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Survey provides good news in the UK’s race to go paper-free

With World Paper-Free Day, which was held on November 9, still in the memory we have some good news to report at Crown Records Management – because it looks like UK business is making good progress on the issue. Paper shredding is farther away.

The tide may well have turned against the paper-reliant office, with a growing realisation that digitisation is more environmentally friendly and can, if properly formatted, improve access to vital information too.

That is going to be increasingly important in future, of course, as new regulation in Europe and in the UK provides citizens with greater control over their personal data – and increased rights to ask for it to be edited or deleted.

Can you imagine how difficult that would be for businesses to achieve if all their information was still stored on paper?

Just finding the right box and accessing the information in the first place would be a huge challenge.

However, the Crown Records Management Survey, undertaken by Censuswide, provides some hope.

It polled 408 IT decision makers in companies of between 100 and 1,000 employees across the country, asking them about their views on the paper free office and on the steps being taken by the organisation they work for.

It provided some encouraging results which suggest businesses are at least moving in the right direction – even if there is still work to be done.

Some of the key statistics include:

• 66 per cent of businesses say they now scan paper records and store them digitally
• 65 per cent have a fully searchable digital records archive
• Just 3 per cent say their business does nothing to move towards a paper-free or paper-lite office.
• But 55 per cent say they can’t quickly locate and retrieve electronic records when required.

It’s heartening to see that so many businesses are taking steps in the right direction when it comes to digitising their records.

However, there may still be some way to go before UK offices are truly paper free – and in some sectors it looks even further off. A government target for the NHS to go completely digital by 2020 seems unduly optimistic for instance, with some predicting the earliest realistic date for a paperless NHS is 2027.

Future legislation

New legislation, such as the UK Data Bill and the forthcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation, due to come into force in May 2018, make it all more urgent, though – so it is worrying that over half of businesses say they aren’t able to quickly locate and retrieve electronic records.

Whilst reducing paper use and digitising records is important, it is pointless if those records are not then quickly accessible. Businesses should have clear guidelines in place when reducing paper use to ensure that digital records are easy to access.

Any business progressing towards a paper-free or paper-lite office but not ensuring their electronic records are accessible is setting themselves up for a major headache in the future – and it’s not a problem that can be ignored.

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