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Campaign To Remove Paper From Offices 285

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-i-like-killing-trees dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A campaign started by HelloFax, Google, Expensify, and others has challenged businesses to get rid of physical paper from their office environment in 2013. According to the EPA, the average office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper each year, and the Paperless 2013 project wants to move all of those documents online. HelloFax CEO Joseph Walla said, 'The digital tools that are available today blow what we had even five years ago out of the water. For the first time, it's easy to sign, fax, and store documents without ever printing a piece of paper. It's finally fast and simple to complete paperwork and expense reports, to manage accounting, pay bills and invoice others. The paperless office is here – we just need to use it.' The companies involved all have a pretty obvious dog in this fight, but I can't say I'd mind getting rid of the stacks of paper HR sends me."
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Campaign To Remove Paper From Offices

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:07PM (#42454879)

    If it's anything like my old office, it's filled with a mixture of people unwilling or unable to learn ANYTHING new. ANYTHING new, no matter how simple.

    They learned how to fax stuff when they started in 1987, and that is the way they will do it until they die. And if you try to make them change, they will feign near-catatonic levels of stupidity, throw fits, intentionally sabotage equipment (yep, actually seen it happen), and generally throw up any roadblock they can manage to stand in the way of learning even the simplest new task.

    • by TWX (665546)
      Pretty much. Everything where I work, weekly timecards, missed timeclock punches, equipment asset transfer sheets, loan-of-equipment forms, and certainly dozens of other records are all done on paper and more importantly, all require signatures, even though every single one of these items is recorded in the AS/400. Worse, some are ridiculously redundant, like the timecards and the missed timeclock punches, the latter of which get recorded on the former. I feel sorry for my boss, he has to sign at least s
      • by DJ Jones (997846)
        You mock those who rely on the "old" paper system and then suggest relying on an long-unsupported proprietary computer architecture from the late 1980's.

        I think you're missing the point.
        • by hawguy (1600213)

          You mock those who rely on the "old" paper system and then suggest relying on an long-unsupported proprietary computer architecture from the late 1980's.

          I think you're missing the point.

          And you're (most likely) using a computer whose CPU's instruction set was based upon a 1970's era computer terminal [wikipedia.org]. Sure, the instruction set and architecture have been extended and modified significantly since then, just as the AS/400 you buy today is much different than the one you bought in 1980.

        • by TWX (665546)
          A computer architecture from the eighties is still newer than a computer architecture developed in the sixties and seventies by a telephone company [wikipedia.org], which the bulk of the planet runs on derivations of.

          The current iSeries machine we have dates to about two years ago. Before that mini we had an older iSeries mini, and before that we had another AS/400 mini. Before that we had a Honeywell, and at some point they had a Wang. These computers have handled employment records, payroll, enrollment records, equ
    • It's too bad that the information in your old office will long outlive the other information lost in the Digital Dark Age.

    • by rickb928 (945187)

      Thus example is not important. such organizations either perish, or these workers are replaced.

      and if neither occurs, there is nothing to fix.

    • And if you try to make them change, they will feign near-catatonic levels of stupidity, throw fits, intentionally sabotage equipment (yep, actually seen it happen), and generally throw up any roadblock they can manage to stand in the way of learning even the simplest new task.

      You're lucky. At universities where I've worked, there is a shadow board of decision makers who decree that any new change, such as e-mail, must be mangled together with the old ways. The result is idiotic and more frustrating than had they simply stuck with the old way.

      For instance, an accounting software update meant that all employees had to be updated every quarter. You'd think this could be done automatically, but it was decided that in order to make sure employees who had left weren't automatica

    • by fermion (181285)
      I agree. Most office workers will refuse to update their habits. Some of these workers may actually be valuable enough to keep protocols the same. However, with the unemployment the way it is,particularly among highly educated young people, and the ease of shedding older unproductive workers, the problems cannot be attributed to the worker.

      Rather, the managers have to be complicit. After all, if a worker learned how to do things in 1987, then the managers probably did not every have computers in scho

    • by Hatta (162192)

      If it's anything like my old office, it's filled with a mixture of people unwilling or unable to learn ANYTHING new. ANYTHING new, no matter how simple.

      In my department we place orders by filling out a requisition and emailing it to our administrative assisstant...who then prints them out and deletes the email to save space.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      He sure it's easy, and don't give them a choice.
      They learned faxing, and they can learn not walking to the fax machine and pushing a button on their screen to send a fax.

      I have heard your complaint, and seen it proven false over and over again, when people aren't given the choice. Changes takes energy, so natural the brain rebels against it.

      If they still don't get it? give them warning, write them up and fire them.

  • by Russ1642 (1087959) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:10PM (#42454945)
    I've always said the only way to go paperless is to not have printers in the office. None. You need to take away the ability to print and only then will people adapt.
    • There is a lot of truth in this. After my last printer quit I don't have one in my home anymore. If I need to print something I'll go to the office supply store. Usually it is for a work presentation I was going there anyway to get color copies made.

      I've not even had to print an invoice in over a year. They are all emailed to clients and the clients I have now I don't have problems getting paid from.

  • I call... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <(ten.3dlrow) (ta) (ojom)> on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:12PM (#42454967) Homepage

    ... bullshit. 10,000 pages a year? Even if you count every page of every book and all the toilet paper I wipe my arse with it would be a fraction of that.

    I'm all for saving paper, but this kind of exaggeration isn't very helpful. It's like the old one about plastic bags having an average lifetime of less than three minutes, which seems to ignore the fact that most people use them as bin liners.

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:21PM (#42455093)
      That average probably includes people who work in offices where they print hundreds or even thousands of invoices per day.
      • by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:23PM (#42455125) Homepage

        ...or law offices where it's all about the production of paper.

        Some fields are just heavy on the documentation. Takei style hysterics aren't going to solve anything.

        • Sure, but do we really need printed invoices in this day and age? Send the customer a digitally signed invoice by email (encrypted if the invoice should remain private), and save paper and ink. While you're at it, look into ways of reducing IT electrical costs.
        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          But an average of 10,000 sheets for all office workers? Unless there are a few producing several billion pages a year by themselves to account for all the office workers who produce hardly any it just doesn't add up.

    • by peragrin (659227)

      and three people in my office go through a box of 5000 pages every 3 weeks.

      Of course we are printing invoices, and order fulfillment sheets, but they all get printed.

      We are getting a new CRM, ERP software which should allow us to go mostly paperless.(figure cut down by 2/3rds) however that is going to cost us $100,000 in software, and who knows how much else in training fees.

      In the end it will be worth it as we can streamline other areas of operations. and we ditch a giant headache of ERP system that we ar

      • by maeglin (23145)

        We are getting a new CRM, ERP software which should allow us to go mostly paperless.(figure cut down by 2/3rds) however that is going to cost us $100,000 in software, and who knows how much else in training fees.

        In the end it will be worth it as we can streamline other areas of operations. and we ditch a giant headache of ERP system that we are currently dealing with.

        Wow! I really enjoy your positive attitude. I wish I had the same outlook.

        Based on my experience I'd say that what you're really going to end up with is: the same or more paper, one partially used CRM system, two incompatible ERPs and a smaller bonus as the $100,000 sales estimate starts drifting toward the $500,000-$1M range as more and more consultants are frantically brought in to save someone's career aspirations.

        Like I said, I wish I had the same outlook as you, but I don't.

    • ... bullshit... It's like the old one about plastic bags having an average lifetime of less than three minutes, which seems to ignore the fact that most people use them as bin liners.

      Yup. I'm just waiting for one of the filthy tree-huggers at the "health food" store (i.e., carries hippie food and fresh local stuff, as opposed to BigBoxMart's generic, shipped-in-from-lord-knows-where crap), who give me the stink-eye every time I ask for plastic bags, to mouth off and give me the opportunity to point that little factoid out.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      That's average. I used to work as a trainer a few years ago. We would print student handouts for every student. For a class of 20 students, and with the handout being 50 pages, that would be a thousand pages per week, per classroom. We had three classrooms, plus mobile training teams. And some handouts were longer. I estimated at the time we were using over 10,000 pages a month. And that's just for handouts. We printed lots of other stuff too. You may be using much less, but there are others driving the ave
      • by Beerdood (1451859)
        There must be a huge difference in paper usage in an office vs a classroom. Classrooms demand a heavy volume of handout material, because you're constantly feeding large amounts of students multiple handouts, perhaps at least one a day.

        10,000 a year is an absolutely bogus exaggeration of a number for the average office worker; that's 30 pieces of paper per worker being used up every single day of the year. Maybe law offices, or education centers use higher volumes because of the nature of the busines
    • You've never seen what the average accounting and legal department in a medium to large size business can print off in a single day have you? Some of these departments can easily go through 30 to 100+ sheets of paper a day per person since people don't usually do a great job of proofreading things so they hit print X copies and then they will see something is wrong so they have to reprint another X copies to fix the mistake. It really does add up.
  • by Moray_Reef (75398) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:12PM (#42454983) Homepage

    Patent trolls want $1,000â"for using scanners

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/01/patent-trolls-want-1000-for-using-scanners/ [arstechnica.com]

  • by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:13PM (#42454993)
    That number sounded pretty high to me, but then I remembered I work in IT.

    I'm not accepting customer purchase orders, receiving order acknowledgments or sending/receiving invoices, you know - the kind of stuff most office workers do every minute of every day.

    From that perspective - and also from looking around at different desks in the office - I would say 30 pages per day is a pretty conservative estimate.
    • by Hartree (191324)

      When I still worked in IT for a small financial company, I had to make sure tens of thousands of sheets of paper were printed daily for just our little company (50 or so). (Much of it reports that would be stored for N years, never looked at and then shredded. Aren't hard copy retention policies wonderful?)

      So, it might be a pretty reasonable estimate when averaged over less paper intensive companies.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@gm a i l . com> on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:13PM (#42454999) Homepage Journal
    Will businesses think the startup cost of roughly $1000 per employee [slashdot.org] is worth it?
  • by cashman73 (855518) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:14PM (#42455013) Journal
    They might want to rethink using the name Project Paperless [slashdot.org], or variants thereof. Trolls could sue them,. . . ;-)
  • With the exception of one recent and unusual project, I typically print out at most a few sheets of paper per year for work and this has been true for years, with the added bonus of never having to understand how my clients' printers "work".

    I'm still working through (ie recycling) a sheaf of old printouts from yesteryear for my small hand-written to-do lists. Even including that I can't imagine that I use even (say) 100 sheets of A4 per year.

    Doesn't stop other people printing stuff out and giving it to me

  • by Hartree (191324) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:17PM (#42455043)

    You remember when they told us about the "paperless office" the last time round?

    They lied!

    • by Trepidity (597)

      There was a story last year [slashdot.org] about how digitizing industrial-plant blueprints in the 1990s "paperless office" push worked out for 'em...

    • I have seen restaurants that send receipts via email, and have an entirely paperless payment system -- and as an added bonus, the Android device that is being used in lieu of paper will divide your bill in whatever arbitrary way you want. There are a lot more computers today than there were 50 years ago, and a much more robust communications infrastructure for those computers.

      It will be a while before paperless business is common, but eventually it is going to happen. Printing things costs money, and a
  • I think I might mind (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot&hackish,org> on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:22PM (#42455113)

    I can't say I'd mind getting rid of the stacks of paper HR sends me.

    In theory I'd agree, but in practice so far these have been replaced, in my experience, with things that are even worse than receiving stacks of paper:

    1. Far too many emails.

    2. Online systems that are damn near impossible to use. As an example, the former system we used for hiring was that I got a stack of resumes with cover letters, on paper, in my internal mailbox. The paperless system we have moved to, "HR Manager" [hr-manager.net], through some combination of its design and/or our HR department's configuration of it, results in me needing to click through about 6 menus and select a bunch of options just to see the list of people who applied for a position. And then more if I want to actually download PDFs of their resumes and cover letters.

  • by ctaylor (160829) < > on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:23PM (#42455117) Homepage

    It's just a scam to get people to scan documents and email them so they can get sued...

  • Would it be a bit more appropriate to get rid of junkmail and phonebooks first?
    Some offices REQUIRE hard copies of things. Junkmail and phonebooks have short-lived usefulness (if at all) and waste tremendous amounts of other resources (like the postman driving around to very postbox and delivering it.)

    • by Animats (122034)

      Would it be a bit more appropriate to get rid of junkmail and phonebooks first?

      USPS RecycleDirect (tm).

      The new USPS RecycleDirect service diverts all bulk direct mail advertising addressed to you or your residence directly from the sending post office to a recycling center. You never see another piece of junk mail. Sign up today!

      (No, the USPS doesn't really offer that. They should.)

  • Good luck with that. I bet you could get close to a paperless office, but with the need for a legal department and/or HR, it isn't going to _completely_ happen at any office. People still use fax machines :(
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Actually, legally-required documents are one of the biggest reasons to go paperless.

      Take a document that needs to be signed off by 3 approvers in 3 different locations, and produced on demand for 15 years. Now imagine that in the course of just a single project you produce 100 of these annually.

      With a document management system that supports electronic signatures you can handle review/revise/approval cycles with fairly little latency, and your documents are all classified away before they're signed off, wh

      • You don't have to convince me... you have to convince the lawyers, local laws, national, and international laws. Good luck with that. So many things _REQUIRE_ a signature and paper trail, legally speaking. It's quite sad.
        • by Rich0 (548339)

          Yeah, that was a big battle at work, but we eventually got through it for the most part. Once you can set a precedent it gets a lot easier. It really is just conservatism.

          I remember somebody even trying to block the use of FAXed signature pages (this is in the last 10 years). I pointed out that if our company continued to operate so inefficiently we'd end up being bought out, and the agreement of sale would no doubt involve a FAXed signature. FAX signature pages have been used for all kinds of legal doc

  • One big argument I've heard against these systems is that the records tend to live forever, though backups, etc. If your company is subpoenaed, you may have to produce documents that you thought were destroyed long ago and no longer have any business use, yet might harm your case. At the very least, you may face some liability if confidential/protected documents leak out, like old payroll records that will inevitably have everyone's social security numbers.
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      They don't have to, if you're careful. All files should be tagged with retention dates and purged when no longer required. Backups should also be discarded after a retention period - you shouldn't be running incremental backup sets back to the dawn of time.

      If anything you're far more likely to effectively dispose of documents if they're electronic. Who knows what you have lying around in some filing cabinet...

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Who knows what you have lying around in some filing cabinet...

        Who knows what files you have laying about on a stack of floppies you can't even read anymore? Or how many files that disgruntled employee was able to take home on that nearly microscopic microSD card...

  • 5 years ago? B.S. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:23PM (#42455139)

    I have been doing document management systems for 15 years and we were implementing paperless signing even in 1997. There's nothing new today that wasn't around and underused.

    There's a significant cost per document type to create electronic versions and integrate it into a proper workflow. This doesn't have a ROI on low volume types.

  • by Bomarc (306716) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:25PM (#42455159) Homepage
    I'm running into a problem -- Company "A" is good, they use standard 8 1/2 x 11. Company "B" uses something else, and won't scan (or loot right if I do need to print it out). Company "C" will send my information, on pdf, with the email encrypted. Company "D" will encrypt the PDF, with the last 4 of my SS#. Company "E" will send me an email invoice, company "F" will attached a PDF, company "G" expected me to print the invoice/information out from a web page (No, I don't have Adobe Acrobat).

    Can we all just standardize and get along?
    • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:38PM (#42455317) Homepage

      Can we all just standardize and get along?

      That's "standardise."

    • by dcollins (135727)

      Standardization is nice, but it requires either hard work or tyrannical power.

      Not to belittle the work that our tyrants do for us.

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:46PM (#42455389)

      Can we all just standardize and get along?

      You mentioned the relevant standards already:

      • email
      • PDF
      • OpenPGP or S/MIME
      • HTTP

      Imagine a world where instead, you dealt with:

      1. Invoices sent by Facebook messages
      2. Invoices sent via Myspace messages
      3. Invoices sent via LinkedIn messages
      4. Invoices that you had to dial in to an online service to receive
      5. Invoices with EBCIDIC encoding
      6. Invoices sent as MS Word formatted files
      7. Fly-by-night startup of the month's proprietary invoice system, that places contextual ads in your invoices

      So really, be glad that the worst of your problems is that one company uses PDF, another encrypts the PDF, another encrypts the email, and another makes you go to a website on the Internet. We could live in a much worse world.

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        You mentioned the relevant standards already: email

        Yes, isn't email such a wonderful, universal standard?

        My main non-work email is on a shell account under linux. My main work email is under Evolution on linux. I routinely get things as attachments to my non-work email that I have to forward to work and then save to disk so I can access them using Word or Adobe Reader on my Windows system, because OO or xpdf or evince can't quite handle that format properly. And lots of things to my work email that only bypass the forwarding step.

        I especially love the p

        • by Obfuscant (592200)
          Oh, I forgot to add. I have a server that sends out regular status reports on the disk arrays it serves. Because it uses an email program that does not produce MIME, and as such doesn't bother including a MIME-Version or Content-Type header, I cannot read that email on my wonderful new tablet. The POP/IMAP servers that the tablet accesses keep putting in bogus MIME-Version headers and nonsense Content-Type that confuses the email client.

          Not to mention the increasing number of standards-abusing websites tha

  • So, I pseudocode on paper, and probably go through a page of paper every week or two. But 10,000 pages per person? Given 52 weeks in a year, and assuming an employee takes three weeks off (52 -3 = 49), and five working days in a week, that equates to about ~41 pages per day per person. Ouch.
  • ...the average office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper each year, ...

    Seriously? I used less than 500 sheets (one ream) for both home and office last year - seriously. Now, my wife (of 20 years) was a teacher and routinely used much more - which we bought ourselves because her school only allocated one 500-sheet ream to each teacher, for the entire school year (I digress) - but she still used less than 10,000 sheets/year. She died on Jan 13, 2006 (of a brain tumor, just seven weeks after diagnosis) and I still have a 1/2 full box of paper at home. Sigh.

  • expense reports may still have to deal with paper receipts, 3rd party's that may want a fax or there own format.

  • by retroworks (652802) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:39PM (#42455333) Homepage Journal
    I look at the paper I recycle, and realize that generally I printed it for insurance, just in case a hard drive goes down or a document is deleted or changed. Usually it was necessary, almost always unnecessary. Just like tornado, flood, or hurricane insurance. Should I do without insurance? I'd save some money.
  • As some there big issues are under / over sized fields.

  • The MFP in the office has booklet mode, which shrinks A4 sheets to 4 to a side, prints them in the right order, folds it and adds 2 staples. I'm in as long as I can keep this feature which is perfect for manuals, long dull reports and even source you want to study on the toilet. It's the mindless printing of email, finance batch import summaries for 'auditing purposes' and non-duplex wastage that needs to be addressed.
  • We're still missing Kindle-like screens that can display text without beaming your eyes with light.

  • ...it's not as if Google, HelloFax, and Expensify stand to gain from a paperless office or anything like that. Oh look, there's this little thing called sustainable forestry [ny.gov] that ensures a renewable resource like trees is managed properly to (gasp!) provide paper to the masses and a natural resource for visitors.

  • Technology-oriented companies who profit from paperless business exaggerate statistics in order to guilt businesses into no longer using paper!

    In other news, water is wet and China is full of Chinese people. Film at 11.
  • I work for the government and print thousands of pages a month.

    I am not reading all that (and yes, I have to read it all) on low-DPI crap monitors that are issued to me, and nobody in my department has any power to change right on up.

    Until I have a 30" high DPI display at work - like I have at home - my eyes will be reading off the printed page.

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:54PM (#42455495) Homepage Journal

    1. Something to replace the paper notebooks I use to keep extemporaneous notes in. It needs to be relatively free-form, as quick to input as a scribble with a pen, and need not be indexed, merely stored. It does need to allow me to flip through pages quickly, showing me the whole page in a flash and letting me swipe through. Indexing and conversions are Phase Two.

    2. Something to let me view multiple pages of a document simultaneously, alongside one another. Easily repositioned.

    Before we go further, what I want will require multiple monitors and a tablet. The monitors will not kill trees, but their overall eco cost will be at least as much as paper, I suspect.

    Also, that notebook replacdement will probably be a tablet. It needs to be secure, within the corporate environment, and also afford full security when detached om the network. In fact, it needs to be autonomous. My current solution, paper notebooks, are a physical security issue. Since this new gizmo will have to be with me, biometrics are the security solution, and needs to give me access as fast as flipping a page. Ok, 2 seconds.

    Also, I work for a financial institution. Security is a little higher than important, but not as high as military.

    What I want is Surface as a desktop, along with a traditional monitor-based workspace. Just make my desk a big Surface device, add in the 'Minority Report' UI, and I can ditch paper for good, though I doubt I kill more than 3,000 pages a year. Assuming I can write on my new Surface surface, drop things, and spill coffee on the edges, all is good.

    Maybe 2015. Maybe no. Sharp or Samsung or whoever is making the flecible displays are close to somethign that would work cleverly, but I am constrained by patent applications from going further. Suffice to say there are a LOT LOT LOT more patents to be filed.

  • I am not at all impressed with the current state of electronic communications and I especially am not impressed by fronts with skin in the game who want you to pay them to do shit that should be accomplished between peers over an IP network for free.

    Email is a sad pathetic sorry useless joke. If it is not the endless stream of junk mail it is legitimate messages being silently discarded by some crazy baysian monster. When you do get a message you take a leap of faith assuming the sender is actually who yo

  • We went paperless 2 years ago, we now generate 4 times the amount of paper we did prior to going paperless.
  • by tyrione (134248) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:59PM (#42456197) Homepage
    Digital trails are easy to destroy. Paper trails are much harder to destroy. They can be your enemy or your ally. Having paper reports is always the ally of an ethical business.

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

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