Forget your elder’s sage advice on maintaining a good work-life balance. There’s a new, grossly misleading and patently absurd approach (promoted here by the time-strapped PhD’s at Berkeley Haas), and it’s spreading like wildfire throughout the business world. They call it… “Work-Life Integration!”
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
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.”Read More »The Myth of the Paperless Office – 12 Years Later