By Rafael Moscatel
The extent to which any organization can reduce its dependency on paper is largely determined by laws and the industry regulations it faces, the technology available to it and how well its leaders manage change, internally as well as for customers.
Here are some thoughts on how to begin solving the paper problem around your office:
Understand the affordances of paper – One of the most thorough examinations of the issue of paper and its role in our lives and workplaces came in 2002 when MIT press published The Myth of the Paperless Office. The book’s findings make a case for the “affordances of paper” and stress that to reduce paper production and consumption we must understand the underlying habits and processes driving how our clients and colleagues work.
Attorneys for example often require a contextual or “case at a glance” perspective that a chronological or issue focused file offers… a “story telling” approach to presenting information which can’t always be matched even with the best software. Similarly, auditors or project managers will often work with and create aggregated records which serve a specific purpose for which imaging might be overkill or too costly. And contrary to popular belief, there still exist quite a few scenarios where it remains more affordable, practical and efficient to even store information in paper form. Conversion costs and risks required to maintain the digital lifecycle of infrequently referenced documents and avoid bitrot* can often exceed those associated with retaining the same materials in paper form.
Make the right policy changes with executive level support – Every Records or Information Governance policy initiative or project your business undertakes should have senior level executive support and reflect the best practices within your industry.
Here are some policy and procedural ideas to consider that can act as catalysts for change.
- Get a Retention Policy / Schedule, implement it and regularly enforce it -A Retention Schedule (often in line with a data map) is the most effective tool for properly managing records and information and its necessity cannot be understated. It not only protects an organization and keeps paper and electronic storage costs low, it gives executives a tool for understanding and navigating the massive network of silos and records their businesses create.
- Institute an E-signature Policy for all contracts under a specified financial threshold
- De-duplicate emails and all other electronic content repositories systematically
- Identify where duplicates are created, determine why and what can be done to prevent them going forward
- Take a “final draft and / or executed version” approach to your document lifecycle rules Continue reading “The Paperless Office”
I was recently asked exactly how my background in archives and information technology assisted me with my documentary, The Little Girl with the Big Voice. I hadn’t really thought about it until that point because it was a passion project and I was so wrapped up in telling the story it didn’t seem to matter. In retrospect, my years in Records & Information Management really were instrumental in helping me collect, organize and clear all of the materials for this film.
The Little Girl with the Big Voice examines the struggles of women and children in the early 1930’s and 40’s through the eyes of Mary Small, a child prodigy, restless wife and dedicated mother whose resilience in the face of constant challenges made her a defining symbol of her generation.
Documentary filmmaking involves a lot of document management, project management and asset management and always has. Understanding how to organize large collections of materials, authenticate and reference them contextually proved very useful in creating the historical sequences seen in the film.
When it came time to putting together a clip log, the metadata and information I collected and associated with each piece of media made it easy for me to clear each image which is essential to secure a good insurance policy. In doing so, a lot of the principles I’ve learned as an Information Governance Professional came into play in terms of ensuring authenticity. As a result of properly documenting my sources from the get-go I ended up with a treasure chest of digital resources that I can now use over and over. My experiences with digital imaging also helped with rendering the scans and pictures I used and in resolving pixelation issues. The organization of documents and images into (hopefully) logical historical sequences based on various data points, is very much a business discipline.
I also wanted this film to be an example of how filmmakers can use the Fair Use Doctrine to uncover and tell some of the richest, most compelling stories of this era, which were until the advent of the internet, almost trapped in library catalogs and press break scrapbooks.
So I teamed up with Stanford University’s Documentary Film Program and learned how to present these images in context so that they passed muster. Doing so probably reduced the cost of the film’s licensing fees by as much as 90% or more and the research alone gave us a cache of items that we can hopefully use to tell another great story.
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It’s been 12 years since I first read Abigal J. Sellen and Richard H.R. Harper’s book, The Myth of the Paperless Office. It remains one of my favorite no nonsense analysis into the subject.
This bold and insightful analysis by two Microsoft employees into the psychological and practical reasons why certain business processes continue to rely on paper remains relevant even a decade after its publication. The book is especially helpful for records and information governance consultants more intent on providing their clients with a true understanding of the nature of their processes than selling them software solutions driven by buzz phrases including “The Paperless Office.” Continue reading “The Myth of the Paperless Office – 12 Years Later”