Business Brains

Ditching the dependence on paper

Posting in Education

Old habits still a major inhibitor for adoption of scanning and other electronic information management technology.

It's widely accepted that the paperless office would be a good thing, not just for the environment but for the bottom line and for office aesthetics. (Ditch those old-fashioned credenzas and file cabinets!) But at this point, the reluctance to move that way apparently has more to do with behavior than technology.

That's the finding of a new survey of more than 850 people by AIIM, which is an organization focused on advocating the adoption of more efficient archiving and management systems. The survey found that overall, close to two-thirds of all important paper documents are saved in that form. Even when documents are sent out for electronic archiving, at least 25 percent of the time, they are photocopied "just in case." Only one-third are systematically destroyed after they are scanned. Notes AIIM’s President John Mancini:

“We are at last in a situation where electronic archiving of records is efficient, effective and can save huge amounts of space, and yet most office staff seem to be hanging on to paper in the mistaken view that there is some legal reason to do so. Despite the fact that the legal admissibility of scanned paper documents has been established for nearly 20 years, and is nailed down in legislation and standards around the world, there is still this suspicion among users that they may need to produce the original paper copy at some stage."

OK, all I will say is: Guilty as charged, although I have slowly but surely switched over to electronic billing for many of my recurring bills.

The trick, I suspect, may lie in educating not just these overly conscientious (or paranoid) citizens but government agencies and other organizations that demand things in triplicate and that have trouble keeping track of electronic records. I talked to someone just last week about new regulations that affect his industry; he is apparently so ahead of the curve that he routinely educates the compliance sorts and auditors that often drop by in the course of business.

I suspect it will take decades of e-books and scanners and better display technology before information browing and storing habits favor the electronic.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure