Moving At The Speed Of Paper: ARC Survey Asks How Digital Are We?

Survey says we are not as technologically advanced as we’d like to think we are

By David Stickney

At ARC Document Solutions, we leverage research to take the temperature of the document management market space and to better understand what’s going on with customers—and sometimes even to have a little fun. That’s why we recently fielded a survey posing ten questions about document and information management usage, with an eye towards understanding more about companies’ document-driven business problems and to help them avoid working “at the speed of paper.”

At the highest level, we learned that many “old-fashioned” business practices are still being followed and that most—60 percent, in fact—of the respondents say we are not as technologically advanced as futurists envisioned some 65 years ago. Many of us also long for the future first envisioned by the Jetsons and then by Marty McFly; in other words, we want flying cars!

More key questions around the topic of document management revealed interesting answers that suggest dealing with paper is still a major pain point. Here are the highlights:

  • Among old-fashioned office holdouts76 percent said “warehouses with paper files” were from the dark ages, while 64 percent expressed chagrin with “having to find paper files,” and 56 percent said “forms that require signature with pen” are a throwback.
  • Of the paper processes that companies should have digitized by today – respondents opined that expense reports led the pack at 84 percent, followed by new hire paperwork (80 percent), contracts (76 percent), accounts payable (68 percent) and sales orders (60 percent).
  • Regarding process automation solutions/technologies that have reduced costs or given more time back to live life – 84 percent cited Google searches, 72 percent said “scanners that make documents editable,” and 68 percent said “barcode scanners for instant pricing.” “Depositing checks with a mobile device” and “books that are searchable to find specific references” tied at 52 percent.
  • In terms of “top document or information management challenges” – respondents cited “taking too long to locate documents” as the first big headache (56 percent), followed by “too many (paper or digital) data silos” at 52 percent and “no method to implement a document retention policy” at 44 percent. “Managing paper documents” and “no single digital destination to store documents” rounded out the Top Five.
  • When asked about the percentage of documents available on the cloud, including paper, file cabinets or in a warehouse – 52 percent said it was between 1-10 percent, illustrating the dire need for document management solutions, and only 20 percent said that 81-100 percent of documents were available digitally.
  • For wishes that people hope will come true by 2050 – 16 percent were looking forward to the “elimination of open office plans,” while 12 percent wanted “all offices to be virtual,” and an equal split of 32 percent were excited about being able to “attend a meeting as a hologram” and that “the afternoon martini will be revived.”

While a majority of the results point out the “inefficiencies of paper,” we also obtained several other rather notable data points. “Flying cars” was the leading answer (62 percent) when we asked, “What technology should we already have?” Along those same lines, we asked respondents about their feelings on predictions from Popular Mechanics in 1950, and a majority (44 percent) hoped for “rockets to take passengers from New York to San Francisco in less than two hours.”

ARC’s survey points out that customers hunger for technologies that can solve their challenges and that our goal as technologists is to apply intelligence to their problems. And while in some cases we may not exactly be where futurists and prognosticators had hoped, we’ve come pretty far in the area of document management solutions that can alleviate the pain associated with large amounts of paper.

David Stickney is ARC Document Solutions Vice President, Corporate Communications & IR. For more information visit

Leave a Reply