Confident surfer riding the barrel of documents wave

Why can’t we let go? – Businesses’ love-hate relationship with paper

By Cássio Vaquero, Regional Director, Information Management division, for APAC and Latin America.

Did you know?  – Our brains were not designed for reading, but have adapted and created new circuits to understand letters and texts. The brain reads by constructing a mental representation of the text based on the placement of the page in the book and the word on the page. The tactile experience of a book aids this process, from the thickness of the pages in your hands as you progress through the story to the placement of a word on the page.

 #Fact – Lead researcher Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University concluded that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does.[1]

#FunFact – 45% of the documents scanned today, were born digital

In today’s day and age, multiple books can be downloaded and read on a single e-reader. In many parts of the world, people can now travel cashless with solutions such as Uber, Visa paywave, digital wallets,  and a myriad of mobile payment apps.  Kodak Alaris_Cassio

With the increase of digital information and conveniences, the need for paper seems to be waning, but is it really? Have we fully made the leap to a paperless society? The answer is no.

Behind the sleek shiny counters of banks, hospitals, retail and customer-service outlets, it is no surprise to find a room full of stacked papers documenting transactions, loan agreements, medical health records, legal documents etc. While we’re in the age of digital information, the problems of paper is still binding.

As new non-paper inputs are coming into the organization (think emails with or without PDF attachments, for instance), we almost by default still print and thus convert them to paper. Notes are scribbled on these printouts, sometimes endorsed with signatures, and then scanned into soft copies. In fact, it is estimated that 45% of the documents that are scanned are born digital.[2]

While organizations are moving towards making information more fluid and are increasingly hosting digital data in the cloud. We cannot stray from the fact that data is still streaming in from various sources, especially paper.

Only 36% of organizations are making significant progress towards paper-free processes. Businesses cannot fully let go of paper.

Why can’t we let go?

  1. Signature security

One of the traditional areas for paper use is collecting signatures. Approvals on official documents come with stamps and authorized signatories that need to be accurately scanned to create digital copies. Many businesses are trying to make the shift from handwritten signatures to e-signatures.

In an AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) survey, 79 percent agree that they should have an e-signature mechanism. However many are still unable to do this – 56 percent still used paper for signatures – and hence are reducing their efficiency by requiring hand-written signatures on digital documents[3]

There is technology enabling secure e-signatories, however adoption, especially in the APAC region, is slow.


As progressive as businesses are becoming, certain documents still need to be legally kept in paper/physical format. Our personal identification cards, driver’s license, legal case files and court documents, health records, are some key documents that are recorded on paper and scanned for digital records. However, they have yet to make a full shift to being recorded digitally. Till then, organizations need to religiously create digital copies. Paper documentation remains a necessity for legislature proceedings.

 Digital data indigestion

It is not that businesses are not receptive to new technology, old habits just die hard. Taking notes on a printout and authorized signatories on physical documents give individuals greater assurance, and people and organizations will continue to do so for quite a while.

The problem lies not in the digital media itself — how it’s processed or stored, or any other of its qualities. The problem lies in how we consume it and interact with it. The problem is the interface. It is a personal preference.

Whether the ‘paperless office’ will become a reality is a hot topic, but until there is a 100% shift to digital records, data from multiple physical and digital sources need to be merged and placed in the cloud for ease of access, categorization and information management.

How can we cope?

Know your paper policy

Organizations need to understand legislations and optimize work executed within legal boundaries. The information from these paper documentations tend to be essential and confidential and need to be accurately scanned, to be properly reflected in digital copies for categorization and management.

Having a centralized information management system further improves traceability and compliance. Improved data capture quality incorporated into downstream processes further facilitates process standardization, regulatory compliance and security by creating the same transactional audit trails and controlling access only to authorized personal.

Ensure high quality capture

Poor data quality as a result of incorrect, missing, or duplicate data costs businesses on average $14.2 million annually. One way to ensure the accuracy of data is to leverage optical character recognition (OCR) technology that can capture, index and eliminate data entry fails from the start. This transforms scanned material into fully searchable electronic documents.

To achieve the full benefits of distributed capture, additional browser-based capture applications can further simplify and increase efficiency of information management. A browser-based interface allows every workstation in the office to be connected to scanning solutions.

Cut to the chase

Real-time response is the norm and expected of organizations across banks, retail outlets, healthcare services, and even within the government sector. A common thread across these organizations, is that customer information sits both in physical forms and digitally through online systems. Organizations need to find the fastest most efficient route to optimize the processing of data and smoothen information management workflow.

Accurate scanning with OCR technology is a start, minimizing time required for rescanning errors. Automated categorization of information through machine learning is another key technology that saves organizations huge amounts of time and further minimizes entry errors that are common with manual entry.

Once information is on a centralized system, staff need to be able to readily and easily access information in order to provide real-time response and enhance customer service levels.

Despite improvements in technology, it is not easy letting go of paper. While technology is making progressive steps towards paperless offices, businesses still heavily rely on paper. Therefore, businesses need to manage paper in order to manage and marry digital and physical information in the most efficient way possible.




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