No More Paper!
By Samuel Greeengard
Considering that the personal computer has been around for more than a quarter century, it's nothing short of remarkable that we're only now beginning to arrive at a paperless environment. Every day, I'm reminded of this when I look at my physical desktop. Papers are strewn everywhere.
Yet, I operate a paperless office and have done so for over a decade. Really, I'm not kidding. I print a work document about once every six months. My Hewlett-Packard printer constantly alerts me that my ink cartridges are expired. Alas, if I replace the cartridges as recommended I'll stuff some extra dollars in HP's pocket but continue to receive the same warning a couple of months later.
How in the world can a paperless office be so crammed with paper? Simple. It's not my paper. Businesses, government agencies and others send a blitzkrieg of processed dead trees to me every day. The onslaught arrives about 2 p.m. in my mailbox. Most of this stuff doesn't need to be scanned. It just sits around until I take care of the associated task and then it goes in the recycle bin.
A few years ago, this situation was acceptable--even if it wasn't desirable. Now it's just plain unpalatable. Cloud computing, mobile devices, Web 2.0 tools and ubiquitous PDF files have radically transformed the way we manage data. E-book readers are now mainstream and newspapers and magazines are rapidly going digital. Newsweek magazine announced in the fall that it would no longer offer a print version. That's Newsweek, for goodness sake!
CIOs need to get their act together and mandate paperless options. Not just e-bills that save the company money. But also e-receipts and an array of other documents that can be obtained and exchanged online. Kudos to Apple, Lowe's, Macy's and a handful of other large companies that now offer e-receipts. It's nothing short of ironic that a growing number of retailers churn out paper receipts that are literally a foot long.
Worse, relatively few government transactions can take place online. Downloading a government form, filling it out with a ballpoint pen and mailing it in an envelope or driving it to an office is absurd. We were doing this in 1998.
Please don't serve up any excuses about legacy systems and wading into new technology carefully. The lack of vision across the spectrum of enterprise and government is staggering. Innovation isn't just about finding a way to develop new products and cut costs. It's about doing big and little things to make the lives of consumers easier and more convenient--and improve your brand image in the process.