Thirty years ago tech companies around the world declared that the paperless office was just around the corner and that the office of the future would not have even a scrap of paper in it. Well, three decades have passed by, and we are already way into the future, but, paperless offices remain a distant pipe dream. In fact, more and more paper is being consumed every day. The proliferation of printers and much-touted publishing equipment has meant that more and more paper usage is being generated at just a click of a mouse.
Organizations are also reluctant to commit themselves to the ‘paperless future’. The technology seems expensive and not very practical. Add to this the spectacular failures of companies that have spent years of valuable time and a fortune in technology investment only to realize that the paperless model was not for them.
So What’s Stopping Everyone?
A recent survey has shown that only 1% of the companies in the EU have gone paperless. In other parts of the world, the situation is much worse. So what are the reasons that are preventing most businesses from setting up offices of the future?
Paper is part of our culture: Human civilization has a long and comfortable relationship with paper. So someone has sent you an important email – you print it. You make a presentation on the conference room screen, then follow it with paper handouts for everyone. You get the news on your phone but still love to read the newspaper. The fact is; we love paper, and are highly resistant to the idea of giving it up.
Paperless technology was not up to scratch: The much-touted paper saving document managing technology that was available till recently neither saved paper nor managed anything. Files got lost; essential data misplaced. Sometimes one could spend hours trying to figure out where one had saved a particular folder.
Paperless cost a lot of money: Yes. The same technologies that delivered so less and created so much confusion were darned expensive to own. For many businesses, it was a massive capital investment they could scarcely afford.
Lack of Sync: What was the point of going paperless if your clients demanded paper records? What about the government. In most cases, it was impossible to go paperless in an environment that needed so much paper.
Are We then Stuck With Paper?
Thankfully no. New technologies (most of them cloud-based) like online faxing are making it easier and cheaper to go digital. It has even started making business sense.
Companies around the world have also changed the parameters of the challenge. The stress today is on being paper-light rather than completely paperless. So when one says paperless today they actually mean less paper. To go back to online faxing: you don’t even need to spend hours researching different online fax companies to make sure you’re getting the best value, you can simply go to www.FindAFax.com and compare online.
Some companies around the world are finally showing the way to the future by significantly reducing paper usage. Below are five organizations that are blazing the trails that others should soon follow.
Idea Rebel: The Digital Agency which went Digital
This is a rebel with a cause. Idea Rebel is a digital agency started by Jamie Garret. This company has totally banned paper from its premises, including paper coffee cups. From payslips to contracts, from presentations to notes, everything is done in the digital medium. If a potential client insists on paper correspondence, Idea Rebel even turns down the business.
Why it works for them: Because of the single-minded vision of the owner who has pushed through this change against all opposition. Secondly, Idea Rebel being a Digital Company; it fits their brand profile and makes their business clearer to all concerned. In the long run, it has helped them acquire a name for themselves and of course more business.
Young & Thompson: The Law Firm That Met the Brief
A law firm conjures up images of piles and piles of files; forms signed in triplicate, tons of documents gathering dust. Well, Young & Thompson has gone ahead and shifted the paradigm. They are essentially a patent law firm and they have completely digitized the patent process.
Why it works for them: A diverse range of clients in different geographical locations of the world had made all kinds of business correspondence increasingly difficult. A digital document system keeps tracks of files so that necessary data is never lost and can be shared with associates around the world at almost instantaneously. After implementing their paperless solution the overall efficiency and profitability of the firm has gone up.
Dain Insurance: Insuring the Future
Nearly 40% of the time of all employees of Insurance Companies is spent on pushing paper. Paper consumes so many man hours every day that if it is removed from the processes of an organization, it automatically becomes more productive. Dan Insurance in Illinois, USA understood this and set up a paperless office.
Why it works for them: Any employee who is not busy pushing paper can be busy acquiring or serving a customer! A paperless office has allowed the employees of Dan Insurance to focus on tasks that are far more important. Digital storage of materials also means that essential documents are never lost and quickly retrieved saving valuable time. It also makes the processes of Dan Insurance much faster, more efficient.
Virginia Cancer Institute: Curing the Paper Addiction
Running a hospital smoothly is all about records – from medical to financial. Paper documents require much time and effort to use – from faxing to copying to printing. The costs can mount up to quite a bit in the long run.
Why it works for them: When Virginia Cancer Institute moved to an electronic document management system, they were able to give access to the records to every employee at just a click. Reducing the time it took in searching for and accessing documents. For the initial run, these systems were introduced only partially and were being used only by a small percentage of the employees. However, it was so easy to use and efficient that the other employees soon started asking for it.
Cleveland Department of Public Health: When Government Shows the Way
There are three million people who live in the area under the jurisdiction of this department and more than 1000 restaurants. The department inspects each one of these and keeps meticulous records as to their levels of hygiene and health code violations. The challenge had always been on how to give the citizens of the Cleveland access to these records. Earlier when a citizen requested details about a particular restaurant, a hard copy was handed over to him. All this changed when the Cleveland Department of Public Health turned this process completely paperless.
Why it works for them: Paperless document management systems have made their processes so much simpler and easier. Records are easier to access and update. The citizens who are the real clients of the department have more accessibility, more ease of use. Of course, the cost cutting in terms of paper and printing costs have also been tremendous.
Paperless Makes Business Sense
As you can see from these examples, going paperless is not just a chance to save trees but is also a more efficient and profitable way of doing business. If you are thinking of taking your business into the paperless era, here are some of the advantages that are waiting for you:
Savings on cost: The costs of paper and printing, you already know about, but what about document storage? How much of your office space is being used up by your files? Imagine if you could get rid of them. Moreover, how much you would save every month if you needed far less office area.
Save on time: Where is that file from three years ago? Click. How do you send your client another set of bills? Click. Going paperless is way more efficient, time saving and easy. With cloud-based technologies, you can also access files from anywhere in the planet.
File security: According to statistics more than 3% of all files get lost. What if the file you lost included some crucial documents? With a paperless office system, everything remains as it is, to be accessed anytime.
Take the Paperless Step
If you wish to be a business of the future, paperless is the way to go. There may be a few growing pains, but it is sure to make you more competitive, more future ready and save you money in the long run.
The writer, Edrick Hypolite, has been helping out with making his own workspace as paperless as possible, and is using other companies as a way to set the standard on the best ways to go about this. You can learn more about Edrick on Google+.