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I like paper and I print less of it: Oxymoron or Reality? [part 2]

1st part here.

Paper usage in the office is mostly comprised of THREE types.

The first one, the less structured one, is linked to convenience, portability and in the end to personal preferences. People print emails and reports to read, presentations to review and make notes. These ‘convenience’ documents are often read once, and then discarded. We are not sure if this type of usage is declining, as there are conflicting pressures. Some especially the younger generations will make a bigger use of tablets in the office that reduce print and the weight and volume of paper, but mobility also increases the need for paper (more documents to read conveniently while travelling where switching devices on and off is not that easy plus screen/paper sizes issues and associated legibility).

Second is keeping a paper record rather than an electronic record. Document management systems can be cumbersome and adoption rates may still lag but with improvements in technology (better and easier interfaces) and in pricing (total costs and reduced initial costs via subscription models) there are fewer barriers. Also the reliability and emotional quality of paper do not really apply to the memorandum of an office meeting or a transaction, do they?

Third is the need for signatures. Many processes involving the outside world need to keep an original with a signature for basic legal reasons. Electronic signatures have improved but they still are cumbersome to use.

I also believe that there has been over sophistication of certain electronic processes due to a lack of understanding of security. Security cannot be absolute. Security is always a compromise between the cost of it (money, flexibility, end user frustration) and the risk that may happen (money, severity, frequency, etc.).

All of us retrieve real money from cash dispensers and the signature is pretty simple. French taxpayers do declare their income tax (and many other taxes) through identification and password. This is a well-mastered technology and has a great adoption rate.

What I am trying to say is that these barriers will crumble on the basis of efficiency, simplicity and cost savings and that I cannot imagine what emotions we will lose from the loss of these transactional documents like account openings or like documents. Readers please say if you agree/disagree with me?

So I believe that Office printing will diminish because it is a place where most print is not related to paper’s unique qualities such as emotion, legibility or other factors. It is just a painful process that has no practical alternative. People will jump away from it without hesitation and they will still say they love paper……but when they make this response they think of other occasions and different usage.

Recommendation: closely monitor where and how your volumes are being effectively used (too few do it today) and if these processes are replaceable quickly or with difficulty. End user studies will easily respond to this.  Then start peeling the onion back to understand your risk exposure.

Post image: Credits & copyright Richard Nabarro / Fedrigoni UK

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This article was written on 20 Feb 2015, and is filled under Business Forecast, Point of View.


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