Paperless office will move out of the realm of pulp fiction in 2010

Those evil ZDNet blog editors! I know the real reason behind asking their contributors to roll up all sorts of "Top 10" this and "Most Significant Post" that articles is to keep our brains in working order during the mush of holiday preparations and parties.

Those evil ZDNet blog editors! I know the real reason behind asking their contributors to roll up all sorts of "Top 10" this and "Most Significant Post" that articles is to keep our brains in working order during the mush of holiday preparations and parties. So now, here I am writing this blog instead of wrapping presents that I need to put in the mail tomorrow morning.

My task at hand for the next half-hour is to proclaim which of my posts I think is my most important post of 2009. It was up to me to decide what that meant. The post I've elected to write about isn't actually on my Top 10 most popular blogs list, but it IS related to the top item on that list: A blurb about a revolutionary Xerox multi-function printer.

I believe one reason that story was so popular, other than the possibility that Xerox promoted the heck out of it, is that it deals with a very real technology solution for improving energy AND people efficiency: content management. MFPs are, after all, the ultimate front-end for getting forms and other random bits of paper that must be retained into a form where it can be squished and archived and tucked away. Which leads me to my favorite post, at least right at this moment: "Will you or won't you (print that document)"

Since I wrote up that entry, I've come across even more evidence why programs focused on paper reduction will be copied (pun intended) copiously in 2010.

New research from AIIM (the content management association) finds that more than half of the documents that are scanned by organizations were actually "born digital" or created on a computer in the first place, then printed out, then photocopied, THEN scanned, then destroyed.

Notes Doug Miles, director of market intelligence for AIIM, in a press release:

"We have seen a steady increase in the use of scanning and capture as an input to business processes, with 42 percent of documents now being scanned-to-process rather than scanned-to-archive. Proximity to the process and the level of integration with other enterprise systems become more important in these applications."

It just so happens that I have a real-life example, based on a conversation that I had this afternoon with a Xerox customer, Western Forest Products, which took its accounts payable process completely digital. Does anyone else see the irony of a lumber and pulp company attempting to cut out paper?

David Byng, chief information officer for the company (which is based in Duncan, British Columbia), says his company was thinking green when it adopted the Xerox enterprise content management technology -- but of the monetary sort and not the environmental sort. The 2,000-person company previously was processing more than 700 paper invoices per day. Byng cites the following as specific benefits of going "close to paperless":

  • The company is saving $20,000 per month (Canadian) in hard costs, including the cost of positions it eliminated when it incorporated batch-scanning.
  • Turnaround time for invoices was cut from days or weeks to a matter of hours. Because of this, Western Forest Products was able to reduce late payment charges, which it was incurring as a result of delays in invoice-handling. It also is now able to capture up to 90 percent of the early-payment discounts for which it is eligible.
  • The elimination of many, many boxes and filing cabinets. The cost of archiving documents physically is dramatically reduced.

Other Xerox customers cite similar scenarios, and more. One school district was even able to cut $300,000 in operating costs by cutting 200 filing cabinets, creating new space for classrooms and negating the need to build new facilities.

So, I ask you to ask yourself: You're whipping your data center into energy-efficiency, you're managing the power of your notebooks and desktops, but have you started really evaluating your printers and other office equipment? The green potential is very real, and I'm not just talking about saving a few trees.

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