IBM's latest campaign against paper

You've got to love all the statistics that high-tech companies use to express the return on investment of their green IT offering du jour. Here is a new-ish one from IBM: the average office worker uses roughly 10,000 sheets of copy paper year.

You've got to love all the statistics that high-tech companies use to express the return on investment of their green IT offering du jour. Here is a new-ish one from IBM: the average office worker uses roughly 10,000 sheets of copy paper year. (Notice that does not mention printer output, although I think this is implied.)

Indeed, Ken Bisconti, vice president of products and strategy for IBM's enterprise content management division, says that data shows roughly 90 percent to 95 percent of corporate information is "stored" on paper. Not only is it hard to find, but it takes up a lot of space.

That's the argument IBM is hoping will pique prospects for its new software and consulting offerings meant to reduce the amount of paper that a company uses.

Bisconti categorizes the potential savings associated with a paper reduction initiative into three different segments.

  1. The costs associated with the storage of files and records.
  2. The cost of actually finding something that is stored in one of these facilities.
  3. The cost of saving things that no longer need to be saved, which is harder to do when you are dealing with physical assets.

IBM is so convinced that it can convince companies to cut their paper consumption that it is offering businesses a no-cost half-day workshop to help customers and potential customers understand the costs of keeping things on paper. "We find the only reasons that people don't address this sooner tend to be internal organizational reasons," Bisconti says.

You can grab a white paper (called "No Paper Weight") plus a calculator at this link if you feel like exploring things on your own, but you'll need to register for the privilege.

There are a couple of vertical markets in which the need to make information electronic is more acute, Bisconti says. The healthcare sector, as an example, not only has the need but it has government funding in the form of the economic stimulus package, which dedicates about $19 billion to electronic medical records. The public sector is also another logical place for automated electronic paper and content management processes.

Here are a couple of examples of how IBM has helped businesses and government agencies cut paper and increase productivity at the same time:

  • The state of North Dakota has cut response times to citizen inquiries from days to seconds.
  • Renewtek in Australia was able to achieve carbon-neutral status, which enabled it to claim a "Greenhouse Friendly" certication.
  • VR Kreditwerk, a German financial services company that now processes 20,000 documents per day, cut its loan-approval process from one day to one hour.

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