For as long as I can remember, from virtually the moment I stepped into the working world, this meerkat has heard the message ‘we will soon be a paperless environment’. I swear each and every time I heard that, there ended up being more paperwork instead.
The idea behind a paperless environment is not that bad of a concept. It would be better for the, um, environment. It would save companies money. In principle, the idea works. However, it has never actually taken hold, at least not here in the UK. Paperwork has persisted, for various reasons.
In my particular line of work, customers (be they retail or trade) usually leave the store with a physical copy of their order paperwork, because it’s easier and simpler for them to follow, and better for their records. We also retain a copy here in the showroom, and we also have a physical copy of our terms and conditions, that we require the customer to sign when placing an order. We then photocopy this, so that the store and the customer both have a copy.
When the store receives deliveries, there is usually a paper delivery note, and there are invoices and proformas and all sorts of other documents that we end up printing off and filing away. Whilst many of these documents exist in electronic form, a lot of people prefer to hold something tangible. I dare say it’s easier to read a physical document, as opposed to an email (at least, this is the case for a lot of people).
There’s an argument that physical documentation is more secure than electronic media. This can go either way. Security officials have lost both paperwork and laptops down the years, though there’s obviously no need to hack into a paper binder in order to read the contents! In that sense, electronic media is more secure, but on the other hand, it’s also ‘out there’, in the ether, so to speak, where cunning minds and sophisticated software lurks to crack it wide open. To gain access to secret documents that physically exist, you’d have to find out their location, get into that location without raising an alarm, locate the documents, scan/copy/steal them, then leave without raising concerns. A tad more difficult than intercepting an email!
Perhaps whether or not a business can be paperless entirely depends upon the type of business. Perhaps the very notion of being completely paperless is beyond the present requirements of most businesses. It would save a lot in the way of time and money if we could ditch having to file away paperwork, securely store it, and all of that jazz, but I am struggling to see the time where we exclusively rely on electronic data storage.