Paperless office: Achievable or out of reach?

One of the benefits that was touted early in the evolution of computing technology was the idea of the "paperless office," a term that was coined in the 1960s. Since then, technology has gotten more powerful and plentiful than even the biggest optimist predicted, yet virtually every office in the world has as much paper as ever. That is not to say that the paperless office is impossible, as shown by a new law office that designed their business from the ground up to be paperless. It certainly seems that building a paperless office is easier if you build it from scratch, as you are not tied to legacy paper.

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There is no shortage of systems that advertise the ability to convert to a paperless office, just Google the term and you will see over 600,000 hits, including many sponsored links from companies hoping to sell you their solution. The split between paperless and papered office proponents was illustrated in June, when Canon entered the market and just two weeks later ABC Office introduced a new typewriter, albeit one with many computer-like features, such as spell checkers, processors, and memory. At the same time, Google's new offering, Google Apps, has drawn rave reviews from many, including PC World, which said, "Printouts may never die, but if Google has its way, the office-less office may become a reality long before the paperless one does."

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We started our paperless office initiative in 2003 and have yet to achieve no-paper nirvana. Of course, we are an educational facility with records going back 40 years, so we are still in the midst of scanning student records into our document imaging solution. In the business office and HR, most documents have been scanned, but the offices still run nearly as much on paper as ever. Many of the workers will print scanned documents because they would rather read hard copy and then shred the printouts than read the information on a computer screen.

Has your business moved forward with a paperless initiative? How far have you gotten? Have your employees bought into the concept, or are they still printing everything before they read it? Join the discussion.

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