The Paperless Office: Will it Ever Really Happen?
The Rise of the Paperless Office
The media and economists have heralded the paperless office as the next step in business operations for decades. Cloud computing, off-site backups, digital document management systems, electronic signatures and other technology have helped to decrease the business world’s dependence on paper. Printed internal communications have been replaced with email and smartphones, work orders are digital and invoices are sent over the Internet in seconds.
Trends in Office Paper Consumption
In the past decade, paper consumption within the office has been on a slight but steady decline. Economist John Maine of World Graphic Paper attributes this to a shift in technologies, a growing movement toward eco-friendly office practices and effective digital document management platforms.
Efficient laser printers are replacing bulky copy centers, recycled papers are increasing their hold on the market and more businesses are turning to digital methods for managing communications, archives and daily activities. However, the rate of conversion is still only a few percent per business year. This is especially true in the small and home business sectors.
The rise of cloud computing and storage is helping to bring the paperless office closer to reality for even the smallest of businesses. These technologies make it easy to maintain off-site backups, coordinate systems between offices and keep the footprint of document management systems lean and efficient. Every day, these systems are helping business owners retrieve and store crucial documents, speed up transactions, cut down on waste and increase profits.
Three Ways to Implement Paperless Office Technologies
- Electronic Signature solutions: One of the biggest issues many businesses face when attempting to transition to a paperless office is signed forms and contracts. With the U.S. Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, standards were created that allow for the use of digital signatures. When collected and applied properly, an electronic signature holds the same value as a traditional paper signature in court or business proceedings. Many service providers offer pre-built interfaces and systems designed to make the signature capture process effortless and simple for both the business and clients.
- Paperless Engagement solutions: These custom tailored solutions offer everything your business might need to significantly reduce, if not completely eliminate, paper usage in the office. From importing data from a variety of software suites to access rights and user management, these tools make it simple to keep case files, client profiles and other business forms in a digital format.
- Document Management solutions: Document management solutions offer a similar benefit. These systems help you to organize and maintain vast collections of information and forms. Full indexing allows you or your employees to pull up documents in seconds. This means more time working and less time searching. Automated backup solutions help create backups and prevent loss of data. Best of all, many systems make it easy to store documents for multiple offices or branches in one central location. This reduces the need for bulky storage space or complex network storage solutions.
What Is Delaying the Paperless Office?
One of the biggest issues preventing the wide-spread adoption of a paperless office is old habits. People are simply accustomed to using paper for a variety of things. While new technologies are emerging daily, they take time to gain acceptance and mainstream popularity.
Original paperless office systems were technical, expensive and required extensive chances and planning within the office. Newer systems are streamlined, easy to use and simple to set up. While the paperless office might not be the main way of operating a business in the next month or year, it is closer to reality than ever before.
Image via: Unstoppable Software
About Jon Stone:
Jon Stone is a freelance writer, small business owner and technology systems expert from Western New York. His company is currently working on numerous projects related to the fields of freelance writing, web design, business start ups and illustration.