Posted on 
June 7, 2022

Why PDFs are bad for business (and what you should do instead!)

We know boomer tech is outdated and has had its day. But, we are not yet in a world of fully-fledged automation and artificial intelligence. When it comes to using tech in business, many of us are in something of a purgatory! As such, we find ourselves still using two-decade-old tech despite there being much better alternatives available. 

PDFs are the embodiment of this, with their layers of metadata that make it impossible to use data effectively for things like smart contracts and other features that make them dreadful to work with. You might be wondering what’s so bad about that. It gets the work done, but we have listed 5 solid reasons why PDFs are terrible for your business. Read on to find out!

Why PDFs are bad for business

1. No option for collaboration and lack of proper version control

Sticking to the example of contracts that we alluded to earlier, we can start by looking at why PDFs are limited when it comes to collaboration and version control.

First up, if you use PDFs, they all need to sit in storage somewhere. PDF files are often large, so even if you store them somewhere like Dropbox, you will take up space on your system storing them locally or have to wait while you download the PDF contract you need to send. Then we get to the problem of having multiple versions of documents. How do you know which PDF to use? Even if you have a system that sees you add _VERSION NUMBER_DATE to your PDF files, so you know which is the most recent version, you are leaving a hell of a lot of scope for human error.

It is possible to collaborate via PDF, but it is hugely inefficient compared to using apps and other technology.

What to do instead

Opt for tools that provide collaboration features such as: 

  • Task management, commenting, and file sharing to ensure there is no constant back and forth between email or messaging apps and transparency with secure approval flow is present. 
  • In-built version history so that tracking of all the changes made to a document is accessible at a glance.  
Contractbook's collaboration features include task management, commenting, file sharing, and version control.

2. Awful user experience

This is another problem with PDFs that sit firmly in the “inefficient” box – can you see where we are going here?!

Now, we can hear you saying that you can digitally sign PDFs, either because of open fields or apps like DocuSign. Yet, how does that work for users? They still need to download the thing or get the app they need to use, sign it, and then upload the PDF file to send it back to you.

How is that better than having a box to say “I agree” as a means of digitally signing a contract? Once a user has signed a contract without messing around and wasting time with PDFs, they never want to go back to it. If that is the experience your business offers, the chances are that your documents like contracts or agreements are never getting signed!

What to do instead

Move away from the need to switch apps after every few minutes and go for a tool that allows multiple signing methods and signee orders. Features like activity tracking and change requests are a game changer. This will not only help reduce the time-to-signature, but will allow easy management of the signing order.

3. Not optimized for data analysis and extraction

Most people do not think of contracts as data-rich documents, but they are stuck in the Dark Ages. Modern contract management and utilizing contracts effectively means using them as living, connected documents that anyone can access and use as needed.

In the modern world, stakeholders from departments across a business may need to access, analyze, and extract data from contracts. They may need this to ensure agreements are executed correctly, for internal use, or various other reasons.

Doing that with a PDF is not easy and another sure-fire way to waste a hell of a lot of time.

Webinar on How PDFs are destroying your contract data. Watch now.

What to do instead

Future-proof your business data by using tools that allow you to extract and analyze the information in your documents.  Build a data-rich foundation for your business today with tools that ensure provision of better decision-making for all teams based on actual statistics and provide the metadata required to make self-executing contracts and integrate them with other workflows.

4. PDF to Word conversion for editing is a nightmare

Even with a fully paid-up Adobe account, have you ever tried converting a document from PDF to Word and then actually making edits to it?

We come across businesses every day that suffer from PDF-to-Word conversion woes. According to the businesses we’ve spoken with, the process is not only horrible in terms of the formatting issues that come with the conversion, but it also lacks proper collaboration and version control. The result: countless hours spent on tasks that could have been done in a few minutes. With the current climate (hint: economy), having such tedious processes contributes negatively to your revenue sheet.

Even with the tools available for editing PDFs, the process is not a pleasant or efficient experience.

What to do instead

Remove the need for Word documents from the equation and replace them with cloud-based tools that offer smart editors. These online editors are packed with tons of automatic features, different media formats, tables, templates, and more. 

5. Not mobile-friendly and low loading speed

With how, where, and when we work more flexible than ever before, who wants to be chained to their desktop device because people keep sending them PDF files? Ever tried reading a PDF – let alone adding comments and suggestions - on a mobile device? If so, you will know precisely how mobile-unfriendly they are, even if you are using the latest Adobe Reader or another software that can deal with PDFs. 

Also, think about a time you received a huge PDF file via email and spent a considerable time downloading it and then waiting for it to appear on your screen. That is time you did not get back and time that the people you are sending contracts and other documentation to might not have.

Whether you are sending documents or contracts on a B2B or B2C basis, you should be aiming to use mobile-friendly formats with high loading speed. 

What to do instead

Get out of the downloading mindset and go for a tool that has a cloud-native infrastructure and is mobile responsive. By providing the ability to check your documents on the go without looking for a desktop or being able to sign a time-sensitive document with your phone, you ensure your team has more flexibility and time to foster customer relationships, spend time on productive tasks, and celebrate more wins.

PDFs are yesterday’s news, and it’s time to evolve

There is a good argument—albeit not one that we subscribe to—that the biggest problem with PDFs is that people don’t know how to create and use them properly. Yet, technology and the way the world works have moved on. You’ll be wasting your time learning how to create better PDFs, as ultimately, when it comes to contracts and other vital documents, PDFs do little but add friction to every step of your business processes and are definitely not the format for the future.

If PDFs are frustrating you and your clients, it’s time to find a better way to do things. Get in touch with our experts to evaluate the ROI of moving your contracts to a contract management software

Move your contracts to the cloud and up your contract management game


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