Survey Reveals Continuing Office Romance With Paper

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

There seems to be no sign of the so called ‘paperless office’, at least not yet, after a new survey revealed that office staff are loath to give up their paper copies

Good news for printer vendors after a new survey found that office staff are still hanging on to paper, despite the wide availability of scanners and document management systems.

These findings are detailed in a research report entitled “Document Scanning and Capture: local, central, outsource – what’s working best?” from AIIM, the content management association. The data was based on more than 850 responses from AIIM worldwide community members.

The survey found that 62 percent of important paper documents are still archived as paper. Even when documents are sent off for archive scanning, 25 percent are photocopied beforehand “just in case”.

And less than a third of the paper originals are systematically destroyed after scanning.

“We are at last in a situation where electronic archiving of records is efficient, effective and can save huge amounts of space, and yet most office staff seem to be hanging on to paper in the mistaken view that there is some legal reason to do so,” said John Mancini, president of AIMM.

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“Despite the fact that the legal admissibility of scanned paper documents has been established for nearly 20 years and is nailed down in legislation and standards around the world, there is still this suspicion among users that they may need to produce the original paper copy at some stage,” Mancini added.

“The fact that searching for – and finding – a paper copy is umpteen times more difficult than finding an electronic one seems to have escaped them,” he said.

The survey also discovered that 70 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement, “Users feel that paper records are needed for legal reasons.” Indeed, even at the organisational level, in 25 percent of businesses the legal admissibility of scanned documents is still seen as an issue.

“In many organisations there is a potential win-win situation, but only half of the benefit is being leveraged,” said Mancini. “Improved searchability of business documents is the biggest user driver for investments in scanning and capture, and yet a more visible benefit – reduced storage costs for records – is unrealised because of this obsession with holding on to the paper.”

Research late last year from Ricoh found that the UK was the worst country in Europe for sustainable printing, with companies wasting up to five percent of their turnover in printouts.

Meanwhile printer makers such as Hewlett-Packard have already created units that promise to cut enterprise printing costs by over 15 percent, and reduce customers’ carbon footprints – as long as they sign up to a total print service managed by HP.