Thoroughly Modern: Top Five Reasons To Go Paperless With IBM i Forms
June 8, 2020 Stephen Flaherty
(Sponsored Content) As offices closed and employees began working from home earlier this year, a significant challenge arose for companies that rely on printed spool files and IBM i documents. If employees were not in the office with access to a printer, how would they get checks, invoices and other documents to the people who need them? IT departments were already scrambling to enable employees to work remotely, and suddenly they were faced with the urgent need to electronically distribute documents.
A lot of organizations weren’t prepared to change the way they do business overnight and much of this burden fell on IT. Over the past few months, I’ve worked with quite a few organizations who hadn’t put much thought into document modernization and digital distribution prior to the pandemic. Their homegrown applications, legacy ERP systems and Query/400 tool would regularly grind out countless printed reports and forms. Paper (or in the case of one client, carbon paper!) worked fine for many years. Until it didn’t.
The bright side is that challenges can lead to opportunities. Modernizing your printed forms, checks, and labels with an electronic forms solution is quick and easy to implement and can generate a quick ROI. In this article I’ll highlight a few of the benefits associated with switching to paperless processes.
Save Money By Reducing Printing And Distribution Costs
Challenging times have forced businesses to look at how they can cut costs and it’s easy to find savings when you reduce the amount of paper your organization uses. For example, plenty of organizations use pre-printed paper stock with company letterhead. These costs are significant, ranging from $0.05 to $0.20 per page. This also applies to preprinted check stock, which is more expensive and less secure than using blank check stock. And what if your company logo or address changes? The forms that you purchased are now obsolete and you have to order new forms.
Now consider how much you might spend on postage and envelopes. The postage cost of mailing a pre-sorted first-class letter is $0.55. If you’re sending 2 pages per mailing ($0.05 per page to print) and throw in an envelope for $0.02, we can estimate a lower limit of around $0.67 per letter. How much time does an employee spend sorting, stuffing, folding, and mailing documents? If we attribute just three minutes to each letter, at a wage of $15 per hour, the cost to process each letter is $0.75. Combine that with printing consumables and postage and costs easily surpass $1 per letter.
Modernizing your IBM i document design and distribution can have an immediate, tangible impact on your bottom line. A modern forms solution like Fresche’s Formtastic enables you to easily design your documents and deliver them in an electronic format such as PDF. Given the high costs of printing and mailing alone, an electronic forms solution can pay for itself in a matter of months. If you still need to print certain documents or checks, you can offset your printing costs by eliminating the need to purchase pre-printed forms or check stock.
Improve Customer Service
Instead of waiting for an invoice that might take days or weeks to arrive by mail, your customers could get their invoices delivered as a PDF email attachment within minutes. This means they’ll have a digital copy that they can easily archive, distribute, and access from any device. Getting invoices to customers quickly also means that your company will likely get paid faster.
Here is another important point: Providing documents that look unprofessional, are difficult to read, or are missing information that customers want can lead to a negative perception. However, when customers see your company’s logo on professional, easy-to-read documents, they are more likely to develop a better perception of your company. This increases the likelihood that they’ll remember you, buy from you again, and recommend you to friends or colleagues.
Empower Users and Reduce Burden on IT
I’ve been with Fresche for 10 years, but I have over 30 years of experience as an RPG developer. In a previous role, I had to change an RPG program every time a printer file changed, or when I had to add a field, remove a field, add a box . . . You get the idea. These tasks would take me days, because I’d make the programming change, then I’d have to run the test and send it to a printer. I’d have to get out of my chair, walk down to the printer and review the hard copy to see if it worked. Many times, I’d have to get the ruler out and measure to see if a box was too big or if it was going to fit on the page.
I’m sure many of you can relate to the above scenario. Most IT departments are flooded with requests for new and modified forms and reports. This often comes from new business requirements or new legislation affecting industry. I’ve also seen many cases needing to update Terms and Conditions pages, and providing users with additional data on their forms. These types of changes almost always fall on IT, but in many cases, IT is already backlogged with piles of requests.
Automated solutions like Formtastic help you design professional looking documents in under 30 minutes. Giving you the ability to compose an email and/or a PDF file that can be stored on a network drive. A user can access that PDF file and either email it themselves, or programmatically email it. This enables employees to stay at home while generating the purchase orders, invoices and other business documents they need. It also frees up IT’s time to work on initiatives that can help grow your business.
Improved Document Security And Access To Information
Maintaining document security and confidentiality is arduous when you rely on paper-based processes. Depending on your business, many have to shred confidential documents or store them in locked filing cabinets. These document management policies require ongoing training and leaves your organization vulnerable to data breaches and human error.
Once the documents are electronic, the next thought often goes to managing the storage and distribution. A secure web portal such as our Nexus solution gives employees, vendors and/or customers secure, organized access to enterprise information from their browsers. User and group authorities make it easy to ensure users only access the documents, applications and dashboards that they are authorized to. It’s important to note that when you move to electronic document storage, you quickly free up space that was previously occupied by large filing cabinets and other equipment.
Leverage Existing Technologies And Modern Solutions
A new CIO might push to replace your invoice-generating application running on IBM i because the invoices look outdated and are physically mailed to customers each month. A document modernization solution increases the likelihood that you will retain your existing applications while modernizing the document design and extending distribution capabilities.
Too often, we see IBM i shops limping along with old solutions. One example is with IBM’s discontinued support for AFP Utilities in version 7.3 and onward. I speak to many organizations that have tried to improve their processes but still face challenges. Perhaps they’ve relied heavily on older technology nearing the end of its run, such as IBM’s AFP Utilities. In some cases, they’ve purchased document modernization tools only to find them lacking some critical aspect, such as being unable to support newer versions of Windows or receiving little-to-no ongoing support or product updates from their vendor. If you currently rely on AFP or own an electronic forms solution with limited functionality, you might be able to transfer to a modern solution faster than you realize.
The Cost Of Doing Nothing
My advice to any organization that still relies on paper is to look at the cost of doing business today. What is it costing you to print on preprinted forms and put that into an envelope with postage and the time that it takes? How many people are you paying to do that function? And can you afford for your RPG resources to spend time making programming changes on printer files and invoice print programs?
There’s no doubt that the way companies operate is changing, and the past few months have been eye opening for many. We’re going to see a lot more organization realize that since they’ve shifted employees to work from home, they really don’t need brick and mortar. This a great opportunity to shift that investment into innovating to improve the business. Shifting from paper-based processes to electronic and automated solutions is one tangible way to improve business processes and operational efficiency.
Want to learn more? View this webinar to learn how you can automatically transform your forms, checks, labels and barcodes into professional, branded documents with Formtastic. I’m also available to discuss any challenges you’re facing and discuss how Fresche might be able to help. Get in touch any time: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a strategist and IBM i application development expert, Stephen helps clients transform their IBM i systems with innovative strategies and modern solutions.