Paperless environment issues have become particularly important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, since the flow of paper documents often presents a huge challenge to maintaining business continuity. Therefore, implementing solutions that allow the use of electronic documents should be treated more and more frequently as one of the conditions for maintaining an appropriate level of competitiveness.
In the past few years, the legislator has been consistently extending the range of situations in which it is possible, or indeed in some instances necessary, to use electronic documents. The use of qualified electronic signatures has become a standard in the context of preparing financial statements, making notifications to the Central Register of Beneficial Owners, and preparing documentation for public procurement procedures. Moreover, under the Civil Code, a document signed with a qualified electronic signature is now equal to a traditional written document. As a result, it seems that entrepreneurs have become more open and are less distrustful of electronic forms. It should also be noted that it would be a mistake to reduce the concept of digitization to the above-mentioned qualified forms. At present, the law is increasingly supporting the building of business processes based on secure online communication, and emails, text messages, audio and video recordings have also become documents.
The aforementioned acceptance of new document forms by the legislator also involves the introduction of changes which allow the use of electronic documents in various areas of business operations. At present, due to awide range of potential uses, the digitization of documentation has become a comprehensive solution that allows the organization, structuring and enhancement of both internal processes and those associated with customer relations. Extending the scope of the functions in which electronic documents may be used has significantly increased the attractiveness of paperless solutions.
Source: PwC own analysis
In practice, the benefits obtained as a result of implementing solutions associated with e.g. electronic management of the contracts portfolio or the widespread use of electronic signatures often increase technological awareness. Our experience shows that success in this area frequently leads to the implementation of solutions supporting the accounting, HR and supply chain management functions, focused in particular on the implementation of an electronic document flow. It should be noted that the key to making full use of paperless opportunities is implementing electronic document flow solutions in as many areas of the organization as possible, in a manner that allows maintaining compliance of the internal document environment, while at the same time obtaining cost savings from the transformation process.
The main benefits of paperless solutions include:
acceleration of information exchange and processing;
freeing up internal resources;
improved supervision over the processes in the organization;
reduction in the costs of processing and storing documents.
Given the specific nature of the retail industry, the paperless concept provides an opportunity for significant acceleration in the exchange of commercial information, which is of great importance in particular for the logistics and supply chain management functions.
The development of the technological environment has opened up new possibilities in the field of information processing, and a paperless office is the next stage in this evolution. The implementation of electronic document forms makes it possible to create detailed databases, in which the information contained in large volumes of documents can be processed many times within a short time and presented using appropriate algorithms. When properly applied, this solution allows significant acceleration of the internal processes and, at the same time, improving the accuracy of the data obtained. Obviously, improving data availability and the rate of obtaining and processing data result in the enhancement of the internal control function.
A natural consequence of automating some of the processes in the organization is that some of the additional internal resources are freed up. The advantages of an electronic document flow include eliminating the need to manually perform a number of repetitive processes that have traditionally been a heavy burden on human resources. In this respect, in a paperless environment the focus is shifted from execution to supervision, thus reducing the level of involvement required on the part of the organization since these processes were also present even when the same tasks were performed in a traditional way.
On many occasions, in the course of our cooperation with retailers, we have faced challenges associated with the volume of documentation in logistic processes. The need to process such documentation is associated not only with the costs of creating a particular volume of documents, but also with the need to allocate significant resources to ensure the flow and proper archiving of the documentation. Our analysis shows that expenditure on printing one page of a document may represent only up to 10% of the costs of processing that document throughout its entire life cycle, which also includes the expenditure on e.g. archiving and transport, the costs of office equipment and supplies or errors/corrections/re-printing.
Source: PwC own analysis
In our opinion, an electronic document flow is a solution that addresses the problems described above in the fullest possible manner, through the use of tools that eliminate some of the costs presented here, and at the same time allow a faster flow of information, more efficient processing of the data contained in the documents and increased control over the processes.