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Calculating the Total Costs of Document Ownership


All too often, companies don’t consider the total cost of their documents. They factor in the costs of hiring vendors to create them, but they fail to account for storage, retrieval and other long-term expenses. In fact, some studies estimate these hidden expenses account for as much as 75-80 percent of total document costs.

Even if your company has already taken steps toward digital document storage and distribution, it’s important to understand exactly where your money is going. You may be surprised to find out how much your company still spends on paper-based processes – and how much more you stand to spend if you maintain your current system. Here are four factors to consider that will help you get a handle on those costs.


Before you can design a set of documents, you need to make the basic plans – what you need, when you’ll need it and how it’s going to be created. It’s easy to overlook these less tangible costs, but at this stage in the game, it’s crucial to have someone with expertise in document creation.

They’ll be able to design and re-engineer documents in ways that make them less expensive to produce without compromising quality, such as minimizing bleeds and consolidating multiple versions of a single document. Using web-to-print and workflow management tools can also go a long way toward improving process efficiency. Otherwise, you could be wasting a lot of time and money on revisions later.


Once you and other stakeholders agree on the basics behind your project, you’ll need to appoint an internal design team or hire a third party firm. Either way, you’ll have costs associated with the concept design, formatting and artwork. Even a seemingly simple project can require layout decisions and multiple rounds of approval.

This process can become especially cumbersome when there are multiple stakeholders or multiple versions of the same document tailored for different regions. Your team likely already spends hours reviewing and revising documents by email. When the approval process takes longer than it should, missed launch deadlines also come at a cost.

That’s why more companies are recognizing the value of content and workflow management systems that streamline document approvals.


Production – what most companies consider the “million dollar question” in document ownership – is actually just one piece of the puzzle. Still, it’s a big piece, and you will need to set aside money for paper, ink, printing, binding and finishing. If you’re creating high-end pieces, you’ll also need to consider the costs of lamination, glossing and commercial printing.

The more vendors you need to involve in these processes, the more costly—and time-consuming—they typically become. Having a single point of contact capable of handling all your printing needs simplifies the process and eliminates unnecessary expenses.


This is the area companies most often neglect, but it usually carries the highest costs. Your upfront logistics costs will include shipping, handling, storage and distribution. In the long term, though, you’ll also need to account for the time your employees spend retrieving, replacing and eventually destroying those documents. According to some reports, employees spend as much as 1.8 hours per day – a full work day per week – searching for and gathering information!

Putting it All Together

These four components will give you a good idea of the one-off costs of creating a set of documents. If you want to determine the cost per individual document, just divide that total by the quantity you print. If you’re used to thinking in terms of printing costs alone, the result may shock you.

Those numbers don’t tell the whole story, though. To get a good idea of how much your company spends overall, per year, on paper documentation, you’ll need to factor in the time your workers spend handling those documents. Add those annual labor hours to the figure – for every printing project you undertake – and you’ll see how much your documents are really costing your company.

DATA Communications Management is a single execution engine capable of handling all your business communication needs, from formatting and print to document storage and delivery. We have the technology and expertise to streamline and manage all of your customer data, content and communications across channels. This results in a more unified customer experience that increases loyalty while reducing document ownership costs. To learn more about our solutions, contact us today.

Topics Operations



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