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The Death of Paper-Based Processes

Your business processes need to move off of paper and into software. This was important before COVID-19, and like everything else, COVID-19 has simply accelerated this trend. Paper is no longer a viable business process medium.


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About Jennifer Matt

Jennifer Matt is the managing editor of WhatTheyThink’s Print Software section as well as President of Web2Print Experts, Inc. a technology-independent print software consulting firm helping printers with web-to-print and print MIS solutions.


By Jim Rosenthal on Oct 28, 2020

I would love to get there. I still think there's a place for some paper record, and folks do NOT just want to sit in front of a screen all day. But - I almost want to come in one day, remove all the paper record and force people to do it all electronic.


By George Gabriel on Oct 28, 2020

"In 1975 Business Week Prophesized That the Office of the Future Would be a Paperless One".
In 1975, ""People will adapt nicely to office systems—if their arms are broken," says William F. Laughlin, IBM vice-president, only half facetiously. "And we're in the twisting stage now.""

"George E. Pake, head of Xerox Corp.’s Palo Alto, CA Research Center at the time said that, “…in 1995 [his] office will be completely different; there will be a TV-display terminal with keyboard sitting on his desk. “I’ll be able to call up documents from my files on the screen, or by pressing a button,” he says. “I can get my mail or any messages. I don’t know how much hard copy [printed paper] I’ll want in this world.”"

"Forbes also published an article online on April 19, 2013 entitled, 5 Steps to A (Nearly) Paperless Office, written by Kate Harrison, Contributor. Ms. Harrison states that “More than a decade into the 21st century, one would think we would be closer to the “paperless society” information scientist Frederick Wilfrid Lancaster envisioned in 1978.”"

Here we are 45 years later and Paper is still with us. Despite the technology advances over the past 45 years, paper still manages to survive in our daily personal and business lives.
To paraphrase a Mark Twain Biography, “...the report of papers death has been grossly exaggerated.”
We are a tactile society, we like paper.


By Martyn Eustace on Oct 28, 2020

And let's consider the environment for a moment.

Paper is made from a renewable resource and from sustainably managed forests. Forest cover is growing in Europe and North America and the paper industry is investing in new plantations which also are conducive to local ecosystems. It can be said that using paper grows more trees!

In contrast, digital communication has an exponentially increasing impact with more data storage continuously being demanded.

Agreeing with a previous comment, the death of paper has long since been forecast and research shows that, given the choice, people prefer and interact better with the physical touch of paper and the permanent records it provides.

Of course, the move to digital in routine transactions and business operations makes sense but, if you want emotional engagement and need to communicate seriously and in depth, then paper documents, books, thought provoking newspapers and magazines have to be the preferred medium.


By Robert Lindgren on Oct 28, 2020

It seems to me that there are two kinds of "paper."
Paper which records operational transactions, like those summarized by Jennifer as:

•Job tickets for every single job that travels through the shop.
•Logs that track processes.
•Schedules that get printed out from spreadsheets or from scheduling applications.

Then there is paper for meaningful and thoughtful communication and engagement like:

Situations where you want emotional engagement and need to communicate seriously and in depth, then paper documents, books, thought provoking newspapers and magazines have to be the preferred medium.

The first sort of paper can and should be digital. The second truly only lives in print on paper.


By Mike Cloghessy on Oct 29, 2020

Paper is made from a renewable resource, trees which are a carbon sink. Paper is recyclable. To the point that it is no longer recyclable it is compostable (and in this form it is still a carbon sink). The same cannot be said of the laptop or smart phone.


By Howard Owen on Oct 29, 2020

We've been paperless re job tickets for three years now - thank you PressWise! It works 99% of the time. This is not about the environment, it's about workflow, efficiency, keeping everyone on the same page. Failure to change is futile, and every print service provider knows that!


By Jennifer Matt on Oct 29, 2020

So far...

1. We like paper
2. We're tactile
3. Paper is a renewable resource
4. X years ago, people/magazines/consultants said "paperless office" didn't happen
5. People don't want to look at a screen all day
6. There is a place for paper records

The article did not suggest the end of paper; it said the use of paper for business processes needs to go (now).


By Robert Godwin on Oct 30, 2020

I use Post-It tabs in my office. On my monitor, on my laptop. I have 7 staplers, 4 staple removers, and three boxes of paper clips. I use the paper clips to get the card out of my phone. They are in the bottom drawer, under stuff.
I confess to having a roll of paper towels because I still eat forbidden treats at my workstation.


By Jim Rosenthal on Oct 30, 2020

This is an old April Fools goof, but I'm really thinking this is how we go: https://whattheythink.com/video/73081-how-save-money-ditching-mis-automation-process-optimization/


By Mike Cloghessy on Oct 30, 2020

Howard Owen said....Failure to change is futile, and every print service provider knows that!

If you are trying to advocate for paperless workflow it would be better NOT to use the line "failure to change is futile". This has been used by every Marxist dictator (actually any dictator) throughout history. It immediately elicits every sort of defense mechanism or resistance to what is being said.


By Dave Hultin on Oct 30, 2020

I always get a chuckle (more of a smug smirk, perhaps) when I witness a passioned defense of paper by someone typing an email or commenting on a blog post. Seems to me it would be better to write a paper-based letter for such an argument.

Long live paper! (But only where it SHOULD live!)


By Anastasios Politis on Nov 14, 2020

Yes dear Jennifer, after clarifying what you ment by stating that "Paper is no longer a viable business process medium", we agree. Of course we should try to replace paper as a medium within business and production workflows, and I assume that we all are working towards this direction. But I could not agree more with the opinions of most colleagues' reactions and statements. And, despite the prophesies by many, paper (and what it represents as high value in human nature along with hand writing and the pencil) is still here.



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