If there is one thing that technology seems to have not only delivered on, but in many cases actually made worse is the concept of the paperless office. Technology was ‘supposed’ to reduce the amount of paper that we all had to deal with but it seems like we now use more paper than ever. Why?
The first reason probably is trust. Most people still don’t trust that technology can maintain and make their information securely and readily available. Most people don’t have a good understanding of how technology stores their files and how these can be backed up. Therefore, many feel it is always best to ‘have a hard copy’.
The second reason, most likely, is the fact that human beings receive a great deal of satisfaction and perhaps comfort from being able to ‘touch things’. Perhaps it makes it more ‘real’ if you can touch it rather than just see it. Although digital books are huge there is still a very significant market for traditional books because many still enjoy the experience of actually holding a book.
Another reason is probably legacy. That is, simply because having hard copies is always the way it has been done so it is easier to maintain the status quo.
However, the benefits of going paperless are numerous but by far the biggest benefit is search-ability. Technology allows you to search across volumes and volumes of information quickly and easily just as you would search the Internet. Without doubt this makes employees more productive and likewise the business.
Going paperless also means you need less space. Take a look around your office and count up the number of filing cabinets you have. Now ask yourself how often you actually use all of these. Chances are you use a few very often and most not at all. Why? It comes back to trust and status quo again.
To move towards a paperless office requires more than just technology. You need to champion the process, set the standards and work out how to handle both the incoming paper and what you already have filed away. It doesn’t have to be a big bang approach, a staged implementation is much more likely to succeed and be accepted by others.
So, the achieving the paperless office is more about human beings and processes rather than technology.