Towards the paperless office, are we there yet?

Footbridge over the river in Parramatta Park
des's picture

The paperless office is a term that has been around for years which is used to describe the office of tomorrow. This essentially means that the office of the future would therefore not be dependent on paper for its day-to-day activities. In today’s world, paper continues to be an influential medium. 

Today people would argue that paper is still the most popular medium of reading and most of the information is stored in the form of paper documents. That was certainly the case before I started working for IBM Global Services in 1997. Documents being written would be printed out multiple times and appear in desktop in-trays, filed away in cabinets, given to everyone at meetings as hand outs. Everyone seemed to have a different version of a document it was a version control nightmare. In a typical project there could be 100’s of documents, for each new version the old version would be binned. Rainforests around the world were under destruction to fuel this madness. And there seemed to be no end to the insatiable appetite of industry to consume paper.
However, electronic mediums such as the computer combined with new methodologies were starting to be used  to reduce the dependancy on paper. With IBM Global Services created in 1997 as a result of a Telstra/IBM IT joint venture. There was a push to gain Capability Maturity Model (CMM) level 3 for Software Development. All projects now had to keep a central repository for documentation in folders on a network server, have an index called a Project Control Book (PCB) and all project personel having access. This was my introduction to the paperless office and the start for me to start doing everything paperless for the good of the environment and help save rain forests. 
During the last few years the introduction of IPad’s, PDA’s,  Tablet computers, Smart Phones and E-books like Amazon’s Kindle has helped drive society towards a paperless environment. Online social networking has helped, with millions of people now blogging online and sharing news, stories, articles, pictures and other information through the view of a browser. The need to even print a document is becoming increasingly unnecessary as millions of documents can be found online are read through the modern browers. Storage of electronic documents is becoming far easier now with portable network drives and various USB devices.
One of the main reasons for the slow transformation towards paperless technology is due to the fact that using paperless technologies  in portable devices such as PDAs and E-books is still a distant technology. Moreover, some people find it much easier to read their favourite novel through a book’s pages rather than slide through an e-book. 
Back to the paperless office, are we there yet? There is a lot of literature about that would suggest  that paper will continue to occupy an important place in the office of tomorrow. Also there has been a lot of progress made towards the paperless office, we are not there yet but we are far closer now then we were 10 years ago. I think the day will come when the printer will be missing from the office, which will be great for the environment.
Companies can easily move towards a paperless office with a well managed intranet where all employee's have access to read from and contribute to a central document repository, with a host of tools on PC's, Laptops, iPads, Tablets and PDA's.  There are huge cost savings in going paperless through time saving efficiencies and the overhead costs required to organise, store, and dispose of that paper.


  • Wikipedia (2006), Paperless Office. Found at: explains the meaning of the word-paperless office.
  • Margaret Coffey (2001), Towards the paperless office. Sydney: IBM Australia. Explains about the migration towards paperless office.
  • Abigail J. Sellen, Richard Harper (1999), The myth of the paperless office. MIT press.

There are 2 Comments

danielwalker's picture

Excellent Share! An exciting dialogue is well worth comment. I think you ought to compose much more on this matter, it may well not be considered a taboo issue but typically individuals usually are not enough to speak on this sort of topics.
Sweron Russel's picture

We have to go paperless sooner or later. We cannot cut down trees for our personal and narcissistic needs. It is as simple as that. We all have to strive together to create paperless societies. Keep up the good work.

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