Paperless Office

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Paperless Office


Although the exact origin of the term 'The Paperless Office' is still the subject of some debate, the basic idea was that office automation would make paper redundant for routine tasks such as record-keeping and bookkeeping. While the widespread adoption of personal computers helped to make this goal more realistic, these predictions have yet to be realised.


A total and absolute paperless office is probably an unrealistic goal now and for the foreseeable future for most practices,' says Andrew Sherwin, Director at Quill Pinpoint. 'However, practices can certainly reduce the amount of paper that they are holding and storing by adopting some quite simple and cost-effective technologies. In our market sector (small and medium sized law firms), we are seeing some quite clever use of our systems, as well as third-party applications, in this regard (Sellen and Harper, pp 34-275).

Indeed, the current trends in this area seem more likely to offer firms a 'Less Paper' office, rather than a 'Paperless Office'. As such, the term is increasingly being used to describe the various processes and systems that help to reduce the need for paper, and which convert at least some documentation into a digital form. Many examples of this technology are already being used by businesses, including financial systems that have replaced general ledgers, databases that have replaced index cards and rolodexes, as well as e-mail replacing type-written letters and faxes and the Internet replacing many reference books.

The paperless office - promised since the first desktop computers started appearing in the 1980s - has yet to become a reality for most companies. Despite the increasing use of computers in all types of businesses, a good portion of most day-to-day work is still paper-based. In addition, basic human behavior works against a truly paperless office: employees will always want to print documents for more careful study or to bring to meetings (Sellen and Harper, pp 34-275). For now, the perfect paperless office system remains an elusive goal. Despite these challenges, you can drastically reduce the amount of paper documents your business depends on by choosing a document management system. The term “document management” (DM) covers a range of systems for managing paper and electronic files. To work towards a paperless office, a more specific term is “document imaging systems” - they include tools to help you convert paper records into electronic files (Muter & Maurutto, pp 257-66).

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