The other day I tackled overstuffed file drawers and the papers piled on my desk. I filed, recycled or shredded several reams of outdated documents. During this exercise (it was pretty physical), I noticed that my company saved fewer paper records in the last few years than when we started the business. Likely, we continue to retain more printed paper than needed. How much is enough?
We are far from the “paperless office.” Running a management consulting firm with an environment, health & safety (EHS) IT focus, one might think that most transactions are electronic, not paper. We send essentially all work products electronically and print some of them. We use accounting software and print invoices and reports for our records, even if delivered electronically to clients. We receive electronic documents from others, and print some of those, too. Each party seems to save time, printing and postage costs. Are we reducing paper use, or just shifting the burden to others?
“Less is More” aptly describes paper records. Lack of trust in electronic records may cause us to use more paper than necessary.
In businesses large and small, email remains the most common transmission method. Email is inefficient because it allows multiple document copies, versions and “message threads,” not to mention redundant storage. With so many email attachments, which version is the correct one?
I prefer shared workspaces to email and have promoted their use for many years. Collaboration tools like Google Documents, Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint and Zoho are gaining acceptance in large, global organizations. These tools are worth every penny when they
- promote consistent business processes,
- increase productivity,
- make content readily available,
- provide a “single version of the truth,”
- have a user-friendly interface, and
- offer a secure way for people to interact 24/7.
Collaboration tools are in their infancy and have limitations. Often, the tools seem easy to administer but require multiple attempts to properly set user permissions. Often, their interfaces and features are so simplistic that they do not meet user needs. For instance,
- online document editors are simpler (read: less functional) than desktop office software.
- document work spaces have limited functionality without customization.
- calendars are rudimentary.
- survey tools are rudimentary with few data analysis features.
Software vendors, please make tools more functional, yet keep them simple! And offer me more FREE Cloud storage space, so I do not need several Cloud accounts to manage my work.
I welcome more mature, yet user-friendly collaboration tools. With increasing content management in the Cloud, we can better manage day-to-day work. The result? Less paper, I hope!
Pixel This: No Paper! sums up the “paperless office” issue pretty well.