Cost-Justifying the Paperless Office

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Is the paperless office a myth or inevitability? The postal service will tell you that there has been an enormous decline in the number of printed invoices and cheques circulating through the mail system. Distribution of electronic invoices and payments has moved into the mainstream. There is no question that it’s more efficient, convenient and less costly. It is interesting to note that although an accounting office may receive an invoice in PDF format, it is not unusual for the AP clerk to print off a copy of the invoice to get a signature in writing for payment authorization. Furthermore, it is not unusual to see financial statements being printed every month as they are circulated through the C-suite and finance & accounting department. We’ve reduced paper, but not eliminated it.

Which is more expensive – a single sheet of paper or the electronic storage for the equivalent double-sided page? Would you believe that paper is 121,000 times more expensive than the digital copy?

We recently calculated the cost for a standard 20 lb., 8.5”x11” sheet of paper from Staples at $0.01 (including tax, $0.011126 per page). Also from Staples, we priced out a 2 terra-byte external hard disk at $288.86 (including tax). This was one of the more expensive models. The cost to store a PDF-formatted page on this hard disk is $0.00000009173. The paper is 121,285 times more expensive.

The electronic document is far easier to file, find and to backup for safe-keeping. Paper is far more prone to accidental loss through misfiling, misplacement, accidental destruction and fire. Paper takes up valuable real-estate, especially when stored in large volumes, which adds to the overhead. There is a strong business-case for adopting software systems in support of your company’s path to paperless, such as the ePrint module for Adagio Accounting.