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Paperless – The Real Holy Grail?

Try not to laugh, but isn’t removing paper from our business processes the real Holy Grail? And it is not just a document capture issue as a lot of paper is still printed when finishing a process (signature page, batch report, etc.) and sometimes in between. Skeptics would say that it will never happen and optimists envision a 100% digital world. In some respects, both views are bound to be right depending on the business and the process involved. Besides, there are few things we do that are all or nothing.

The key point is timing and where are we on the calendar of progress? First you have to look at how many centuries and decades it took to develop our processes and ways of executing them. Then you can begin to appreciate why it takes so long to get anything to change to a new way, much less with the help of new technology. And then we must appreciate how relatively new our digital technologies are in comparison to making an impact on business processes. “Mr. Horse meet Mr. Water” – you can create technologies, but you can’t make people use them (all at once).

Depending on your industry, you may have very few requirements for hard copy documentation or in the case of the healthcare industry – you are buried in it even if you try not to be. For example, my dad saw his heart doctor and the pacemaker rep ran all sorts of tests using a computerized system on a cart. At the end of the process a multi-page report was printed out from the laser printer attached to it. Some paperless process that turned out to be! The rep said that it easily could be paperless with a quick transfer of files on a USB drive, but some doctors can’t figure out how to get the files from the equipment onto their laptops so they just print it out. This little story highlights how we can develop new and paperless processes, but in our business evolutionary calendar, if the players in the process aren’t ready to embrace it then it will take a while longer to reach that optimal goal.

We’ll all continue to make improvements using our document & process management tools and some we haven’t even thought of yet. The bottom line is that we all need to keep trying to improve our processes and in the year 2525 (if man is still alive) maybe we’ll get to that digital process Holy Grail! Really?!