Top 5 Excuses for Sticking with Paper Documents

By Daniel O'Leary posted 06-22-2011 17:35


About a week ago, I had a nice conversation with two other AIIM Expert Bloggers Chris Walker and Chris Riley about some of the crazy excuses we've heard from people for sticking with cumbersome, often physically painful, forms and antiquated paper-based processes. Based on our conversations, here are the Top 5 excuses we've heard for clinging to paper.

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1. My filing system is based on what color staples I use. (true story)

Okay, so this isn't a real common tale, but only relative to the staples. We hear about zany filing systems all the time. Anyway, someone told me this at a government workshop about a month ago, and it blew my mind. Seriously now, their filing system and workflow depend on what color staples and paperclips are attached to their paper documents. This is a hallmark example of a bad process that should probably not be converted to an electronic one. I've also had people say the same thing about what color paper forms are printed on.  What happens when they run out of staples? Does work cease? "Hey, let's all go home, Ted forgot to order the red ones."

2. We only accept paper documents with ink signatures

This one is just irksome. Today, you can apply for social security, buy a home, incorporate a business and file taxes online without ever making a piece of paper. In the United States, there are two laws that govern the legality of digital signatures and electronic documents called UETA and E-SIGN. Since 1999, an electronic document and a simple typed signature has been the standard for consumer transactions. Try and recall the last time you did anything online that required you to print and sign something ...

3. My users aren't comfortable working on a computer

According to the IRS , last year only 8% of Americans received their tax forms by mail. Overwhelmingly, people use devices like smartphones, laptops, and other technology that are much more powerful than what they use at work. We have found that typically in these cases, it's the employee making the excuse who is uncomfortable with adopting automated processes, not the customer who just downloaded a movie to their iPhone. With that in mind, you could always fall back to a paper form for the fringe cases where people cannot or will not complete forms. With LincDoc, this is the main reason we use people's existing PDF and Word documents—to create a sense of familiarity and so that an organization can always fall back to the paper if required. Unfortunately.

4. It's too expensive to use electronic forms

This comes up A LOT. Primarily, it is because the hard costs of buying, printing and handling paper are considered "routine" and therefore largely disregarded as a large expense. Meanwhile, paper itself and its related processes are draining budgets and hampering productivity. Furthermore, there are a ton of great options available for people of all budget sizes and shapes. While not everyone can spend the $250,000 to implement Adobe LiveCycle or buy and code SharePoint and Infopath, tools like Google Docs are essentially free. Today, most organizations can have a professional level eForms solution for less than $1,000 a month. Given the massive savings that come from not using paper, the ROI is easy to calculate. 

5. "Because that's just THE WAY WE DO IT!"

This is just someone not at all interested in change. (You can always follow up with: "You don't use an outhouse still do you?)

Inertia and unexamined processes are the most common reasons people stick with paper forms. Change is often painful, and people and organizations have to be prepared for the process. It's always easier to stay where you are, however your competition probably won't, and neither will your top talent. In a world as flat and connected as we live in, being stuck with broken processes is a recipe for failure. If you aren't sure how to start along this road AIIM has some amazing tools and resources to help you. As Christian Walker puts it, "You are insane if you keep doing things that don't work"

So AIIM Community, what's the worst excuse you've ever heard? 

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