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

Boomer tech is outdated and has had its day. PDFs are yesterday’s news, and it is time to change when it comes to contracts and other vital documents.

May 14, 2021

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

Boomer tech is outdated and has had its day. PDFs are yesterday’s news, and it is time to change when it comes to contracts and other vital documents.

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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We know boomer tech is outdated and has had its day.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 boomer 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.

Why are PDFs bad for business? Read on to find out!

Why PDFs are bad for business

1. The modern world requires collaboration and proper version control

Sticking to the example of contracts that I 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.

2. The user experience is awful (and users despise them!)

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

Now, I 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 contracts are never getting signed!

3. They are not optimized for data analysis and extraction

Most people do not think about 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 they need to.

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.

4. They are not mobile-friendly

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. Whether you are sending documents or contracts on a B2B or B2C basis, you should be aiming to use mobile-friendly formats. Sending a PDF means people must remember to do it later, and many of them will never get around to it.

Another case of PDFs adding unnecessary friction into your business processes!

5. They load slowly

This point could have fitted into the points about user experience and mobile-friendliness. Still, it is worth looking at it as an individual issue.

Just think about a time you received a huge PDF file via email. Now consider the time you spent downloading it 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.

6. Converting from PDF to Word for editing is a shocking experience

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?

I was recently speaking to someone who had to do this for a client not too long ago. The process itself was a shambles because of formatting issues with the conversion. To add insult to injury, because of a previous lack of collaboration and version control, they ended up spending hours on a piece of work that did not need doing!

Even with the tools available for editing PDFs, doing so is not a pleasant or efficient experience!

What you should do instead

There is a good argument – albeit not one that I subscribe to – that the biggest problem with PDFs is that people do not know how to create and use them properly. Yet, technology and the way the world works have moved on. You will be wasting your time learning how to create better PDFs, as ultimately, most of the downsides will remain in some shape or form.

For contracts and other documents, look at software solutions like Contractbook. We make the whole process of creating, executing, and managing contracts easier, with features like contract automation, collaboration, and version tracking, but people can sign your contracts at the click of a button, too! The reason we can do that is that we use a data-rich format and store the contracts in a database. In that way, they are always connected and you can leverage the metadata to make self-executing contracts, integrate them with other workflows and much more. The future will be connected and data-driven and the PDF is everything but that. 

Also, with hundreds of potential integrations with your existing tech stack, getting all the relevant data into your contracts – or extracted from them and presented in an easily digestible manner – is easy, too.

PDFs are yesterday’s news, and it is time to change!

PDFs still have a purpose, but when it comes to contracts and other vital documents, they do little but add friction to every step of your business processes.

If PDFs are frustrating you and your clients, it is time to find a better way to do things.

Learn more about how Contractbook can help you improve your processes and contract management.


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