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The Paperless Office Myth, Part 1

Recently, I had the opportunity to contribute to Financial Ops magazine (print edition) Special Reports: Technology feature. Within the piece I discussed the paperless office, with a focus on the past, present as well as providing predictions on what the future will look like.

I shared several important nuggets of information within the piece and wanted to share with our readers here at the MetaBlog.

Is a paperless office really possible? Can financial leaders, burdened with managing large storage rooms of documents, climb out from beneath the mountains of paper to time-saving automation?

Yes and yes.  Though the paperless office may seem like a pie in the sky dream, it is no myth. Although paper may never be fully eradicated from our day to day office lives, paperless financial transactions are within reach for most organizations and can provide enormous benefits.

Historically, a paper-heavy business process takes massive shots at productivity and profits.  Organizations should realize that paperless offices, through implementing solutions that integrate and provide automation to their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, will enable them to recognize the full benefits of an office without mountains of paper.

The Past
Paperless ERP, with automation, is a clear catalyst for moving an organization to a paperless office. In years past, paper has been the natural enemy and oftentimes, a black hole of efficiency. When information and data is stored on voluminous quantities of paper, it cannot be shared, acted upon or retrieved efficiently. The more documents that are hand-delivered around an office for approvals or revisions, the slower the overall payment process becomes. This practice also increases the likelihood of invoices being buried under in-basket stacks or delayed when personnel are out of the office.

A 2011 study sponsored by Metafile, found that paper is still the most prevalent form of processing accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR). Nearly 75 percent of the survey respondents indicated that invoices are primarily shared among coworkers in hard-copy format. More than 57 percent indicated that hard copies were their principal format for approving invoices.

Change can be difficult. Digitizing all data into a paperless system that eliminates manual operations is a significant leap for many executives and staff. Unfortunately, fear has stopped many businesses from adopting more precise technologies and business practices. History tells us the amount of paper within an organization can directly impact the bottom line and contribute many thousands of dollars in unnecessary cost across the board.

Paper processes can generate uncertainty and blind spots in a business. Accounting has no way to know on which desk—or in whose drawer—a paper invoice resides after it is sent around for approval. Executives are unable to make accurate financial predictions because they can only see completed transactions—not those in process or floating somewhere in the company’s structure.

Thankfully the advancement of technology provides solutions that can enable businesses in achieving a paperless office.

Stay tuned for the remaining two parts, to be posted in the coming weeks, of this series on The Paperless Office Myth.

Topics: Paperless ERP