Last week, new research from AIIM showed that despite everything, the paperless office is further away that it ever was. Research just published by Adobe today confirms this, even if the majority of managers questioned in that survey do not like paper in their business processes.

Paperless Office Myth

In fact, in the survey of 1051 managers in the US, the results of which appear in the Adobe paper entitled Paper: An Endangered Species, the majority have come around to a digital way of thinking with security, productivity, human resources and ‘green’ issues as their major concern.

It is ironic that this research should appear the week after the AIIM research. While AIIM shows on one hand that paper use is growing, particularly for records, the Adobe research points out that most business managers across the entire business spectrum, from small to medium and larger enterprises, wish this were different.

This is not just research for the sake of it, though. The findings of the research looks at ways to overcome the over-reliance on paper. Needless to say, because this is Adobe and one of the big e-Signature tools on the market at the moment is EchoSign from Adobe, the real rive here is to find out where exactly this product will fit in the market.

If security and issues around signatures are one of the principal obstacles to a truly digital office, then clearly there is a big place for EchoSign -- not to mention the many other competing products.

Paper Business Processes

So what’s so bad about paper -- apart from the mess, that is? It seems that more than 50% of all managers believe that digital workers are more productive workers and that burrowing through mountains of paper files is a waste of productive work hours.

This was also one of the findings of the AIIM report, which to a large extent tallies with what Adobe has found here. It also shows that not only does paper create problems internally, it is also perceived as something that makes attracting customers more difficult: Some of the figures that emerged from the Adobe research include:

  • Digital workflow makes filing and managing documents easier (51%)
  • Working digitally is cheaper than working with paper (61%)
  • Digital processes facilitate customer wins and helps develop new business (32%)

Paper Contract Difficulties

Digging deeper down into the research in an attempt to identify what processes are impacted by paper documents, the research pointed to contracts and contract signing as being one of the areas that caused most difficulties when it came to paper.

And despite the fact that e-Signatures have been available for a long time, the tipping point where companies make the jump to digital signatures is still in the future, even if it is in the near future.

In this respect, the research points out that, as yet, only 18% of enterprises have switched to purely digital formats when it comes to producing or signing contracts.

That said, most said that they would be interested in an automated Web contracting tool that would make it easy to sign, track and secure contracts. Notable here is that:

  • 98% say they still use paper contracts
  • 72% said an e-Signature tool could fill a critical business need
  • 73% say life would be easier if all contracts were done digitally.

Paper, security and trust

There are many implications for using paper in business processes, not least of which is the impact it has on the relationship between partners, vendors and customers.

This was particularly true when it came to the security of contracts at the heart of business agreements and commercial transactions. The obvious fear here is that documents are relatively easy to alter compared with digital documents with more than two-thirds citing this as an issue. Other than that:

  • 60% of managers believe password-protected electronic documents are more secure than paper documents locked in a safe
  • 56% cited the fear of losing a paper document as the top “con” of using paper

Digital companies were also seen as more attractive work environments with 76% of respondents saying enterprises with a strong digital environment are more impressive, with 68% saying that a company with strong digital presence is more attractive to work in than companies that has a heavy reliance on paper.

EchoSign Infographic.jpg