Monday, November 10, 2014

No Need to be Scared of Paper

As you may have heard, Thursday was World Paper Free Day. Officially, it is AIIM initiative that encourages people and businesses to not use paper for one day. I was Tweeted, I did not go paper free: 

I was writing and on a deadline for my newsletter--and to tell the truth, absent three or four monitors, I just find it easier to compile a story using multiple sources, when I at least have my notes on a paper. Then I can utilize my computer screen for additional research. And the proofreading....I did go paper free for a year, just to see how it worked, and it was certainly possible to publish the newsletter without printing anything. However, I think it is easier to do it when I can print certain items.

Yes, I think there are situations where paper is more efficient than electronic documents, which brings me to the major discrepancy I currently have with the ECM industry--Everyone is always trying to go paperless! All I hear is about how much more efficient and secure EDM systems are over paper. And this may be true on some levels, but certainly not all.

Let's start with security because I think that's more black-and-white. Yes, I think a properly controlled electronic document in an ECM system is more secure than a paper document. This seems obvious. I mean you can pretty much control who accesses it and changes it and track whoever sees it and provide an audit trail. It's harder to do this with paper. 

Of course, this doesn't quite explain why people in the healthcare industry consciously choose to use fax over e-mail. Apparently they still feel that analog is more secure than digital. I'll explore this more in an upcoming issue of DIR

As far as efficiency, I am a fan of paper for many collaborative exercises, as I think it's easier to share because in many cases it represents a least common denominator. I mean you don't have to worry about your paper being compatible with another system. And your annotations, notes, signatures, et al, work across systems as well. And if you need to contact someone in a remote location - a scanned image should work just fine.

Now, I agree that electronic processes are generally more efficient than paper ones - but I also firmly believe that there are times when paper can be more useful - and that we should take advantage of the fact that we have access to such great printing and scanning technology. In fact, I think we've reached a tipping point, where if managed correctly, it really doesn't matter if information comes in on paper or digitally, it can be dealt with just as efficiently either way.

In other words, don't be scared of paper, embrace it where it makes sense. Don't try and eliminate it, try to set up the most efficient processes you can that take full advantage of paper as a medium of communication. There is great document imaging technology out there. Don't be afraid to use it.

And of course, there are these guys.