Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Where’s The Paperless Office We Were Promised?

During one of our business class discussions, the concept of the paperless office  was brought up in regards to making and maintaining computer backup files in a QuickBooks class.  The question is, “what ever happened to the paperless offices we were predicted to have by now?”




Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, there was a big push towards making all business documents exclusively electronic documents. The idea was nobody would ever have to print a piece of paper because the document can be moved effortlessly from one computing device to the next. Since it is so much easier to edit a document on a screen then on a sheet of paper, this would save time, money, effort, the environment, etc., etc.

There was even conjecture that bulk paper manufacturers would become a thing of the past, sort of like the makers of horse and buggy whips for the everyday traveler and hitching posts.

So what happened? Obviously, paper hasn’t disappeared. In fact, it’s more prevalent than ever. What happened to the concept of the paperless office?

Here are few points from our classroom discussion:

Nothing Feels Like Paper.
Paper hasn’t disappeared because it’s so useful. Got to hand it to old Gutenberg, paper is still an extremely efficient carrier for messages. And nothing yet feels as solid and tangible as paper. Seeing a document on the screen is one thing, but getting it handed to you on sheets of paper makes it seem more “real.” Another fascinating fact is once you download an Adobe pdf file, you can look at the page count to see how long the document is. On the other hand, if you are handed a stack of papers stapled together, you immediately have a sense of how long the report is before you even look at it.

Can’t Trust Those Computer Contraptions

Despite vast improvements in the reliability of computer hardware and backups, there’s still the comfort of having your information on paper as a last resort. If you have just finished an exhaustive project upon which your career and livelihood depend, isn’t there something in the back of your mind that says print out a copy and keep it in a file folder…just in case? It’s that nagging little suspicion that is replicated dozens of times a day that means paper isn’t going anywhere soon.

Besides, putting an urgent piece of paper on an absent co-worker’s keyboard is going to get noticed before any e-mail or transferred file.  So paper is still a tried and true method of getting your message noticed.

The Best (Worst) of Both Worlds
There has been great progress to eliminating the mounds of paper that used to be produced. Document management systems help keep things organized and archived. Just look at how people file their income taxes every year – more and more can electronically file saving, literally, tons of paper.

The other advantage of paper is it doesn’t matter what operating system or what device is your our your company’s personal preference, it will work. You don’t have to worry about device compatible operating systems to read a post-it note and you don’t have to be concerned that your recipient will need the latest software upgrade in order to read your document.

That doesn’t mean that things won’t be changing any time soon. There are electronic paper substitutes being developed which when adopted again might not completely replace paper but will probably find its own specific uses.

So it pays to keep up with trends, including storing documents in The Cloud. There’s much to learn to truly understand the cloud, including how to make the cloud work for you. Click HERE for details on a short class.


Just remember, that when the real paperless office arrives, be sure you get the memo.
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