Does going paperless save time?

Did you know that one of the biggest hidden costs for businesses is the time it takes to handle paper files? Industry studies have shown that the typical worker spends over 20% of their day searching for documents.

It’s not so hard to believe if you think about it. Let’s say an office worker has to find 10 documents throughout the day. She gets the request, leaves her office, walks to a records room, and finds the right filing cabinet. Then, she has to flip through folders to find the necessary file, copy the paper, and re-file the folder. And, of course, walk back to her desk.

How long do you think this whole process might take? 5 minutes? 10? 20? If we estimate it takes 10 minutes for each file, 10 files a day quickly adds up to 100 minutes – 30% of her work week!

The beauty of ECM is that it cuts out all the legwork. Instead of spending time searching through file cabinets, you can retrieve the right one in seconds. All that time that she previously spent making the trek to the storage room can be used in more productive and lucrative ways.

A Garter Research has found, for example, that on average, “professionals spend 50% of their time searching for information and take 18 minutes to locate each document.” And the Delphi Group notes that “companies on average spend $25,000 to fill a typical four-drawer filing cabinet and $2000 to maintain it each year.” This means that “over its life-span, a single sheet of paper ends up costing an average of $30.”

A recent study examining work habits compared the amount of work that people were being asked to do today to that of ten years ago. 35% of those questioned said that they’re doing the work of two people, and 33% are doing the work of three people.

The study also found that that work is much more complex: 40% of people have between 2 and 5 windows open on their computer at any given time, and 25% have between 6 and 10!

Our American more-is-more business ethic may seem best, but in the end, it only serves to push employees past their limits and create high levels of burnout.

When you implement a good paperless (ECM system), you’ll find that you have much more time to work with. The secret is in how you choose to use that time.

Over the years, I’ve seen companies take three different approaches with this influx of time:

  1. They do nothing and let their employees find ways to fill the time. If their employees are self-motivated and resourceful, they may choose to use that time wisely and do something that increases productivity or quality. But this can also backfire if the time saved is wasted on other unimportant things.
  2. They work with their employees to find other areas in the office where they could become more efficient and thus, more profitable.
  3. They change how tasks are delegated, making sure things are better dispersed and everyone has a greater margin. When things are appropriately delegated, everyone is able to achieve that elusive work-life balance. Additionally, time is freed up for new ideas to grow. Creativity requires space, and those companies that want to be on the cutting-edge of their industries are making time to develop the ideas that will eventually make them more profitable.

In a way, my customer was right: simply purchasing an ECM definitely saves time, but it’s up to you to translate that time into money. Like all other resources, you have to use time wisely to improve other processes within your organization.

Just think of the long-term effect it could have on your organization if an ECM saved each employee one hour a week, and each employee used that time to find ways to save another hour each week. If this refinement process continued, it could transform your organization!