Saturday, June 15, 2013

Is the paperless office finally here?

Is the paperless office finally here?

Lloyd Alter |June 14, 2013

Three years ago, Leo Hickman of the Guardian said of the promised paperless office: " Its repeated failure to arrive is as big a letdown as the perennial office party." But for some, it has finally arrived. The Globe and Mail describes Idea Rebel, a digital marketing agency in Vancouver, that is absolutely doctrinaire about it. Brian Borzykowski writes:

Idea Rebel is a truly paperless office. Pay stubs are e-mailed to employees, notes are taken on tablet devices and whiteboards get heavy use. Designers are allowed to bring in a pad of paper, but they have to take them home with them at the end of each day. He [CEO Jamie Garratt] wanted to go paperless, he says, because his business is all about creating digital products, such as applications, websites and social media tools. Using paper is the antithesis of his company’s core values.

The company actually turns down work where Requests for Proposals have to be supplied in print form, that's how serious they are about it. There's more on the company website that impresses:

From the very beginning our focus has been on digital solutions; our offices have been almost entirely paper free and we never print or fax. Our rebels make sure to keep reusable mugs for their daily coffees. We keep our power use and lighting to a minimum and always commute to work. Every Rebel either bikes, walks or takes transit to work. Many small changes can make a huge difference.

Comment by Anumakonda Jagadeesh

Good article.

A paperless office is a work environment in which the use of paper is eliminated or greatly reduced. This is done by converting documents and other papers into digital form. Proponents claim that "going paperless" can save money, boost productivity, save space, make documentation and information sharing easier, keep personal information more secure, and help the environment. The concept can also be extended to communications outside the office.

Traditional offices have paper-based filing systems, which may include filing cabinets, folders, shelves, microfiche systems, and drawing cabinets, all of which require maintenance, equipment, considerable space, and are resource-intensive. In contrast, a paperless office could simply have a desk, chair, and computer (with a modest amount of local or network storage), and all of the information would be stored in digital form. Speech recognition and speech synthesis could also be used to facilitate the storage of information digitally.

Once computer data is printed on paper, it becomes out-of-sync with computer database updates. Paper is difficult to search and arrange in multiple sort arrangements, and similar paper data stored in multiple locations is often difficult and costly to track and update. A paperless office would have a single-source collection point for distributed database updates, and a publish-subscribe system. Modern computer screens make reading less exhausting for the eyes; a laptop computer can be used on a couch or in bed. With tablet computers and smart phones, with many other low-cost value-added features like video animation, video clips, and full-length movies, many argue that paper is now obsolete to all but those who are resistant to technological change. eBooks are often free or low cost compared to hard-copy books.
Commercially feasible technology is widely available to digitize documents, even full libraries of backlogs, at feasible cost. Sufficient processing power, storage, backup, and Internet speeds are available that can make old paper records instantly available not just from stationary computers, but also from laptops and even phones. Inexpensive skilled labor is available in places like India and the Philippines to perform labor-intensive work, like naming files or creating links and bookmarks. Sufficient processing power is available to perform massive amounts of optical character recognition.

A major difficulty in "going paperless" is that much of a business's communication is with other businesses and individuals, as opposed to just being internal. Electronic communication requires both the sender and the recipient to have easy access to appropriate software and hardware.

There may be costs and temporary productivity losses when converting to a paperless office. Government regulations and business policy may also slow down the change. Businesses may encounter technological difficulties such as file format compatibility, longevity of digital documents, system stability, and employees and clients not having appropriate technological skills (Source: Wikipedia).

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