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The concept of the paperless office feels like it has been around for forever. That’s because it actually has been around nearly forever– or at least, ever since the advent of the personal computer.

A 1975 Business Week article entitled  “The Office of the Future” first predicted the paperless office, and the hope that all documents could be processed and utilized by strictly electronic means has been alive ever since.

Today we have the internet, email, PDF documents, e-books and more. The amount of data created, shared, and stored on a daily basis is nothing short of astonishing. And yet, the consumption of paper is… greater than ever before.

How much greater? The numbers are staggering.

Xerox, no stranger to paper printing themselves, noted in their “Less Paper in the Office” white paper over 15.2 trillion pages printed worldwide— in 2006.   In January of 2014 HB Fast Print cited over 45 trillion pages printed worldwide.  That’s almost triple the page consumption in just over 7 years.    That is a lot of expense, and a lot of trees going towards something that was supposed to become obsolete.

It’s true today as always that paper may be great for reading or review.  But paper is also easily lost or misplaced, damaged, stolen, or, worst yet, filed somewhere with vital information needing to be derived from it ASAP.  Paper piles up.  And it slows things down:  just try to send an actual printed document to multiple users in multiple cities by a 2pm deadline today.

Tracking The Paperless Office Trends

The truth is, paper is becoming a temporary medium.

As digital information is created and stored, paper is printed to help display that information, then later discarded.  Paper is used for reading, and for collaboration with a group of people– printing digital documents in preparation for “the big meeting” is almost a proverb.  Then, decisions made and memorialized via electronic record, the bulk of the paper copies from said meeting is discarded.

Sellen and Harper claim in the MIT Press published, Myth of the Paperless Office that “We are not headed towards offices that use less paper but rather towards offices that keep less paper,” and this summarizes the current situation quite nicely.

Businesses who wish to maintain their competitive edge know that information is power, but only if said information can be accessed and used in a timely manner.  Paper functions for now as a suitable temporary short-term medium, but a smart company, even one who currently utilizes a lot of paper for just the aforementioned purpose, will embrace digital technology to intake, access, and store vital information for the long term.  Companies like Psigen have built their business around just this need, by creating robust document capture and scanning software.

But there is even technology now that is beginning to bridge that comfortable interim space that paper has occupied, and along the way, some amazing things have been developed:   Ipro, for instance, has capitalized on the need to intelligently analyze ever-more complex data in legal proceedings and helped create the entirely new “eDiscovery” business;  Formidable  took the original input device, the humble pen, and created a system capable of directly converting handwriting and form fields to digital data.

Not surprisingly, adoption of this type of technology is picking up fastest in more mature business markets.  With that in mind, it’s worth noting that worldwide paper consumption is as high as ever, but for the first time,  the total consumption rate of paper in North America has finally begun to decline.

At 5i Solutions Inc, we have built our company by helping businesses tame their paper pile up with cutting-edge solutions custom-designed  for your vital data.  One single point of intake, access, and storage.  One singular solution. 

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