DigitalOffice2016Trends.jpgThe paperless office has been both a dream and a myth for over 30 years.

Today, nearly every document is now originated digitally, but most end up on paper at some stage in their lifecycle. 

Why? According to AIIM, a global community of information professionals, habit and history define how most office workers go about their jobs - sharing and approving documents, filling in forms, filing things.

In the survey The Digital Office: Improving The Way We Work, AIIM takes a snapshot of the modern office, concentrating on the issues raised around sharing, filing, and approving documents. AIIM looks at collaboration needs - and the emergence of the truly digital office. The survey was taken by 204 individual members of the AIIM community between 10 July and 13 Aug 2015, using a web-based tool.

Invitations to take the survey were sent via email to a selection of the 150,000 AIIM community members. Organizations of less than 10 employees and suppliers of ECM products and services were excluded from the results, leaving 173 respondents. On this basis, larger organizations - over 5,000 employees - represent 32%, with mid-sized organizations of 500 to 5,000 employees situated at 30%. Small-to-mid sized organizations of 10 to 500 employees represent 38% of all responders.

Trending Now: Digital Transformation Is Going Mainstream

Today, it seems that, while workers do commit to utilizing scanning and digital copies, paper remains, often times, the first resort rather than the last - despite the rise in collaboration systems, communication strategies and the ever-escalating digital transformation.

In today's office environments, there are collaboration services, and document sharing solutions, and workflow products, but in most organizations, these are non-connected, overlapping - and often difficult to use. Staff receive little guidance on what to use for any given need, and, according to AIIM's survey, managers divide between picking their favorites on a “flavor of the month” basis or sticking with time-honored ways. Meanwhile, IT teams struggle to keep a lid on unauthorized usage, while working hard to maintain security and information governance.

The reality is core business processes are steadily being transformed to digital. What did the AIIM survey reveal?

Key Findings

The Digital Office
  • 34% of respondents admit that their offices are piled high with paper, with most of their “important stuff” referenced and filed as paper.
  • Only 16% run a clear-desk, mostly paper-free office. 
  • 45% are reliant on paper for signed documents and 26% admit that their MFPs are mostly used for printing and copying rather than scanning.
  • 56% have an ECM or SharePoint system, but staff mostly use the file-share for day-to-day stuff
  • 60% of individuals resort to paper copies to take to a meeting, and 52% will print items to read offline or out of the office.
  • 52% prefer a paper document for marking up changes, and 51% resort to printing to add a signature. 
  • 55% do make use of shared folders for meeting support documents, and 35% use open documents to collect input during meetings, but only 22% use automated circulation of agendas and minutes.
  • 34% store personal meetings notes in a cloud application.
Collaboration & Workflow Support
  • 52% of respondents are using cloud file-shares, nearly half (24%) without the support of IT.
  • 74% use project sites in ECM or SharePoint to share documents. 
  • 17% have very little IT support for collaboration, and for 42% it is a fragmented mixture.
  • 24% have a single collaboration platform, but only 6% are supported for both internal and external collaboration. 
  • 29% have office workflow, but for many (12%) it’s not simple to set up.
  • 25% have workflow or BPM for core processes, but only 4% find it simple enough for office use.
Document Collaboration and Mark-Up
  • 55% still use email round robin commenting, and 29% still make some use of paper for mark-ups. 46% do use single shared copies - 33% on-premise and 13% in the cloud.
  • Nearly everyone (90%) uses Track Changes in Word, but nearly half (40%) feel it has shortcomings. 33% need to mark up PDF documents, but nearly half feel Acrobat mark-up tools are poor.
  • Only 6% have a dedicated mark-up/collaborative editing application. 
  • The biggest issue, reported by 39%, is not having a simple way to share documents with customers and partners. Next comes collating comments from multiple marked-up copies, and then the lack of a simple way to set up single-copy shared documents for ad hoc collaboration.
Document Sharing & Filing
  • 58% of respondents admit that they store local copies on personal PCs and share via email.
  • 71% share via the network drive, and 15% via a cloud file share. The biggest issue reported is that users aren’t prepared to tag and file content reliably (59%), and prefer file shares to ECM systems. However, 48% of respondents feel their users aren’t given an easy choice of where to file things, and 31% feel that their ECM or SharePoint systems are too cumbersome. 
  • 17% have a declared policy of tiered content management across different use types, and 21% are working towards that. 28% use multiple locations or systems but with no guidance policy, rising to 41% of the largest organizations. 28% are wed to file shares.
Approvals, Signatures and Forms
  • 58% use PDF forms for electronic completion, and 28% include data collection, but only 10% are using e-forms on mobile. 
  • 27% admit to editing signature images into PDFs.
  • 26% have password-controlled e-signing and 12% are using digital signatures. 
  • 53% are looking for a simple but robust way to sign internal documents.
  • 40% want a simpler way to sign contracts, etc., with customers.
  • 32% need to extend approvals to mobile devices.
DigitalOffice2016.jpgCollaboration Products
  • Simple office workflow is the key feature requested by 76% of those surveyed, along with defined personal and shared content management.
  • 50% need cloud and mobile content sharing, but synchronized to back-office ECM/RM systems. 
  • 9% are likely to invest in a standard office support/digital collaboration system, rising to 15% of midsized organizations, and 18% are looking to consolidate multiple existing solutions to a standard platform.
  • 17% consider they already have one (30% of largest orgs).

Despite the computing advances for office workers over the past 30 years, the AIIM survey has still surfaced many issues and shortcomings that impact productivity and hamper collaboration. It appears electronic documents are filed, stored and shared in a host of different ways - many of which are inaccessible, unsearchable, and unmanaged. Accessing documents on mobile, and sharing documents outside of the business remains problematic. 

Read Also: Is Your Enterprise Digital Transformation Ready?

However, with the increasing focus on digitally transforming business operations, the momentum to adopt team collaboration systems, cloud file-shares, workplace social platforms, conferencing and unified communications, scan-to-workflow, forms management, e-signatures, and document collaboration products is gaining fierce momentum. Rest assured, there is a transformation impacting business decisions, strategies and growth - a digital transformation - causing enterprises to make a dedicated effort to integrate leading-edge digital initiatives across the enterprise. 

AIIM,, is the global community of information professionals, provides independent research, education and certification programs to information professionals, with programs and content for practitioners, technology suppliers, integrators and consultants.