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Should Your Company Go Paperless?

Apr 3, 2008
What no paper? You have got to be kidding.

No, not really. Paperless started in a place called Silicon Valley where a few tech companies decided that paper was a relic just like the tape cassette and Corvair. Paper? We don't need any stinkin' paper...

And then there are those of us that have fought with paper all our lives. We lose it, misfile it, spill coffee on it, loan it, rip it, tear it and wrinkle it. We actually do a lot more things with it and that is the problem.

A computer, if you know how to use one, is a much more efficient way to track and store data than a filing cabinet. What the techies really like about computer storage is they can determine how to organize the data and information and even how to search and retrieve it.

Not so with filing cabinets and reams of paper. Paper has to go in a certain file or it cannot be found...no cross indexing in a filing cabinet. Or if you are like me, you end up with piles of papers that need to be filed meaning that many of my paper files are incomplete at best.

And how about those really thick paper files? Ever spent ten minutes going through a thick paper file to find out it was misplaced or in the very back of the file?

And how about those poor dyslexic souls that space out on their A, B, and C's and always misfile?
There is no Google search function for a filing cabinet that can compensate for human error.

And of course it is always true that the really urgent and critical piece of paper is the only one that cannot be found...the Murphy's Law of Paper.

In Silicon Valley the office rent is so high it makes storing tons of paper a very expensive proposition. The paper itself is expensive and then there are filing costs, storing costs, retrieval costs, etc. By eliminating paper one can reduce different types of fixed expenses that take up both time and money.

So if going paperless is more efficient and effective, what is to stop any company from going paperless?

Some paper is required by law and unless your company is in a Mafia-related business it is in your best interest to abide by the law. Paper such as authorizations, invoices, receipts, bids, contracts, etc. are often required by law and should be included in your company's best practices. Sorry.

But anywhere your company is not legally required to have paper might be a good area to eliminate paper. For example, your company can almost eliminate payroll related paper by doing direct deposits and allowing employees private access to their online 'paycheck stubs.'

Paperless payroll is actually an employee benefit as employees don't have to wait for their checks or drive to a bank or ATM to deposit it. Saves paper, gas and time...

Many customers and clients also prefer paperless. Ecology and 'going green' has become an obsession in many areas of the world. These Greenfolk live what they feel and they get upset if they see you throwing a can or piece of cardboard in the regular trash and not the appropriate recycling bin.

They also know paper kills trees and the paper industry is one of the dirtiest industries on the planet.

These 'Greens' ask their grocery store to have a 'recycle receipt' box at the checkout counter; they bring their own bags so it's never "paper or plastic."

They stop all unsolicited mail and plan their trips to save gas. These kinds of customers will absolutely love your company for going paperless. And tell all their Greenfolk friends.

Obviously it's good business to give the customer what they want. Some, like me on a small purchase, don't want a receipt at all. Others want an email or digital receipt so they can store and file it on their computer.

Still others want both a paper and digital receipt; if you are in business you know the type...ha! But despite being picky these Greenfolk can be very good customers so why not give them what they want or at least in the manner they want it? Good business, no?

As computer memory costs continue to approach zero, massive data storage is now relatively inexpensive or almost free. And with improved security, in many instances digital files are also more secure than paper files; one big advantage is that digital files never need shredding.

Even if your company cannot go paperless there is a strong likelihood that a good percentage of your company's paperwork could be reduced. It's cheaper, more efficient, greener and in many instances more secure. Most importantly customers love it.

Go ahead; throw your printer into the trash or rather the recycling bin. What's not to like about that?
About the Author
Jack Deal is the owner of JD Deal Business Consulting, Monterey and Santa Cruz, CA. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com/blog/ecology http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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