Towards the Paperless Office
Are Companies Moving Towards the Goal of a Paperless Office?
The answer seems to be both YES and NO.
If the issue being considered is : Are companies putting systems in place such that, eventually, all corporate documents will be fully searchable? The answer seems to be YES. Electronic Content Management (ECM), making sure all company information is available and searchable electronically, is an effective way for companies to manage their documents and information. And companies seem to be clearly moving in this direction.
The related paperless office question is: Are companies getting rid of office paper? The question here appears to be unequivocally NO. All indications are that offices are printing record amounts of paper. The amount of paper being used on the corporate level shows no indication at all of slowing down.
Paper Usage and ECM
Why is it, if companies are moving in the direction of Electronic Content Management, that paper use is up? There are several reasons given to explain the elusive paperless office. One reason for increased paper use is that a lot more corporate searching and research is going on at the Internet level, but this is only for finding documents, not for reading them. If one finds a relevant research report, white paper, manual, etc. available online they are very likely to print it in its entirety, rather than reading it off the screen. Then if this document is sent to a co-worker, they are also liable to print it. In the pre-Google days, there was a greater likelihood the physical paper copy would be passed around the office rather than copied several times.
Another reason why office paper use is on the rise, even with ECM, is that many documents are now kept electronically in the office. For example, a contract would no longer have a physical paper copy. On the upside, the corporate file room has been eliminated, downsized or moved offsite as relevant documents are all available electronically. In addition, the time to find relevant documents has been drastically reduced. The flip side of this is that document generation has becomes relatively easy such that these corporate files are generated from electronic copy “on demand”. This streamlines many document related processes, but also creates an increase in company print utilization as paper documents are generated dynamically.