The paperless office round table discussion
Not long ago, I conducted a round table discussion on why paperless office initiatives fail.
Here are the notes from the meeting. I am very curious to know what you think of the discussion. The goal was to identify what problems surrounding documents do companies face, what prevents those companies from working to increase those efficiencies and what can a company do to over come those problems.
What problems are associated with documents in your business?
When retrieving a document in a business, the method of retrieval varies from document to document. Some sources of those documents are paper-based files in file cabinets or on desks (cars, briefcases, etc), Outlook client, on the web, in a database or other locations on a computer or network. It can only take one person to mess up the system. This retrieval causes problems with information being silo-ed, or segregated in your office. There are simply too many different systems and a lack of consistency even within the same systems. Priorities change about the reasons and way things have been filed.
Sharing documents for the purpose of collaboration is very difficult. It stems from the document retrieval, but is not limited there. There is a lack of continuity in the way people communicate. Often, there is limited access only one person at a time can use a document.
What is preventing us from creating greater efficiencies in these systems?
Need to have something tangible
Many people want something to touch, feel and markup. We are in the habit of seeing things a certain way and it is very hard for us to change the fact that we like to touch and feel our paper. This tangible nature of documents allows us to have signatures, mark-ups and other notations that we are accustomed to.
Moving to a new system causes apprehension. We are not sure if the new system is secure. We are not sure if our information is safe from attack or from data loss.
Other people arent doing it yet
If we move to a paperless system, how do we interoperate with the people that are conducting business the old-fashioned way? No one really wants to be first we want to try something that is proven and not experimental.
Change is hard
We like the format our documents are in we want to preserve that and we dont know how to do it otherwise. It is very difficult to manage what we have and to have to learn something new, it takes too much effort. We simply cant visualize the benefits related to an increase in productivity. We perceive the change to be too expensive either too expensive because a new system is costly or because there are high switching costs. As a result, we have simply given up in making these changes.
So, how do we make these necessary changes?
The top down
In order to make this move, it has to be a shift in the culture of the company. The management must set the direction and develop a philosophy of efficiency. The leaders in the organization must develop a system via a document workflow. You simply cant automate a flawed system. You have to create a tangible/measureable ROI and prove that productivity will increase.
Address issues that keep us from moving on
We have to understand how success can help us increase our productivity. We need to know the feeling of what efficiency can bring to us. Bringing things to the lowest common denominator and not making change for the sake of change can help us. We need to establish and assurance that the data is safe and secure and understand that it may be far more costly for us not to make a change.
Corey Smith is the president of Tribute Media a web development firm providing high performing, industry specific websites. He is a businessman, writer, technology fanatic, graphic designer and web developer. His greatest passion is teaching, consulting and speaking.
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