Less Paper

January 6, 2009

Xerox’s Francois Ragnet recently released a whitepaper contrasting the goal of a fully paperless office with the idea of focusing on using less paper.  We enthusiastically embrace both goals, but agree with Francois that the place to start is with less paper.

Too many efforts at creating paperless offices have forced an all-or-nothing decision.  By pushing organizations to make a single large leap, costs are vastly increased and change becomes disruptive.  Internal opposition often stops such projects before the implementation is complete.

More, for the moment, paper remains a valuable tool for communication and is still essential for reaching certain parts of the population.  Given that, the real question is how best to build hybrid workflows.  How can we keep the advantages of paper while transitioning to digital documents and tools?

Obviously, there is no single answer.  There are a number of pieces that are still developing rapidly.  Huge improvements are yet to be made in everything from document management systems to digital readers and portable devices.

Services like Postful can provide one piece of the puzzle by allowing a fundamentally digital workflow to easily output physical documents.  For users who still wish to use paper, this can provide a better experience than even a traditional paper-only process. All users are left better off rather than having some left behind.

The key concept is that a digital document is not tied to a particular output format.  A document can be viewed by one user as an email, by another as a printed letter, and by another as a series of SMS messages.  The medium isn’t the message.

Such systems can take into account the preferences of all users and do so in a way that maximizes the advantages of the digital core.  It allows for a smoother transition and more useful final result.

And, while we all keep working towards the paperless office, check out Francois’ whitepaper for some great ideas on simply using less paper.

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