The new technologies and their contributions to a paperless office

By Andres Losada, Marketing Director, Xerox Distributor Group

The concept of a paperless office has been around for nearly 40 years; nonetheless, during this period, printing has increased. The percentage of office workers who require to print documents is 3 times higher than that of those who try to avoid printing. Besides, as explained by specialists Abigal Sellen and Richard Harper in their book “The Myth of the Paperless Office”, companies use today 40% more paper, even after having adopted e-mail.

Exploring the main reasons why people print may reveal the barriers preventing office workers from adopting fully digital processes. Is it possible for organizations to reduce printing by removing the barriers, either in full or at least partially? Or are these barriers insurmountable?

Fifty per cent of the companies still rely on paper documents for their work. Why does this happen? According to an article recently published by Darren Cassidy, Managing Director, Xerox U.K., the main reasons why people print documents in their work places are:

  • To read them: until recently, there were good reasons why people might prefer reading a document on paper rather than on screen; on account of their potential to carry them around, read and annotate them.
  • To annotate them
  • To sign them
  • To keep and store
  • To share a document in physical format is more impacting

Yet, digital technology offers an alternative answer to each of these issues. For example, tablets and their apps enable to digitally replicate the reading experience on printed paper. In addition, the digital scribing techniques increase every day more the possibility of making digital annotations in a very similar way as those on paper. Meanwhile, the progress of digitalization in business processes continues to promote and facilitate the use of the electronic signature. Taking into account its great advantages, the digital format is the preferred way to share documents, and the potential upshots of mining tons of paper data into electronic systems are the biggest driver of reducing the amount of paper.

The new office has been designed to benefit the sector of document management processes production, printing and related services, both at corporate or at small and middle businesses level. The disruptive innovation of mobile technologies, thanks to the new possibilities that progressive advances in IT offer, invites the shift of document usage from paper-based to electronic. Even though these changes have just recently started to appear, the use of new digital technologies will be installed more and more deeply. While paper has a few affordances that are difficult to replicate digitally with current or near-future technology, most of what we like about paper can now be achieved digitally.