Despite all the great case studies and other evidence suggesting the business benefits of eliminating paper from business processes, there is one pretty big reason why a paperless society isn’t in our near future: Most Americans don’t believe in it.
A new telephone poll conducted by organization Poll Position found that 56 percent of U.S. adults don’t think that the United States will ever transform into an entirely paperless society. Another 28 percent held the opposite opinion.
Ironically, the poll’s youngest age demographic was the most pessimistic about a paperless future: 63 percent of them said no way, while 23 percent said we could get there.
The survey pool included 1,142 registered voters, contacted in early December 2011. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent.
The answer is illuminating amid all the prognostications calling for digital libraries and hailing e-readers as the death of printed books and literature.
There have been many great case studies about the among of money that large companies, such as the wireless carriers, can save by switching over to electronic processes. (One example: “Less print for Sprint in bid to meet 40% paper reduction goal.”) Part of it is purely operational: I just interviewed a small healthcare company that cut its expenses about $500,000 by enabling its remote clinicians to file “paperwork” electronically rather than requiring them to travel into the office just to drop off forms and claims. There is a green element, as well, which many businesses have been trumpeting over the past year.
But apparently the average person isn’t ready to give up paper entirely, even if he or she has cut back on their use. As I write this, I’m glancing around at the paper notes strewn about my desk, and the print magazines tucked on my to-read pile.
Something to consider carefully as your department or business contemplates digitizing more processes this year. It may be smart, but not if people don’t buy into the concept.