Research commissioned by Ricoh Europe indicates benefits to European businesses from tackling the ‘bigger data’ opportunity – the digitisation of business critical, hard copy documents for business decision-making.
The technology provider says that leaders clearly understand that significant business value lies locked away in paper documents, with 88% agreeing that digitising and unlocking data from physical documents would improve business decision-making. Seventy per cent of European business leaders believe that digitising hard copy documents would save between 5% and 20% of their annual turnover, with half of these respondents able to achieve a 5% to 10% return and the other half from 11% to 20%.
“Leaders are aware that the business opportunities of big data go beyond the digital and must address the physical documents that also hold critical business insights,” said David Mills, chief operating officer (COO) at Ricoh Europe. “With leaders under pressure to make the right decisions to steer their businesses out of the downturn, we found overwhelming agreement that digitising and unlocking data from physical documents would improve business decision-making.
“Indeed, business leaders still foresee volumes of hard copy information growing in the workplace. It is clear that we are now in the era of bigger data and our ability to easily access information, whether digital or physical is essential as organisations accelerate their digital transformation and drive business growth.”
The research found that over 50 per cent of organisations still have between five and 10 years’ worth of information stored only in hard copy. This is not only having an impact on business decision-making but also productivity and the bottom line. Sixty-three per cent agree that it takes too long to find the information they need from hard copy files. Data that is fragmented across filing cabinets, warehouses, basements and files held by employees, often comes at a significant price. Rental space is at its highest in London, with annual occupancy costs the most expensive in the world.
While the initial focus of big data initiatives has been on digital data sources, there is growing recognition from business leaders that there is significant value lying dormant in physical information assets. Seventy-six per cent said they could have learnt from the previous recession and reduced the impact of the current one if they had better access to historical data.
As a result, over three quarters of respondents have spent more time digitising historical data during the economic downturn. Human resources (HR), finance and procurement functions continue to rely on paper-based processes in many cases, and often compliance dictates how certain hard copy data, such as medical records, must be retained. However, the digitisation of hard copy documents is now becoming a business priority for organisations. Fifty-seven per cent of respondents expect to have completely digitised these assets within the next three years.
“The first step to managing bigger data is to eliminate the mystery surrounding it,” added Mills. “There is one real outcome that matters. That’s collecting, analysing and acting on the high-quality information available, and using it to provide a better service to clients, winning their loyalty and continued custom. Valuable business insight existed long before the big data boom, so it is essential to continue to look beyond digital information.
“Significant trends and insights from historical data, for example archived in hard copy, can help to tell the full story and are essential for businesses in the future. The economic crisis has underlined the importance to the organisation of gaining a 360-degree view into the environment around them, both in the past and present. It’s therefore vital that businesses harvest all of their critical information to gain competitive edge, and enhance business decision making in the future.”
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