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How to identify paper usage in your company

31 October 2017

Paper is still a key part of business - whether it’s used for taking notes in a meeting or printing off invoices and expenses.

At an individual or even department level it may not feel as if much paper is used, but when you start to consider every business process in your organisation and the amount of paper used, the figures can be scary.

Identifying paper usage is a challenge for many businesses.

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In fact, it would be fair to assume that many companies simply don’t bother, despite the abundance of paper-filled desks and abandoned sheets on printer trays. Maybe it’s because it’s too much work to identify the usage, or it’s because it’s not seen as an issue.

Why identify paper usage?

People create paper documents because they want to use or store the information they’ve reproduced.

However, the more paper-intensive a project or process, the more inefficient it’s likely to be. And, if you’re trying to move away from print, it’s sensible to hunt down paper usage to see where processes can be improved.

Dealing with paper isn’t a great use of someone’s time; it would be far better if they were adding real value to the business instead of dealing with physical documents.

Looking for the danger paper signs

When you know what to look for, it shouldn’t take long to identify the danger signs of paper usage.

Here are some of the most common:

  • a significant amount of employee time (and space within the premises) devoted to managing paper documents and archives;
  • team members opting to share documentation via print out rather than digitally;
  • annotation of paper documents that are subsequently disposed of; and
  • the answer “I need to keep a record”, when someone is quizzed about the reason for reproducing a document in paper form.

The role of analytics

With an MPS contract in place, businesses can use document workflow analytics to access data on how paper is used within the organisation.

This should reveal the processes and documents that could be digitised.

There are five analytics levels that offer key insight into paper usage:

1) User analytics. Finds out exactly who printed what, and how, why and where they did it.
2) Device analytics. Reviews overall print volumes and the cost to the business, per device.
3) Service analytics. Gains information about how issues are resolved and service response performance.
4) Document analytics. Investigates how paper moves through an organisation with user-based filing and printing data for key documents.
5) Process analytics. Obtains information on processes that are print-centric and identifies the steps taken.

Digging deeper and putting paper to one side

Once you’ve used the above techniques to identify paper usage in your company, you can dig a little deeper.

It’s time to ask some second-level questions, and group them by the following four areas:

1) Documents

What documents lie at the heart of your most important processes?

How do they move around the business, and where do they reside? Who owns, creates and uses them?

2) Business processes

How does paper fit into the various tasks carried out by your teams and departments?

Can you identify any tasks that have never changed simply because nobody has looked for a better way to standardise?

3) Data

What key data does your business rely on and from where does it originate? Does that data end up on paper and, if so, how often do you need to rework documents when mandatory data is missing?

4) User behaviour

Who prints what?

Where, when and why do they do it?

Is there a solid business reason for every print out and what rules or incentives might affect people’s desire to print more (or less)?

The four areas above share a common theme: they don’t focus solely on print. Instead, they look at your business processes as a whole and enable you to identify issues that might lead you to printed documentation.

Are you ready to identify paper usage in your company and continue your journey towards digital transformation?

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