an undeniable fact that the digital revolution is here with us and far from over. Whether you run a small business in the corners of the Johannesburg CBD or head a team of professionals in the much fancied office buildings in Sandton, odds are you rely on some form of digital technology to get things done.
Through integration and collaboration methods, digital technology facilitates the free flow of information among employees and management. Thus, ensuring the right information is available to the right people at the right time.
Does this mean the use of printed documents in the workplace is near defunct?
The answer to that is most definitely not, as recent surveys prove otherwise.
Printing, scanning and other paper-based activities are still very common in the corporate sphere. Many of their daily routines involve extensive paperwork, according to a study by Wakefield Research and Infotrends.
According to Wakefield, this proves that printed documents are not going away anytime soon. The report showed 73% of owners and decision-makers among small to medium-sized businesses, with fewer than 500 employees, print at least four times per day.
With all the noise about digital transformation and its benefits, why do many companies still hang on to paper for dissemination of information?
Ken Weilerstein, research vice-president at Gartner, provides an answer that perfectly sums it up for most of us.
"Paper is portable, universal and a familiar way to share and annotate documents," says Weilerstein.
"It is easier to read long documents on paper than on-screen. Paper is universally accepted as valid for contracts and other legal documents, and the signatures are familiar and accepted to a greater degree than any sort of digital signature," he added.
In a short conversation with KDS Direct (KYOCERA Document Solutions dealership) Marketing Manager, Nadine Girona, she confirmed that many South African corporate firms still print, scan and fax documents such as application forms, contracts, non-disclosure agreements, financial statements, and legal documents, among others.
However, a lot of these activities are done from a centralised multifunction printer (MFP), which provides different access levels depending on your department or role.
Girona says there is a developing trend. While most of these companies use paper for many of their daily activities, many of them are not oblivious to the benefits of digital document management systems. Many of them have found a way to mix the two approaches, hence harnessing the best of both worlds.
She further advised that while going paperless may be good for some industries, it may not be suitable for others. For example, human resources, legal and accounting departments by nature are very much reliant on paper due to the high levels of information sensitivity.
As a result, it is important to compare industry trends against your actual needs and processes for your own internal and external working relationships.