Despite advancing technologies, traditional industries such as law, accounting, healthcare, or real estate rely heavily on paper-based systems to manage workflows.

Regardless of the industry, these paper-based systems cannot compare to the platforms and processes enabling organisations to move faster and offer much-needed customer transparency.

We saw this ‘reliance on paper’ first-hand and the frustrations it caused with each of its industry members when we partnered with a prominent Agricultural governing body from 2018 - 2021.

We knew we could reduce the reliance on paper-based systems and improve each platform and process so that the digital version was not just a replica of its paper-based predecessor.

This is a guide on what was involved in migrating from paper-based systems to digital and how you, or your organisation, can do the same.

The problem

In 2021, global consumption of paper and paperboard totalled a massive 408 million tons. Paper accounts for 26% of total waste at landfills. For our Agricultural friends, industry paper usage was 65-70%. Beyond the noticeable significant environmental impact, it was the source of many operational pain points:

Reduced traceability or transparency around what is happening, when it happens

Using paper-based systems can result in several operational pain points, including reduced traceability or transparency around what is happening and when. While paper may be suitable for several purposes, tracking the movement of documents between different parties and locations is not one of them, particularly when faced with environmental factors like rain that can cause damage or loss of records.

Compared to digital systems, obtaining live updates about the status of paper-based systems is almost impossible. People who have experienced the mortgage application process or conveyancing know the agony of not knowing where their documents are or when they will be processed due to the lack of real-time updates.

Inability to improve or change current processes on time

Many organisations still rely on paper-based processes, such as applications, consignments, and data collection. However, such processes come with their own set of limitations and challenges. For instance, if an organisation needs to add new questions or change processes, it becomes difficult to do so quickly and efficiently. This is because they need to design, create, and print new forms, which can take time and resources.

Moreover, relying on paper-based systems can hinder an organisation's ability to make immediate changes based on the evolving needs of the organisation, changes in legislation, or new data-collecting requirements. This can lead to delays in decision-making and hinder the organisation's growth and competitiveness.

Another challenge with paper-based systems is the need to answer the same question multiple times. For instance, if a form has multiple pages, the person filling it out may have to answer the same question on each page, leading to duplication of effort and an annoyance that can change a form being completed in a few minutes to a few hours.

While paper-based systems do have the advantage of not requiring batteries to work, they do need a pen or pencil to fill out the forms. This might seem minor, but it can add up over time, especially if the organisation has a large workforce and deals with a high volume of paperwork.

Overall, organisations need to consider the limitations of paper-based systems and explore alternative options, such as digital solutions or process automation workflows, that can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enable faster decision-making.

No feedback, no improvements

It's essential to have proper analytics in place to facilitate better decision-making and improve user experience. Without analytics, it's challenging to determine which questions on your digital platform are causing issues and which ones are primarily erroneous or take longer to complete than others.

By implementing proper analytics into your digital system, you can better understand how users use your platform. You can identify which questions commonly trigger error validation and at what point users tend to drop off in the application process. You can also determine the time of day when people complete the application - whether it's first thing in the morning or late in the day.

In addition to analytical data, you can capture real-time user feedback using heat maps or user surveys at critical moments of their journey. This feedback can help you identify pain points, areas for improvement, and opportunities to enhance the overall user experience. By making data-driven decisions and continuously improving your digital platform, you can create a more efficient and user-friendly experience for your customers.

John Oliver Getting Covered in Paper
Image John Oliver Getting Covered in Paper

Solving a problem this extensively required embedding product methodologies, mindsets and delivery capabilities throughout the project lifecycle.

We’ve broken down our guide into six sections:

Moving towards paperless platforms

  1. Define

    Part Two of our guide for organisations thinking of moving from paper-based systems to digital

  2. Discovery

    Part Three of our guide for organisations thinking of moving from paper-based systems to digital

  3. Design

    Part Four of our guide for organisations thinking of moving from paper-based systems to digital

  4. POC

    Part Five of our guide for organisations thinking of moving from paper-based systems to digital

  5. Develop

    Part Six of our guide to digitising paper systems focuses on developing user-centric systems that address the specific pain points identified during the discovery phase.

  6. Enhance & Improve

    The last part of our guide for organisations thinking of moving from paper-based systems to digital