a UK-based Adobe Acrobat engineer remarked, "I believe in striving to minimize the use of paper, but I do believe that we will probably never reach a position where paper is eliminated from our workplaces." This morning, his predictions were clearly confirmed by a study published by the information professionals organization AIIM.In 2008,
The study shows that while the exchange of PDF files as e-mail attachments has reduced the volume of paperwork traded between IT professionals, that reduction is not only minimal, but quite possibly made up for. Over three-quarters of IT professionals surveyed say one of the first things they do with a PDF-based invoice... is print it out.
And after those 77% of AIIM's 395 respondents print out their invoices, some 16% then scan them right back into the system for use as PDF attachments... some 77% of whose recipients print them right back out again.
Of the 358 respondents who provided detail for AIIM's study, entitled "The Paper Free Office: Dream or Reality?" some 10% said they actually print out their PDF invoices multiple times. And 10% say they print out at least one copy for archival purposes.
"Although many of the larger companies are pressing to have all-electronic billing and payment systems, we are still a long way from this ideal," the study reads. "Around a quarter or respondents are able to feed PDF invoices and fax images directly into a capture and/or workflow system. Another fairly common paper-intensive practice with faxes, especially with contracts and application forms, is to print the fax, sign it, and feed it back into the scanner or fax machine."
Ironically, some 45% of the documents being printed on paper originated, respondents said, not from scanned paper to begin with but from a word processor.
AIIM's respondents tended to fall into two groups: those whose companies do not scan their paper-based forms (including invoices) prior to their being processed, and those who do. Both groups were asked to list all the costs involved in the handling process, including labor. For the former, the average cost for processing each paper form prior to mailing it was $3.63 per form. For those who do scan, the cost falls to $2.83 per form.
So companies look at the 80¢ they're saving per form, and conclude they have the right to proclaim themselves "green." As AIIM noted, these businesses are failing to recognize that their business processes continue to revolve around paper. One astounding finding is that almost 30% of respondents scan their mail upon arrival, ostensibly for archival purposes, but many of them with the intent of printing out the scans since businesses tend to believe paper storage to be more permanent than electronic.
The study makes this... fairly obvious suggestion: "Keying the data at source into a Web form or a mobile device, rather than filling out a paper form, will save all of these costs."