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Campaign To Remove Paper From Offices

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the but-i-like-killing-trees dept.

Businesses 285

An anonymous reader writes "A campaign started by HelloFax, Google, Expensify, and others has challenged businesses to get rid of physical paper from their office environment in 2013. According to the EPA, the average office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper each year, and the Paperless 2013 project wants to move all of those documents online. HelloFax CEO Joseph Walla said, 'The digital tools that are available today blow what we had even five years ago out of the water. For the first time, it's easy to sign, fax, and store documents without ever printing a piece of paper. It's finally fast and simple to complete paperwork and expense reports, to manage accounting, pay bills and invoice others. The paperless office is here – we just need to use it.' The companies involved all have a pretty obvious dog in this fight, but I can't say I'd mind getting rid of the stacks of paper HR sends me."

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285 comments

Good luck with that (4, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year ago | (#42454879)

If it's anything like my old office, it's filled with a mixture of people unwilling or unable to learn ANYTHING new. ANYTHING new, no matter how simple.

They learned how to fax stuff when they started in 1987, and that is the way they will do it until they die. And if you try to make them change, they will feign near-catatonic levels of stupidity, throw fits, intentionally sabotage equipment (yep, actually seen it happen), and generally throw up any roadblock they can manage to stand in the way of learning even the simplest new task.

Re:Good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42454989)

If it makes you feel better, there is a typewriter not 30 feet from me in the financial department. It is still in active use.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#42455131)

If it makes you feel better, there is a typewriter not 30 feet from me in the financial department. It is still in active use.

Probably because those non-impact printers are pure shit when it comes to making carbon copies.

BTW, if your response to that is "dur, just print multiple copies," STFU - you don't know enough about finances and/or law.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

Ragzouken (943900) | about a year ago | (#42455227)

dur, why does finances and/or law prescribe an archaic method of multiple copies?

Re:Good luck with that (1)

FreonTrip (694097) | about a year ago | (#42455291)

Because changing financial regulations and laws practically requires an act of Congress to accomplish many times, so the old way stands - no matter how repulsively outdated and impractical it is.

Re:Good luck with that (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#42455469)

Because changing financial regulations and laws practically requires an act of Congress to accomplish many times, so the old way stands - no matter how repulsively outdated and impractical it is.

If you've ever had someone you were in contract with try and pull a fast one by presenting an altered photocopy of the original agreement, you would not think the practice quite so impractical.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42455329)

So you can't give them "copy number three" which has completely different terms than "copy number one".

If your sole purpose in life was to save trees you'd just get ONE copy notarized by a notary all/both sides trust, then rely on photocopies of the notarized doc, but even with that protocol you can't prove stuff wasn't added or crossed out, unless you had a clause that the contract is invalid if anything is added or crossed out, and you need to notarize each page, which I'm sure the notary is willing to do for a substantial fee along with a summary page for the notary of each doc they notarized to tie it all together...

Oh just put on your computer cryptologist hat and figure an unbreakable protocol that can be done by hand.

The other part is archaic laws that say "carbon copies or word perfect 4.1 ONLY" and so forth.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

afidel (530433) | about a year ago | (#42455349)

Huh, we do nothing but finance and law here (we're a REIT) and in the six years I've worked here I've NEVER seen anything involving carbon paper, everything is done with multiple copies. Hell some of our deals are done strictly electronically (a depressingly small percentage, but still some are done that way). On the other hand our finance people kill trees like they're going out of style, one floor printed over 4 million pages in 22 months.

Re:Good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455201)

Funny thing, though... many local, state, and federal government agencies, especially those dealing taxes will accept a fax, but it must be a fax of an original, i.e., a piece of paper (or pieces of paper).

So yeah, good luck with that.

Oh I almost forgot about court cases. I used to work at a lab and a third of the work dealt with individuals suing other individual or corporate entities. The attorneys for both sides wanted faxes of our paperwork, along with physical copies mailed to them. When appearing in court, we were told bring physical copies.

So again, good luck with that.

Important documents should be on paper (2)

mschaffer (97223) | about a year ago | (#42455339)

Important documents should be on paper---for archiving---not faxing.
Too bad nobody wants to get rid of the most worthless use of paper: junkmail and phonebooks.
Of course, the US Government will fight tooth and nail to keep junkmail as a revenue stream for the US Post Office.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/business/seeking-revenue-postal-service-plans-to-deliver-more-junk-mail.html?_r=0 [nytimes.com]

Re:Good luck with that (1)

TWX (665546) | about a year ago | (#42455027)

Pretty much. Everything where I work, weekly timecards, missed timeclock punches, equipment asset transfer sheets, loan-of-equipment forms, and certainly dozens of other records are all done on paper and more importantly, all require signatures, even though every single one of these items is recorded in the AS/400. Worse, some are ridiculously redundant, like the timecards and the missed timeclock punches, the latter of which get recorded on the former. I feel sorry for my boss, he has to sign at least six forms a week for just me alone, and there are about 20 people working under him, and that's just the timecard stuff. Add in all of the equipment transfer forms and everything else he has to sign- and he's not allowed to use a stamp- and his hand must be either worn out or possessing the strongest muscles in his body...

It would be so easy to add fields to all of the various records that would let employees handle these tasks electronically, either through a web interface on the AS/400 that could be reached from any workstation on the network and logged into with credentials, or else simple, internally-developed smartphone apps that would do the same thing and submit via network to the server. If there still was a requirement for a paper timecard, just print them out like we do now and sign the one copy, that's it...

And better, the damn inventory would be right as the property management people wouldn't miss paperwork and data entry.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

DJ Jones (997846) | about a year ago | (#42455203)

You mock those who rely on the "old" paper system and then suggest relying on an long-unsupported proprietary computer architecture from the late 1980's.

I think you're missing the point.

Re:Good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455149)

Our office paper is recycled. So, there's that.

too bad... (1)

mschaffer (97223) | about a year ago | (#42455299)

It's too bad that the information in your old office will long outlive the other information lost in the Digital Dark Age.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about a year ago | (#42455311)

Thus example is not important. such organizations either perish, or these workers are replaced.

and if neither occurs, there is nothing to fix.

Re:Good luck with that (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#42455379)

And if you try to make them change, they will feign near-catatonic levels of stupidity, throw fits, intentionally sabotage equipment (yep, actually seen it happen), and generally throw up any roadblock they can manage to stand in the way of learning even the simplest new task.

You're lucky. At universities where I've worked, there is a shadow board of decision makers who decree that any new change, such as e-mail, must be mangled together with the old ways. The result is idiotic and more frustrating than had they simply stuck with the old way.

For instance, an accounting software update meant that all employees had to be updated every quarter. You'd think this could be done automatically, but it was decided that in order to make sure employees who had left weren't automatically put back into the system, you'd have to respond that yes, you were still there. At some point it was updated to where an e-mail would suffice BUT you weren't allowed to respond with an e-mail or edit the PDF. The PDF was e-mailed to you, you printed it out, try to write in legibly, walk it over to the office, and then they'd complain that they couldn't read it. All to let the office know that you hadn't suddenly quit without telling them. This, by the way, had nothing to do with payroll, which was a whole separate system. There was no danger that they'd send you extra paychecks, this was basically to make sure you didn't keep your printer access.

Re:Good luck with that (2)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#42455437)

I agree. Most office workers will refuse to update their habits. Some of these workers may actually be valuable enough to keep protocols the same. However, with the unemployment the way it is,particularly among highly educated young people, and the ease of shedding older unproductive workers, the problems cannot be attributed to the worker.

Rather, the managers have to be complicit. After all, if a worker learned how to do things in 1987, then the managers probably did not every have computers in school, probably still used chalkboards. And they have to keep everything simply enough so they could manage. If all they know is MS Office, and it took them a year of training to learn it, then they are not likely going to do something like Google Docs. There will be one minor cosmetic feature in MS Office which they consider invaluable.

I have worked places where the amont of papar passed around is tiny. I have been in places where the managers print email to file. You are correct in that this will require training at the entry level. Already many colleges have little paper. We are getting to the point where even high schools are going paperless. But if you think you have problems with employes destroying equipment so they do not have to work, you can't imagine what an issue it is in high school.

Get rid of printers (4, Insightful)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about a year ago | (#42454945)

I've always said the only way to go paperless is to not have printers in the office. None. You need to take away the ability to print and only then will people adapt.

Re:Get rid of printers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455165)

I should point out that it is extraordinarily difficult to review several interrelated documents at once on a computer. I have to note consistency of logic across all the documents, take and compare notes, and often times review them against other standards, adding to that stack. The end result can be a chaotic mess whether it is done on paper or on a computer. I and most of my colleagues find it most effective to use a combination of paper and computer. Take away the paper, and we’re going to take longer to review and miss more problems.

Re:Get rid of printers (2)

Jetra (2622687) | about a year ago | (#42455295)

You're just making excuses. I can review things just fine and I don't need to keep several papers in front of me. It's called a brain and notepad.

Re:Get rid of printers (1)

aliquis (678370) | about a year ago | (#42455271)

I've always said the only way to go paperless is to not have printers in the office. None. You need to take away the ability to print and only then will people adapt.

only? always?

Wouldn't getting rid of the papers also work?

- Ridiculous!
* thinks of a girl.. playing starcraft *

Re:Get rid of printers (1)

del_diablo (1747634) | about a year ago | (#42455305)

People can acquire paper, but a printer is too expensive.

Re:Get rid of printers (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#42455423)

People can acquire paper, but a printer is too expensive.

I can go to the local uni bookstore and buy a printer for less than $50. True, that's more expensive than the paper I can pick up from the local copy room stock for nothing, but hardly an expense that would make one unobtainable.

Re:Get rid of printers (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about a year ago | (#42455327)

There is a lot of truth in this. After my last printer quit I don't have one in my home anymore. If I need to print something I'll go to the office supply store. Usually it is for a work presentation I was going there anyway to get color copies made.

I've not even had to print an invoice in over a year. They are all emailed to clients and the clients I have now I don't have problems getting paid from.

paperless! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42454947)

Our office went paperless. I have the memo thumbtacked to the wall. You may not see it because of the stack of TPS reports though.

I call... (4, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#42454967)

... bullshit. 10,000 pages a year? Even if you count every page of every book and all the toilet paper I wipe my arse with it would be a fraction of that.

I'm all for saving paper, but this kind of exaggeration isn't very helpful. It's like the old one about plastic bags having an average lifetime of less than three minutes, which seems to ignore the fact that most people use them as bin liners.

Re:I call... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455085)

Agreed. This is a bunch of people keeping themselves in a campaigning job while trying to pull the wool over people's eyes with regards to facts.

Beware the ecological fallacy (3, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about a year ago | (#42455093)

That average probably includes people who work in offices where they print hundreds or even thousands of invoices per day.

Re:Beware the ecological fallacy (3, Interesting)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#42455125)

...or law offices where it's all about the production of paper.

Some fields are just heavy on the documentation. Takei style hysterics aren't going to solve anything.

Re:Beware the ecological fallacy (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about a year ago | (#42455235)

Sure, but do we really need printed invoices in this day and age? Send the customer a digitally signed invoice by email (encrypted if the invoice should remain private), and save paper and ink. While you're at it, look into ways of reducing IT electrical costs.

Re:I call... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455109)

Yes, but the luddites in accounts, finance, and legal who print everthing. Everthing! That is who skew the average way up for the rest of us.

Re:I call... (1)

peragrin (659227) | about a year ago | (#42455153)

and three people in my office go through a box of 5000 pages every 3 weeks.

Of course we are printing invoices, and order fulfillment sheets, but they all get printed.

We are getting a new CRM, ERP software which should allow us to go mostly paperless.(figure cut down by 2/3rds) however that is going to cost us $100,000 in software, and who knows how much else in training fees.

In the end it will be worth it as we can streamline other areas of operations. and we ditch a giant headache of ERP system that we are currently dealing with.

The big trick to paperless is making sure people can deal with the documents easily in electronic format. That is something that is still being worked out by software companies.

Re:I call... (1)

maeglin (23145) | about a year ago | (#42455287)

We are getting a new CRM, ERP software which should allow us to go mostly paperless.(figure cut down by 2/3rds) however that is going to cost us $100,000 in software, and who knows how much else in training fees.

In the end it will be worth it as we can streamline other areas of operations. and we ditch a giant headache of ERP system that we are currently dealing with.

Wow! I really enjoy your positive attitude. I wish I had the same outlook.

Based on my experience I'd say that what you're really going to end up with is: the same or more paper, one partially used CRM system, two incompatible ERPs and a smaller bonus as the $100,000 sales estimate starts drifting toward the $500,000-$1M range as more and more consultants are frantically brought in to save someone's career aspirations.

Like I said, I wish I had the same outlook as you, but I don't.

Re:I call... (1)

peragrin (659227) | about a year ago | (#42455467)

The integration of the new CRM and ERP system is proven. We won't be the first company to install it, we won't even be the 1000th. They have worked out most their bugs and are used to dealing with the database transfer.

We also didn't have any consultants, just a couple of salesmen, a solid idea of what we were looking to address, and went with a known ERP provider in the industry we work with. One whose sales pitches does say things like digital signature capture, and digital order picking.

Those things are what will save paper in the long term.

As for the price it is a known quantity. Basically we are buying licenses, hardware, data transfer, and trainers. The end software is ready to go. it just has to be filled with data.

Re:I call... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#42455175)

... bullshit... It's like the old one about plastic bags having an average lifetime of less than three minutes, which seems to ignore the fact that most people use them as bin liners.

Yup. I'm just waiting for one of the filthy tree-huggers at the "health food" store (i.e., carries hippie food and fresh local stuff, as opposed to BigBoxMart's generic, shipped-in-from-lord-knows-where crap), who give me the stink-eye every time I ask for plastic bags, to mouth off and give me the opportunity to point that little factoid out.

Re:I call... (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about a year ago | (#42455207)

That's average. I used to work as a trainer a few years ago. We would print student handouts for every student. For a class of 20 students, and with the handout being 50 pages, that would be a thousand pages per week, per classroom. We had three classrooms, plus mobile training teams. And some handouts were longer. I estimated at the time we were using over 10,000 pages a month. And that's just for handouts. We printed lots of other stuff too. You may be using much less, but there are others driving the average up.

Re:I call... (1)

Beerdood (1451859) | about a year ago | (#42455373)

There must be a huge difference in paper usage in an office vs a classroom. Classrooms demand a heavy volume of handout material, because you're constantly feeding large amounts of students multiple handouts, perhaps at least one a day.

10,000 a year is an absolutely bogus exaggeration of a number for the average office worker; that's 30 pieces of paper per worker being used up every single day of the year. Maybe law offices, or education centers use higher volumes because of the nature of the business, but I doubt most offices use that much. In an IT office, I'll print maybe 100 documents a year.

Re:I call... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455213)

The figure almost has to be heavily inflated by a few industries which are heavily dependent on paper... like, say, county clerks. (Which raises another issue: unless you can get paperless government, paperless non-governmental offices probably won't improve the stats much.) It may also include things like mailers and bank statements -- which have to be generated by a machine which compiles information, in theory, on behalf of _someone_ -- so junk mail probably factors in as well.

And now for my anecdote-laced two cents: where I work, all of our spec sheets and app notes are online. All of our drafts are shared over the intranet. All of our records are stored email. Our (mandatory) electronic bank statements are provided upon request by the company administering our (mandatory) direct deposits, and are never mailed to us. Our expense reports, time sheets, and any kind of request you can think of are done through the company portal. No one makes print outs for meetings, they just toss the report/slideshow on the share.

There is not a shred of paper is necessary. Except for the 200 odd pages I occasionally print out, because some things are just easier on paper: lugging tabbed document between my four regular workstations (office, bench, dedicated automated test, specialized test room), marking up a draft in red ink (because someone decided to merge 3 existing notes for products with _painfully_-minute interface differences), or just leaning back in my chair to avoid becoming some sort of hunchback. And lets not what a pain simple drawing is on most PCs. Maybe if we all had tablets -- yeah, they'll spring for that -- I could completely avoid paper without feeling like I'm working around the lack of tools. Until then, I'm not going to cry about it.

Re:I call... (1)

Delarth799 (1839672) | about a year ago | (#42455245)

You've never seen what the average accounting and legal department in a medium to large size business can print off in a single day have you? Some of these departments can easily go through 30 to 100+ sheets of paper a day per person since people don't usually do a great job of proofreading things so they hit print X copies and then they will see something is wrong so they have to reprint another X copies to fix the mistake. It really does add up.

10,000 pages is only 25 packets. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455455)

10,000 sheets is not as much as you might think. It is less than 1 ream of paper every two weeks. How many boxes of paper are their in your offices supply room? All that takes is just being a careless printer, and, as others have stated, a worker who prints and sends invoices for a medium size company could get through their 25 reams in a couple of weeks.

H.R. did some for new year sign ups (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42454991)

H.R. used to prepare a pamplet of about 50 pages going over our yearly elections for things like health, saving, etc. For this year, they produced a CD-Rom containing all the information in PDF format. Also, all the "paperwork" was done via a Web site. The only piece of paper was one sheet which we had to sign indicating that we had one everything we wanted to with our elections.

About 30 pages per day? (2)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | about a year ago | (#42454993)

That number sounded pretty high to me, but then I remembered I work in IT.

I'm not accepting customer purchase orders, receiving order acknowledgments or sending/receiving invoices, you know - the kind of stuff most office workers do every minute of every day.

From that perspective - and also from looking around at different desks in the office - I would say 30 pages per day is a pretty conservative estimate.

Re:About 30 pages per day? (1)

Hartree (191324) | about a year ago | (#42455151)

When I still worked in IT for a small financial company, I had to make sure tens of thousands of sheets of paper were printed daily for just our little company (50 or so). (Much of it reports that would be stored for N years, never looked at and then shredded. Aren't hard copy retention policies wonderful?)

So, it might be a pretty reasonable estimate when averaged over less paper intensive companies.

going paperless (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42454997)

These guys can help:

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/13/01/02/2032212/patent-troll-targeting-users-of-scanners-wants-1000employee

A matter of price. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455023)

What is cheaper for a company of 500 people? :
1) A foolproof RAID + backup system, + expenditure in dealing with replacements, loss and transfer of backups
2) stacks of paper
3) paying some company to do 1, with decent connection to access said content.
3.1) with mini on-site version for currently active work (including the current months data, or week, whatever) in the event the network / service fails.

Re:A matter of price. (2)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | about a year ago | (#42455101)

Well 3. is out without 3.2 a full local backup.
Your host could be raided by the police at any time (since some of their other customers may be doing things that someone thinks may be illegal).

Re:A matter of price. (1)

deuxpi (2441848) | about a year ago | (#42455361)

What is cheaper for a company of 500 people? :
1) A foolproof RAID + backup system, + expenditure in dealing with replacements, loss and transfer of backups
2) stacks of paper

A company of 500 people already has an IT infrastructure. It's mostly a problem of culture adaptation mixed with the fact that most software replacements are complex and expensive tools.

I barely print anything now... (1)

DamonHD (794830) | about a year ago | (#42455029)

With the exception of one recent and unusual project, I typically print out at most a few sheets of paper per year for work and this has been true for years, with the added bonus of never having to understand how my clients' printers "work".

I'm still working through (ie recycling) a sheaf of old printouts from yesteryear for my small hand-written to-do lists. Even including that I can't imagine that I use even (say) 100 sheets of A4 per year.

Doesn't stop other people printing stuff out and giving it to me unsolicited, eg meeting minutes and agendas, but I push for less of that, and instant recycling afterwards.

Rgds

Damon

Heard that one before: (2)

Hartree (191324) | about a year ago | (#42455043)

You remember when they told us about the "paperless office" the last time round?

They lied!

Times have changed (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about a year ago | (#42455309)

I have seen restaurants that send receipts via email, and have an entirely paperless payment system -- and as an added bonus, the Android device that is being used in lieu of paper will divide your bill in whatever arbitrary way you want. There are a lot more computers today than there were 50 years ago, and a much more robust communications infrastructure for those computers.

It will be a while before paperless business is common, but eventually it is going to happen. Printing things costs money, and a lot of businesses have computers that are underutilized (like cash registers); eventually, saving money will begin to outweigh the resistance to change.

Paper free in 83! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455095)

Add 2013 to list of deadlines missed.

Exception (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455105)

I'm a software engineer, so naturally I do everything via computer. The exception is when I'm working out a problem and I need to scratch up some psuedocode or diagrams quickly. There's no way electronics could be an adequate substitute for working through problems on paper. Figuring out a problem on paper is both faster and less frustrating. It's the same reason why chalkboards/whiteboards exist.

I think I might mind (4, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#42455113)

I can't say I'd mind getting rid of the stacks of paper HR sends me.

In theory I'd agree, but in practice so far these have been replaced, in my experience, with things that are even worse than receiving stacks of paper:

1. Far too many emails.

2. Online systems that are damn near impossible to use. As an example, the former system we used for hiring was that I got a stack of resumes with cover letters, on paper, in my internal mailbox. The paperless system we have moved to, "HR Manager" [hr-manager.net], through some combination of its design and/or our HR department's configuration of it, results in me needing to click through about 6 menus and select a bunch of options just to see the list of people who applied for a position. And then more if I want to actually download PDFs of their resumes and cover letters.

What about Junkmail? (1)

mschaffer (97223) | about a year ago | (#42455119)

Would it be a bit more appropriate to get rid of junkmail and phonebooks first?
Some offices REQUIRE hard copies of things. Junkmail and phonebooks have short-lived usefulness (if at all) and waste tremendous amounts of other resources (like the postman driving around to very postbox and delivering it.)

Re:What about Junkmail? (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#42455395)

Would it be a bit more appropriate to get rid of junkmail and phonebooks first?

USPS RecycleDirect (tm).

The new USPS RecycleDirect service diverts all bulk direct mail advertising addressed to you or your residence directly from the sending post office to a recycling center. You never see another piece of junk mail. Sign up today!

(No, the USPS doesn't really offer that. They should.)

Re:What about Junkmail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455485)

Actually, the post office does offer that service.
You have to jump through hoops to get it, but it is possible.
First issue is knowing the post office code for that service.

Legal documents (1)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | about a year ago | (#42455121)

Good luck with that. I bet you could get close to a paperless office, but with the need for a legal department and/or HR, it isn't going to _completely_ happen at any office. People still use fax machines :(

Re:Legal documents (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#42455223)

Actually, legally-required documents are one of the biggest reasons to go paperless.

Take a document that needs to be signed off by 3 approvers in 3 different locations, and produced on demand for 15 years. Now imagine that in the course of just a single project you produce 100 of these annually.

With a document management system that supports electronic signatures you can handle review/revise/approval cycles with fairly little latency, and your documents are all classified away before they're signed off, which means you can find them in a decade.

With paper documents you need to keep track of who has what document, last-minute revisions kill days with the latency, and if you use multiple signature pages to cut down on latency then you end up with a massive re-assembly project. I've seen several original signature pages get lost despite a rather high level of care to prevent this (often FAXes/scans are available). You end up with documents that are amalgamations of originals, scans with annotations (which are therefore also originals), and pure scans (which usually can get tossed once you find the associated original). Then you have to file it all away so that it isn't lost, and have electronic scans made in case of disaster. Of course, the approvals are already done, so the project has moved on, and hopefully somebody bothers to file it away properly.

When you have a legal reason to produce a document that is usually all it takes to justify going electronic. The costs involved in handling paper PROPERLY are huge. When you go all-electronic choreographing a project internationally is no harder than doing one locally.

Re:Legal documents (1)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | about a year ago | (#42455265)

You don't have to convince me... you have to convince the lawyers, local laws, national, and international laws. Good luck with that. So many things _REQUIRE_ a signature and paper trail, legally speaking. It's quite sad.

Re:Legal documents (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#42455413)

Yeah, that was a big battle at work, but we eventually got through it for the most part. Once you can set a precedent it gets a lot easier. It really is just conservatism.

I remember somebody even trying to block the use of FAXed signature pages (this is in the last 10 years). I pointed out that if our company continued to operate so inefficiently we'd end up being bought out, and the agreement of sale would no doubt involve a FAXed signature. FAX signature pages have been used for all kinds of legal documents for eons...

Re:Legal documents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455363)

People still use fax machines because it's still the only universal "secure" way to transfer documents from one remote office to another. In the medical field, there are 40 different EMR systems that all use 40 different ways of storing data. The only way for one doctor or pharmacy to send data to another pharmacy that doesn't use the same EMR system is to fax it. You can't send it via email because email is insecure, whereas wiretapping laws make a fax communication federally protected. And good luck getting Marge and Joe in accounting, who have been working at the office since WWII to figure out GPG encrypted attachments, never mind getting everyone you need to communicate with to use them. To make matters worse, e-faxing is ... frustrating ... to say the least. Just go take a look through the documentation for something like Hylafax, and note how few modems actually work properly, and then go read through the support forums and note how few of those modems actually work reliably all the time. For some strange reason, modern computer modems don't do faxing well, and even for the ones that do, talking to every other fax machine out there is something of a hit or miss proposition. Additionally, at least as far as the health care field goes, there are still a number of documents that are by law required to be on paper (heck, up until recently it was all prescriptions). So as a result, people still use faxes, because it's still the best way to do their jobs.

Consider the legal issues... (1)

supersat (639745) | about a year ago | (#42455123)

One big argument I've heard against these systems is that the records tend to live forever, though backups, etc. If your company is subpoenaed, you may have to produce documents that you thought were destroyed long ago and no longer have any business use, yet might harm your case. At the very least, you may face some liability if confidential/protected documents leak out, like old payroll records that will inevitably have everyone's social security numbers.

Re:Consider the legal issues... (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#42455249)

They don't have to, if you're careful. All files should be tagged with retention dates and purged when no longer required. Backups should also be discarded after a retention period - you shouldn't be running incremental backup sets back to the dawn of time.

If anything you're far more likely to effectively dispose of documents if they're electronic. Who knows what you have lying around in some filing cabinet...

Re:Consider the legal issues... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455259)

This is just silly because many verticals have legal requirements covering retention. These vary by document type, for example documents related to life insurance might need to be kept 100 years. Companies aren't keeping everything unaware of what they're keeping or for how long.

And so what if a document goes to backup. If you've worked in the field very long you realize that backups are never accessible after either the medium decays or the technology no longer works, or both. It's actually quite hard to retain documents for very long unless they're paper. Even fiche and film have half-lives.

Fat chance.. (1)

intellitech (1912116) | about a year ago | (#42455127)

It'll never happen. Not in the next 20 years, at least.

One particular problem I see is viewing multiple documents in a workspace simultaneously (e.g. a mosiac of paperwork on one's desk) without requiring an iPad per document or a smartboard built into the top of your desk.

And, besides that, I find writing, with a pen, to be much more enjoyable than typing.

And much more productive while recording brainstorming sessions.

Re:Fat chance.. (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42455231)

One particular problem I see is viewing multiple documents in a workspace simultaneously (e.g. a mosiac of paperwork on one's desk)

I have found the amount of stuff I print has dropped by an order of magnitude every time I add another computer and/or monitor to my desk. I've got 4 now at home and never print anything anymore.

At work I've only got 3, and once in a while I'll have to print out something complicated to compare to the three screens.

I used to automatically start my projects by printing out electronic component datasheet PDFs so I could examine a couple of them while at the same time screwing around with the CAD and simulation software on my one PC and one monitor. Those days are long gone.

5 years ago? B.S. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455139)

I have been doing document management systems for 15 years and we were implementing paperless signing even in 1997. There's nothing new today that wasn't around and underused.

There's a significant cost per document type to create electronic versions and integrate it into a proper workflow. This doesn't have a ROI on low volume types.

Online? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455141)

YES! YES! YES! says the government. Then they can pass laws requiring the cloud to give them access to everything your company does.

I'm all for it ... HOWEVER we need... (4, Interesting)

Bomarc (306716) | about a year ago | (#42455159)

I'm running into a problem -- Company "A" is good, they use standard 8 1/2 x 11. Company "B" uses something else, and won't scan (or loot right if I do need to print it out). Company "C" will send my information, on pdf, with the email encrypted. Company "D" will encrypt the PDF, with the last 4 of my SS#. Company "E" will send me an email invoice, company "F" will attached a PDF, company "G" expected me to print the invoice/information out from a web page (No, I don't have Adobe Acrobat).

Can we all just standardize and get along?

Re:I'm all for it ... HOWEVER we need... (1)

dcollins (135727) | about a year ago | (#42455331)

Standardization is nice, but it requires either hard work or tyrannical power.

Not to belittle the work that our tyrants do for us.

Re:I'm all for it ... HOWEVER we need... (4, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about a year ago | (#42455389)

Can we all just standardize and get along?

You mentioned the relevant standards already:

  • email
  • PDF
  • OpenPGP or S/MIME
  • HTTP

Imagine a world where instead, you dealt with:

  1. Invoices sent by Facebook messages
  2. Invoices sent via Myspace messages
  3. Invoices sent via LinkedIn messages
  4. Invoices that you had to dial in to an online service to receive
  5. Invoices with EBCIDIC encoding
  6. Invoices sent as MS Word formatted files
  7. Fly-by-night startup of the month's proprietary invoice system, that places contextual ads in your invoices

So really, be glad that the worst of your problems is that one company uses PDF, another encrypts the PDF, another encrypts the email, and another makes you go to a website on the Internet. We could live in a much worse world.

Bullshit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455177)

It is *NOT* trivially easy to receive sign and fax documents paperlessly.

To do that every employee would at least need a *decent* graphics tablet. And no, for things where a signature is needed, you need a real signature. "digital" signatures don't cut it.

They'd also need much better monitors than they have now, most of the reason I print hardcopy is that some of the information dense PDF's I have to deal with just don't display well on the crappy (landscape only) monitors we have.

Big $$$ to fix those issues.

Re:Bullshit (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | about a year ago | (#42455273)

There have been several times where I was asked to print out and fax back documents.
I've told them no, filled out the documents with the text adding tool in MSPaint and used a mouse to make a signature and emailed it back.
They had no complaints, and if a complete idiot like myself can do this, they yes, it /is/ trivial.

Re:Bullshit (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about a year ago | (#42455441)

"digital" signatures don't cut it.

Probably because they are too hard to forge and are based on terrifying mathematics instead of "common sense."

the crappy (landscape only) monitors we have.

Really? I know people who rotate their monitors 90 degrees. This is a non-issue at this point.

Big $$$ to fix those issues.

No kidding. Major shifts in how people do things require major investments.

Paperless fax (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455191)

Is just stupid

10,000 Pages!? (New Tool Album) (2)

sandysnowbeard (1297619) | about a year ago | (#42455215)

So, I pseudocode on paper, and probably go through a page of paper every week or two. But 10,000 pages per person? Given 52 weeks in a year, and assuming an employee takes three weeks off (52 -3 = 49), and five working days in a week, that equates to about ~41 pages per day per person. Ouch.

This is silly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455217)

The idea of a fully "paperless" office is quite dumb. Now, a less paper office? Totally reasonable.
Most of the things listen in the summary I'd love to see, but it fails to address the one thing I actually use paper for, quick notes.
Both to myself another day and to missing coworkers.
Now, before you say it "well why not use email?"
Because these days email is so cluttered but desks are so clean, it's easier to notice a paper on your desk over an email in your already clogged inbox.

What now? (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year ago | (#42455241)

...the average office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper each year, ...

Seriously? I used less than 500 sheets (one ream) for both home and office last year - seriously. Now, my wife (of 20 years) was a teacher and routinely used much more - which we bought ourselves because her school only allocated one 500-sheet ream to each teacher, for the entire school year (I digress) - but she still used less than 10,000 sheets/year. She died on Jan 13, 2006 (of a brain tumor, just seven weeks after diagnosis) and I still have a 1/2 full box of paper at home. Sigh.

I want a screenless office (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455247)

paper is easy to recycle and made from renewable resources. Screen based media use lots of nasty chemicals and generally break or go out of style within 5 years.

We have books and paintings that are hundreds of years old. Your Palm Pilot is sitting in a drawer somewhere with a broken battery and no drivers for your current system.

I can grab a piece of paper, write a quick note with a goofy drawing and a taped on newspaper article and shove it in the fax sheet feeder and then hit 1 on the predial. My buddy has it in 30 seconds and can tack it on the wall. If I tried to do that with software it would take about 3 hours of hair tearing with a scanner, drawing tablet and 3 or 4 different software applications and then it would probably get kicked back by my mail provider for being too big while looking like crap.

Paper is really good for some things and the "paperless office" is just some silly obsession with trying to replace a technology that is old and almost unbeatable in its flexibility for certain tasks.

Dunder Mifflin (1)

Tanlis (304135) | about a year ago | (#42455267)

Won't someone think of Dunder Mifflin?!?

If we go to a paperless office, how will Dwight keep his beet farm?!

expense reports may stil have to deal with paper r (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#42455319)

expense reports may still have to deal with paper receipts, 3rd party's that may want a fax or there own format.

Paper = Insurance (2)

retroworks (652802) | about a year ago | (#42455333)

I look at the paper I recycle, and realize that generally I printed it for insurance, just in case a hard drive goes down or a document is deleted or changed. Usually it was necessary, almost always unnecessary. Just like tornado, flood, or hurricane insurance. Should I do without insurance? I'd save some money.

Easy access to information may increase printing (1)

sociophile (942047) | about a year ago | (#42455343)

Sure, printing is now so cheap and easy that we tend to do more of it. But perhaps we haven't seen the 'paperless office' because access to information has also become so easy and inexpensive. You can download and print a 100 page PDF in a few seconds, which makes it easy for anyone to become their own printing press. Find an interesting article online? Just click "Print" and you have a hard copy.

Booklet mode (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | about a year ago | (#42455385)

The MFP in the office has booklet mode, which shrinks A4 sheets to 4 to a side, prints them in the right order, folds it and adds 2 staples. I'm in as long as I can keep this feature which is perfect for manuals, long dull reports and even source you want to study on the toilet. It's the mindless printing of email, finance batch import summaries for 'auditing purposes' and non-duplex wastage that needs to be addressed.

Right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42455399)

So a non-profit behind which all these bozo companies that want to hold your data hostage are located wants to deprive you of a way to keep your data locally... Great...

First of all motherfuckers, paper is the most reusable resource we have... well maybe second behind water. We have all but perfected tree farms. And we recycle hell of a lot more of paper than we do of iPads, computers, and any other garbage, with a lot less environmental damage.

Second, there are already forces making sure that no more paper than necessary gets used, it's called fuckin' economics. That paper is cheap, but it ain't free. Companies already try to do things like make their employees print double sided when possible. In most cases, using a paper copy is still the way to go. I used all digital books this semester at university and I'll tell you many times I wish I had the real thing. Sure I didn't miss the weight of logging around 5 bricks, but I'd love to have the real thing on hand when studying sometime.

Final note, 10k pages is very little. Back when I was an office drone, I would easily use 100k a year.

Kindle-like screens (1)

fluor2 (242824) | about a year ago | (#42455405)

We're still missing Kindle-like screens that can display text without beaming your eyes with light.

Oh right... (1)

pongo000 (97357) | about a year ago | (#42455407)

...it's not as if Google, HelloFax, and Expensify stand to gain from a paperless office or anything like that. Oh look, there's this little thing called sustainable forestry [ny.gov] that ensures a renewable resource like trees is managed properly to (gasp!) provide paper to the masses and a natural resource for visitors.

Newsflash: (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#42455433)

Technology-oriented companies who profit from paperless business exaggerate statistics in order to guilt businesses into no longer using paper!

In other news, water is wet and China is full of Chinese people. Film at 11.

Compromise (1)

arctus (2753027) | about a year ago | (#42455447)

I would settle for completely paperless processes involving external actors such as clients or customers.

Its my observation that a lot of the organizations that require me to print something hold massive monopoly such as a loan company or service company. On a recent student loan consolidation app I had to wait 2 weeks for a paper application to be mailed to me only to find out later that the paper app was then scanned in to a computer...the entire process lasted 6-8 weeks thanks to snail mail and the result was an electronic application.

My skill in importing signatures in to PDFs that I handily draw in MS Paint is pretty good too...such a crying shame.

Yeah, well, buy me a decent screen (1)

xtal (49134) | about a year ago | (#42455457)

I work for the government and print thousands of pages a month.

I am not reading all that (and yes, I have to read it all) on low-DPI crap monitors that are issued to me, and nobody in my department has any power to change right on up.

Until I have a 30" high DPI display at work - like I have at home - my eyes will be reading off the printed page.

Give me these tools and we have a deal (2)

rickb928 (945187) | about a year ago | (#42455495)

1. Something to replace the paper notebooks I use to keep extemporaneous notes in. It needs to be relatively free-form, as quick to input as a scribble with a pen, and need not be indexed, merely stored. It does need to allow me to flip through pages quickly, showing me the whole page in a flash and letting me swipe through. Indexing and conversions are Phase Two.

2. Something to let me view multiple pages of a document simultaneously, alongside one another. Easily repositioned.

Before we go further, what I want will require multiple monitors and a tablet. The monitors will not kill trees, but their overall eco cost will be at least as much as paper, I suspect.

Also, that notebook replacdement will probably be a tablet. It needs to be secure, within the corporate environment, and also afford full security when detached om the network. In fact, it needs to be autonomous. My current solution, paper notebooks, are a physical security issue. Since this new gizmo will have to be with me, biometrics are the security solution, and needs to give me access as fast as flipping a page. Ok, 2 seconds.

Also, I work for a financial institution. Security is a little higher than important, but not as high as military.

What I want is Surface as a desktop, along with a traditional monitor-based workspace. Just make my desk a big Surface device, add in the 'Minority Report' UI, and I can ditch paper for good, though I doubt I kill more than 3,000 pages a year. Assuming I can write on my new Surface surface, drop things, and spill coffee on the edges, all is good.

Maybe 2015. Maybe no. Sharp or Samsung or whoever is making the flecible displays are close to somethign that would work cleverly, but I am constrained by patent applications from going further. Suffice to say there are a LOT LOT LOT more patents to be filed.

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