A Paperless Office: Is This Attainable for SMEs?
Business communications have changed massively over the last three decades. While documents such as invoices, statements and contracts were once sent and received solely via physical mail, the adoption of fax, followed by PCs, email and mobile devices, has seen organizations increasingly shift to digital alternatives. However, while small and medium enterprises (SMEs)are well aware of the need to eliminate paper processes in order to reduce costs, accelerate business processes and improve their environmental footprint, ‘going paperless’ is often viewed as a complex and daunting task. For SMEs, managing multi-channel communications that involve a mix of both physical and digital mail is a much more realistic step.
In contrast to the traditional office with its filing cabinets, shelves and document folders all of which require a considerable amount of space, maintenance and resources; a paperless office consists of a computer with all business documents stored in a digital format. While physical mail remains an effective means of communication, there’s no doubt that digital communications save money on paper, ink and postage, as well as staffing and office costs – costs which smaller businesses can then utilize elsewhere. Furthermore, embracing both physical and digital communications improves business response, as the content of inbound and outbound messages can be fully integrated with internal processes.
The adoption of digital communications by SMES is also being driven by the customer. In many cases, customers still prefer to receive paper bills and statements, however an increasing number of them prefer the immediacy and interactivity of electronic communications, which is encouraging forward-looking SMEs to change the way they communicate.
The growing use of digital communications has ultimately revived interest in the paperless office. While achieving a completely paperless office is unlikely - in 2013 the International Data Corporation reported that the number of A4 pages printed globally each year continues to decrease- SMEs can reap significant rewards by implementing solutions that enable them to lighten the paper load. For example, implementing an automated solution that facilitates the preparation, delivery and archiving of critical business communications. Through the smart use of technology, the burden on paper will continue to decrease, and will ultimately save SMEs time and money, while at the same time boosting productivity in the office.