ROI of a paperless office: a closer look.

Scott Cooper on

drawboard roi of the paperless office

A common question that we receive when teams start looking to implement Drawboard Projects is “what’s the ROI, or return on investment of this?”.

What we’ve realised is that often, people aren’t asking for the ROI on our software. They’re asking for the ROI in going properly paperless.

So, we want to help you to understand more about the overall impact to help you make the right decision with whichever software you choose.

Whilst we know that making the paperless office a reality via a reduction in the volume of printing is going to directly save money through printing expenses and environmental impact, the reality is that it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to overall impact.

We have taken some of the data from some organizations currently using our products to showcase the impact across a business.

So, let’s dive in.

What’s the problem teams are trying to solve?

An ROI analysis needs to aligns directly with the tangible needs of an organization.

When speaking to a range of teams that are currently using Drawboard Projects, there are three repeated refrains that we hear.

1. Margin erosion

Margin erosion accumulates through poor coordination between teams and individuals, lack of collaboration throughout project delivery, and lack of accountability for quality of the work completed.

These areas further contribute to a higher likelihood of rework and in-field adjustments during construction or application of the design. This in turn leads to uncompensated changes, which are absorbed by the business, reducing profit margins on projects.

2. Workflow optimization

By adopting a truly digital review process that allows for real-time collaboration, businesses remove several layers of handling including:

  • Downloading files
  • Printing/reviewing on screen
  • Exporting and uploading, and then
  • Emailing across the team

3. Overheads

Running traditional design frameworks with printing-based review processes can lead to excessive printing costs, as well as the high costs of owning and maintaining the printers and technology themselves.

drawboard projects devices paperless office

Why it’s important to address these problems now

Over the past few years, many organizations have made the move to embrace new cloud technologies.

Today with a global workforce adapting to long-term remote work, there’s never been a better time to throw away the pens and paper to make way for a digital markup workflow.

Printing to complete drawing reviews and provide feedback is not a sustainable option for three reasons:

  1. Today, paper now in fact adds an additional step to the review process in going from digital, to paper, then back to digital.
  2. With teams being more remote, expecting team members to be able to print in their home office is unreasonable.
  3. The environmental impact of the paper usage, print cartridges and electricity consumption is untenable for a modern organization.

Then there’s the perks of a cloud-based markup system.

Senior management will no longer hear of lost print-outs. Designers can mark up designs in real-time while drafters can have instant changes right in front of their eyes. The list goes on.

How real-time digital markup can impact your business

There are five key areas where the implementation of a team-based solution will directly impact your business to generate positive returns.

Easier coordination

It’s all about making it as easy as possible for anyone to communicate changes.

By investing in Drawboard Projects, teams are able to complete digital markups in real-time with both internal and external stakeholders. No matter where in the world a team might be everyone can be a part of the review process. This ultimately leads to a higher quality of work involving the right team members.

Improved collaboration

Especially when working remotely, up-to-date information available anywhere, anytime is critical. The ability to have one workspace for centralized markup with various team members commenting live saves in time and handling.

Higher quality and improved accountability

User-based licensing allows for clear accountability and designers are taking a lot more care in their work and getting things right the first time. This directly results in fewer rounds of reviews, and a more efficient team.

Reducing excessive printing

By using a digital process like Drawboard Projects, printing costs related to drawings production is eliminated – the real first step of the digital transformation. Not to mention the efficiency of team members coordinating printing.

Reducing handling times

By having team members all markup documents and drawing in the same place, teams are switching from a sequential workflow to a collaborative workflow. This alone can cut days off the review process as a whole by not waiting for ‘your turn’ to provide input, as well as hours of time for the reviewers completing the markups themselves .

With these savings, firms all over the world are delivering a higher quality product for their clients and are seeing a greater margin ROI.

Ultimately, this allows them bid in a more competitive way on future projects.

drawboard projects device roi of the paperless office

What’s the financial ROI?

In doing a review across a selection of our customers, we have found that on average, within one month the savings gained in efficiency and printing outweigh the cost of yearly licensing.

Some of the factors contributing to these savings include:

  • Reduced end-to-end design time
  • Enabling remote collaboration in real-time, on any device (iOS, Windows 10 and web)
  • Improved accountability and decision making
  • Enhanced QA/QC
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) licensing benefits
  • Immediate savings on printing related costs

Overall, you could expect* annual savings of:

  • $9,897 per team member due to time efficiency improvements, plus
  • $5,026 per project due to the elimination of printing paper sheets, plus
  • $25,000 per firm on printer maintenance
$9,897 per team member due to time efficiency improvements, plus
$5,026 per project due to the elimination of printing paper sheets, plus
$25,000 per firm on printer maintenance
Cumulative savings due to Drawboard Projects adoption.

*see calculations at the bottom of this article

How much of a saving is that for my team?

Depending on the size of your team, and how many projects you complete each year, the cost savings will vary.

You can adjust the values in the following calculator to get a more accurate number for you team, but we have put together some savings below based on common team sizes and annual project deliver as an example.

  • A team of 5 completing 8 projects per year saves around $89,693
  • A team of 10 completing 12 projects per year around $150,209
  • A team of 50 completing 20 projects per year around $595,370

While the above savings can already have a major impact for a business, these are just the starting point. Once Drawboard Projects is set up and being used by your team, you’ll see many more benefits in addition to what we’ve already discussed.


  • No matter how big or small your team is, adopting a markup collaboration tool such as Drawboard Projects is going to save you money in both efficiency and printing. The ROI will speak for itself.
  • There are many variables that play into this, and the amount you will save will differ as these are refined.
  • In moving from a sequential workflow to a collaborative workflow, the impact on an organization can be substantial. Cost savings aside, it can lead to faster project delivery, more time for team members throughout the company to do what they do best, and the ability to be more agile in the way that you work.
  • Digital transformation is critical to the success of all businesses moving forward, and being able to optimize around getting the best results from your team can be challenging.

If you are wanting to simplify the way you complete collaborative reviews, all while saving money and becoming more environmentally sustainable – we can help!

To get a custom quote for your team, book a demo today.

Workings for ROI calculations

We have used some industry averages to determine hourly rates, as well as chargeable hours before applying the efficiency improvement rates.

At a high level we are assuming that the improvements in workflows and handling alone will generate a 15% efficiency improvements for 50 engineers/Architects/CAD operators. This is a very conservative rate and we believe you can do much better than 15% once running smoothly.

We are working with a rate of $50 per hour (or $90k salary) on average for 1800 hours (48 weeks) annually, and with 75% of their time charged to a project. This equates total of $67,500 in chargeable hours.

With a 15% efficiency rate applied and subtracting the licence cost, we get an annual saving of $9,897 per team member.

Salary: $50 x 1800 hours (48 weeks) = 90k
Chargeable hours to project: 75% = $67,500
Efficiency average: 15% = $10,125
Licence cost per user is $228 annually
Annual saving per team member: $10,125 – 228 = $9,897

In additional to the above, when analysing three projects within one major design firm, we identified some average project-based statistics with regards to drawing numbers and prints for additional cost savings:

Pre-Drawboard Projects prints calculated by a major design firm.
Pre-Drawboard Projects prints calculated by a major design firm.

Over the above projects that is an average of 38,666 prints that can be avoided.

The cost of a printer with the appropriate software to complete this within an office would be approx. $25,000 annually, and the cost per color A3 sheet printed itself is $0.13.

That’s an additional $5,026 in savings per project, as well as $25,000 annually that you are saving on printing alone.

Drawboard Projects brings handwritten markup to a cloud based team platform accessible on Windows 10, any web browser and iOS. Project teams can see everyone’s markups and annotations in real-time on any PDF drawing or document, wherever they are in the world.

Projects is powered by a document management system that is the first of its kind, eliminating the need to print, deal with version control problems, and use disparate systems for markup control.