In a highly digitalized world, companies have been making a move toward paperless solutions that allow for streamlining everyday processes, reducing costs, and boosting performance. However, smaller organizations may not have the necessary resources to implement paperless quickly and efficiently. The limitations associated with resources may be solved with the help of using technological solutions that are not costly but are easy to implement. This study will explore how such businesses can apply the tool effectively without compromising on resources or increasing costs.
Paperless is a phenomenon that implies the move away from paper documentation and toward digital forms in which they would be created, disseminated, and stored. By going paperless, organizations can facilitate the increased focus on information technologies. Since the approach increases the corporate social responsibility of companies by offering a way to be more environmentally conscious, it is also possible for companies to cut down the resources they use and the waste their produce (Nayyar & Arora, 2019).
By converting data that was previously on paper into digital forms, it is expected to create more space, ensure a comfortable work environment, and use the latest technologies to promote technical security and protect information (Dhumme, 2017). By applying the organizational information theory, the research will focus on exploring the impact of paperless on information technology advancement in small organizations.
Despite the increasing popularity of paperless in many organizations, from retailers to non-profits, there is a lack of evidence in current studies regarding the impact of the method on information technologies, with real-life examples. It is imperative to study the topic to offer a comprehensive perspective on the challenges of paperless that small companies experience in their everyday operations. Since efficiency and cost-cutting are the fundamental principles of work at smaller-scale organizations, studying the impact of paperless as a tool for facilitating the improved performance and technological advancement is seen as a prospective research area.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to reveal whether paperless can be a useful tool for small companies to advance their performance through information technology advancement. Facing significant competition from market giants that have more resources to invest in IT and the latest solutions for productivity enhancement, small businesses and start-ups are expected to be technologically-savvy and knowledgeable on how they can bring performance to new levels. The importance of the study refers to the need for less powerful companies who may not have the monetary resources to boost performance to increase it. Paperless can be a starting point for other technological advancements and facilitate positive change in terms of the storage and transfer of information between employees.
Research Questions and Study Hypothesis
The research will focus on finding a connection between the implementation of the paperless method at small organizations and the integration of information technology advancements. For the purpose of the study, the following questions will be addressed:
- What is the impact of paperless on the implementation of information technology advancements at smaller-scale organizations?
- What is the impact of paperless on productivity and efficiency at smaller companies as compared to businesses that do not implement paperless?
- How can smaller companies solve the challenges associated with the implementation of paperless?
As a part of the study, the investigation of paperless at smaller companies will include the following research hypothesis:
The quicker small organizations implement the paperless method for information creation, storage, and sharing, the higher is the likelihood of integrating innovative information technology advancements that will boost overall performance, reduce costs, and facilitate effective decision-making without the need to deal with paper documents.
Definition of Key Terms
The study will include several important terms that are necessary for understanding. The following concepts are essential for the current experimental research:
- Paperless – a concept involving the elimination of paper use in different environments and the involvement of information storage and transfer in a digital form (Orantes-Jiménez, Zavala-Galindo, & Vázquez-Álvarez, 2015);
- Information technology (IT) – the use of computers, data storage and networking, as well as other devices and infrastructures to create, store, dissemination, and protect all electronic information (Uhl & Gollenia, 2016).
Organizational information theory is expected to benefit the current study because it characterizes companies as dynamic places for data sharing. Without adequate information transfer, it is complicated for organizations to function successfully because they rely on “the process of making sense of equivocal and ambiguous information” (West & Turner, 2010, p. 293). The theory is important for the current research because it would help explain how adequate data storage can be promoted at organizations to reduce ambiguity and increase confidentiality.
Review of Literature
Benefits of Paperless
Even though the paperless trend has been acquiring great popularity among organizations, research on its influence on companies remains limited. As mentioned by Dykman and Davis (2012), an environment based on paperless is such that uses integrated IT systems and different software for reducing the consumption of paper to improve the efficiency of document retrieval. Today, it has become harder to find service providers, such as banks or utilities that would not offer digital payment and billing (Kissel, 2013).
The electronic method of information transfer has mitigated the security risks associated with traditional methods as paper documents or payments could be easily counterfeited (Aigbe & Akpajaro, 2014). Thus, the prospects of using paperless are broad for organizations, specifically among those that need to boost their overall performance.
Challenges for Smaller Companies
Even though technologies can help support business practices and make them more streamlined, not all companies can afford the IT infrastructures to make the necessary transition. Small organizations, in particular, often lack the resources to expand their storage capacity and increase the performance of servers when transitioning to paperless (Wang, 2013). Therefore, to stay competitive, such organizations are tasked with the challenge of adjusting their existing structures to the paperless approach. Li et al. (2014) proposed to use cloud computing as the primary technological advancement when transitioning to paperless.
The solution is less costly compared to other software systems for organizations and can allow smaller businesses to move to electronic storage and document retrieval. According to Chao (2015), there are several solutions, such as systems for electronic document management, web portals, electronic forms, or document imaging, to help medium and small-size businesses to integrate the paperless approach.
Recommendations for Transitioning
The transition to paperless at an organization may not be an easy task, especially for businesses that do not have the necessary financial resources. As mentioned by Velte, Velte, and Elsenpeter (2008), it is important to note that the change will not be immediate as it will take some time for workers to get used to new processes. Furthermore, paperless systems are not absolute and can be adjusted to the needs of organizations, depending on how they implement paper-based processes (Chao, 2015). The main idea behind going paperless is to help businesses streamline their workflows with the help of information technologies that are readily available to them (Jones, 2012).
In the context of smaller firms, it is also imperative to consider the possible shortcomings associated with paperless implementation. For example, the limited resources of staff and equipment can be challenging, which is why it is recommended not to implement the solution overnight (Chao, 2015). Overall, the paperless method is expected to benefit smaller organizations that should begin their path toward performance improvement. The current review of the literature shows that there are not enough current studies that could offer a perspective on the best practices for smaller businesses to follow when considering the transition to paperless.
It was chosen to implement experimental research, which a systematic and scientific approach to study in which a researcher manipulates one or several variables and controls any changes in other variables. The method was selected because it is expected to find a causal relationship between the integration of paperless and the integration of various information technology solutions. A randomized controlled trial will be implemented to include two groups of employees working at small organizations.
While the first group will perform the paperless method, another group will continue working with the traditional way of information creation, transfer, and storage. The results of the groups will be compared in regard to their efforts to facilitate better performance through information technology methods.
The sample for the study will include the workers of small organizations or start-ups that do have not transitioned to sampling yet. Convenience sampling will be implemented to involve participants in the study. While it may include some degree of selection bias, it is the method that would be convenient to apply as not many small companies will be willing to participate, and the researcher would have to contact accessible businesses.
To collect data on the integration of paperless at organizations, the researcher will implement interviews and questionnaires. These instruments are considered reliable because they will provide information on the real-life perspectives of workers at organizations.
Interviews represent a systematic way of talking and listening to people to collect information about the topic at hand. The instrument was selected for data collection because it does not require the attainment of highly personalized data, creates opportunities for research probing, would guarantee a reasonable return rate, as well as allow communicating with respondents that may have difficulties in written language. The interview questions will focus on asking participants about their views of paperless and whether it has facilitated a positive change in terms of implementing information technology advancements. The interviews will be conducted before the experiment and after it has been completed.
Questionnaires represent research instruments consisting of a series of questions aimed at collecting participants’ perspectives on the study process and the problem at hand. Compared to interviews, questionnaires are less flexible but more economical and offer the capacity to collect data quickly. They also place less pressure on respondents and can be completed at any time. The questionnaires will be used during the experiment to collect immediate data on participants’ perspectives when they are involved in the study. The questionnaires will also help support the interviews and provide real-time information.
The data collected with the help of interviews and questionnaires will be analyzed with the help of two methods, thematic analysis for the interviews and a simple Chi-squared test for the questionnaires. While the thematic analysis will be useful for revealing the common themes in the perspectives of participants regarding the implementation of paperless, the Chi-squared test can allow for exploring relationships in the data. For example, it is necessary to study the connection between the execution of paperless at a small company and the use of IT advancements to facilitate the change. The results of data analysis in two groups will be compared to find whether paperless is more effective compared to traditional methods.
The study is expected to take around four months, with the experiment part of the study as well as data collection and analysis encompassing roughly two months. The researcher needs to be directly involved in the paperless integration at a small organization.
The study is expected to reveal in-depth information on how smaller organizations can improve their performance using the paperless method. Previous research has predominantly focused on the overall benefits of paperless for companies as well as offered recommendations for IT tools that could support the transition. The current research, on the other hand, will provide an insight into the work of employees with the paperless method and reveal relevant perspectives, including the advantages and disadvantages of the approach information creation, storage, and dissemination.
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