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Beyond the paper mountain – digital paperless solutions

There are various solutions on the market to help make offices less reliant on paper, while also contributing to increased efficiency. What can technology offer in the battle to make paper unnecessary, the workflow smoother and the planet healthier?

The devil is in the details. It doesn’t matter how creative the minds that lead a company are, or how good the products that they sell are, if disorganized administration permanently slows down the business flow.

As a reaction to growing demand, more companies are offering digital business management solutions that not only get rid of the mountains of paper at the office, but also are able to support business decisions by making every document, from chain letters to accounts, easy to manage and keep track of.

Solutions are available starting from simple devices, such as Panasonic’s Internet Fax, which converts documents into TIFF image files so they can be sent virtually without any printing involved. These files can then be handled by the more complex software solutions that cover all business processes from supply chain management through business data analysis to invoice management.

Such involved solutions are offered by SAP, the market leader in enterprise business intelligence. The German company’s products are most popular among large companies, although it does also offer solutions tailored to SMEs.

Targeted services

However, despite SAP’s extensive advisory services, the scale and complexity of its products can discourage some firms from implementing them. They will instead look for solutions that were designed specifically for smaller operations.

“We never wanted to implement a system of such great scale as SAP’s. It would take too much time, energy and money to make it profitable,” said Katalin Szűcs, head of NetLock Kft, a company engaged in data security solutions and digital authentication, explaining why her company chose filing and accounting software from ElastOffice Magyarország instead.

ElastOffice’s services focus mainly on document management and target SMEs. Its software handles all the business documents in a company’s intranet system, and is also capable of registering information in any form, from letters and invoices to the voice recordings of telephone conversations.   

Paper tons

In addition to making business data easier to manage, long-term aims might also lead companies to invest in business management software products. 

In a world where environmental consciousness is key, companies are not very keen to make their paper consumption public. Still, some data gained by Hungarian waste management association HuMuSz Szövetség shows offices’ average paper needs.

According to this, a bank operating in Hungary with 3,300 employees uses 235 tons (235,000 kilograms) of paper for regular business purposes, mostly A3 and A4 size, and another whopping 94 tons for marketing purposes and envelopes.

The fact that 2.2 tons of wood, 35 cubic meters of water and eight megawatt-hours of energy is needed to produce a single ton of regular white paper illustrates how big a burden such massive paper consumption imposes on the environment.

Six simple tips to reduce paper consumption in your office:

Write or print on both sides of the sheet.

Use smaller fonts and edit text before printing in order to avoid the last few lines flowing over to the next page.

Think twice before printing or duplicating. To spread information inside the office, put documents on a notice board instead.

If opened carefully, envelopes can be reused. Cover the old address and stamps with sticky labels.

If you find no other way to impress your business partners than sending them colorful brochures, print them on recycled paper and avoid foiling them. Such processes increase the amount of paint and chemical used in making the brochure.  

Cancel any subscriptions to printed marketing materials that none of your colleagues read but that arrives regularly in the mail.

Green hopes

“In our experience environmental consciousness is not yet among the main reasons why companies seek alternative document management solutions,” Gábor Márkus, sales director of iKron Kft, a Szeged-based software developer that also specializes in business management systems for SMEs, told the Budapest Business Journal.

“Their need for a more easily manageable system that enables them to strictly define the circle of those with access to information plays a bigger part in a company’s decision to implement such systems,” he added.

Krisztián Taivainen, the managing director of ElastOffice, draws a slightly greener picture of Hungarian companies. Although he admits that costs cutting while increasing efficiency are still the main motivations, he noted that nature conservation is becoming an increasingly important consideration.