Following the Paper Trail

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For the past 30 years or more we have been collectively committed to automating business processes. And while we can all point to tremendous successes, you can't help but wonder if all the paper in the world means that on the whole we have not been all that successful.

In fact, it seems like every time we automate a process, we seem to generate a lot more paper rather than less.

The vast majority of the paper-based processes that still dominate the business landscape today are inherently inefficient. It seems like all the technology we need is in place to redesign those processes. We can even start by replicating the paper-based process using scanning tools from companies such as Omtool that essentially allow you to replicate the paper-based workflow in a digital format. Once that happens, then you can start addressing how to re-engineer the process to make it more efficient. But human beings being what we are, replicating the paper-based process is probably going to be the least disruptive way to get started.

It seems like we have so many paper-based business processes simply because of inertia. Law firms and medical offices are rife with paper simply because senior personnel don't want to change their daily routines. And yet, the outcry over the cost of legal fees and medical care might just be a sign that the world at large is demanding fundamental changes to those very business processes.


In fact, not only is reducing paper good for your business efficiency; it's also good for the environment.

We will never entirely get rid of paper. As the old joke goes, there will be a paperless bathroom before there is a paperless office. Besides, far too many people have ready access to a printer. But here are some basic tips on how to start reducing the paper load.

When it comes to increasing productivity and reducing costs, paper is clearly the enemy. So if you're an IT executive that wants to make a real difference in terms of reinventing business processes, then start following the paper trail. At the end of it, you'll almost always find something that is being done inefficiently -- because that's the way we've always done it before.