By Marcus Leach

Research published by Ricoh Europe reveals that European businesses could be missing out on potential profit increases of €46 billion, due to the existing, inefficient methods used to process information.

The Ricoh Process Efficiency Index shows that employees across Europe responsible for managing business critical document processes spend approximately 362 million hours of their time per year on the function, which amounts to an overall business cost of €147 billion.

The Index examines how European organisations are managing their business critical document processes; those that occur regularly and repeatedly and have a direct impact upon businesses interactions with clients and employees. For example, purchase orders, patient records or invoices.

The study also identifies the areas for improvement and the economic return that those improvements could deliver.

“This report is essential reading for every European CIO. It highlights that if European businesses are to meet the challenge of competing with emerging markets, it is essential that they look at the efficiency of their business critical document processes," Carsten Bruhn, Executive Vice President, Ricoh Europe said.

“The Index clearly illustrates how outdated, manual processes have multiple impacts on the business. For example, if critical information is processed using traditional hard-copy methods, business risk is enhanced as they are less likely to be backed-up.

"They are also easier to lose, making them more prone to security breaches. It is also inevitable that employees are spending unnecessary time processing business documents, instead of focusing on the core business transactions and customer service.”

Despite the significant time and investment processing business critical documents, European businesses overwhelmingly acknowledge that there is still room for improvement.

Respondents said that their top three priorities are to increase knowledge sharing (67 per cent), improve security (67 per cent) and drive workforce effectiveness (65 per cent). The main barriers to making these improvements are lack of time (45 per cent) and lack of resources (35 per cent).

The Index also reveals that European businesses are often reluctant to adopt time saving initiatives, such as outsourcing, due to security concerns. However, one in 12 European businesses revealed that their existing security procedures do not protect confidential documents with 36 per cent admitting that either they themselves, or their staff, have lost or misplaced important information.

Despite available technology advances, the Index shows that many document processes are unnecessarily labour intensive and manual. 43 per cent of all business critical document processes rely on hard copy data and only 22 per cent of respondents reported that their organisation utilised a fully automated workflow.

“A properly implemented end-to-end optimisation strategy will drive down business costs and also have a huge impact on workforce collaboration and effectiveness," Bruhn concludes.

"This includes measuring and analysing how information arrives into the business, what happens to it and how it is used to deliver results. Importantly, the people involved in the processes should be also be engaged throughout to ensure they understand and can align with the changes. The end result is that businesses will be more agile in responding to their customers and market needs, and be ready for the workplace of the future.”

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