The computer age is everywhere, but lots of us still work on paper. Would we become more productive if we did everything electronically?
A feature from CIO magazine not only insists this is necessary, but provides three steps to digitizing your work:
The elusive concept of the so-called paperless office may finally be taking shape, if anecdotal evidence is anything to go by. A growing number of small businesses and startups, unencumbered by legacy processes, are quietly ditching printouts for an all-digital ecosystem, buoyed by soaring bring-your-own-device ownership and growing familiarity with a plethora of cloud services.
It certainly seems like the wave of the future. The writer, Paul Mah, cites three reasons for this shift:
1. Making Life Easier
Convenience is a hallmark of modern life, both at the office and at home. As the piece says:
Digital data is both highly searchable, and is also easily transferable. What’s more, the mature state of cloud services today means that you can expect the information you store online to be available across whatever devices you may own — be it a smartphone, tablet, PC laptop, Mac computer – or even a Web browser at a cybercafé or hotel lobby when on a vacation.
It’s beyond question that getting access to your information from anywhere is much better than wondering where you left your notebook or having to lug that briefcase around. But that’s not the only advantage.
2. Making Life Safer
What about information loss? Those of us who lived before the information age remember fireproof file cabinets and constant worry. In fact, some companies kept multiple physical copies just in case. Lah notes:
Digital documents are also clearly suited to data backup. Despite the calibration required to get things set up in a way that works for you, it’s infinitely easier to make a copy of digital data versus photocopying stacks of printed invoices or bills.
3. Making Life More Interactive
The final justification for an all-digital workflow is working better with others. When it’s just you at your desk, it takes more work to call meetings to get things done together. You could write a document with other people by dividing up the sections, but it’s a lot easier with modern document collaboration tools. Or, as the editorial suggests:
On this front, an entire generation of online tools are available for a diverse range of tasks such as time tracking (Toggl), project management (Asana) and collaboration (Yammer) – of which all are captured digitally without printing out a single piece of paper.
The article continues with three steps for making the switch: 1. choosing a digital notebook system, 2. taking a digital-first approach to new data, and 3. effortlessly digitizing legacy data. But it doesn’t ask the question: should we go all-paperless?
In my view, digital data is good, but analog processes have value. Consider the following examples:
You’re in a meeting, taking notes on your phone. Do other people think you’re engaged or texting your friends?
You need to sketch out a quick diagram to explain workflow and fire up a graphics program. Would it have been faster just to grab a dry erase marker on a whiteboard?
You come to a networking event and someone asks for your contact information. Is an email as powerful as having a crafted, branded printed piece in the form of a business card?
And there’s a larger problem than the social elements of digital technology: truly using them. The tool you actually use is better than the better tool you don’t use. It doesn’t matter how incredible these resources are if you sign up, download, or purchase them—and they collect virtual dust.
Yes: you should be making your workflow more digital. But don’t forget about the people who are involved in the data you consume and create, including yourself.