The paperless office is still a vision of the future. In many ways, due to technology, the myth of the paperless office is beginning to become a reality. Technology has played a major role in moving towards this reality, but at one point it also became a hindrance. Let’s see precisely how technology has played a big part in moving us towards the goal of a paperless office.
The concept of a paperless office was born almost the same time the computer was invented. At that time, many believed that the paperless office would soon become a reality. In fact, people believed that by the end of 1970 electronic communication devices will have replaced paper.
We know that this bold prediction did not come true, but some believe that we are still on course. By the late 1980’s Electronic Document Management (EDM) systems were introduced. It is believed that these systems will lead the way forward to achieving the goal of a paperless office.
As technology further developed, so did these EDM systems. Electronic communication was improved and email played an important part of EDM systems. The technology of email was tapped to provide a means of delivery.
Storage capabilities of electronic equipment were also improved. As data storage capabilities increased, the cost for this type of equipment decreased and became widely available. Now, terabytes of information can even be stored on portable hard drives.
One major breakthrough for EDM system was the ability to harness the power of the internet. With the internet, information could be stored at a central location, but processed at any location throughout the world.
Further advances in technology lead to the development of powerful mobile devices. This meant that data could be captured and transmitted from anywhere to be stored and processed at a central location. For example, news reporters and photographers could take images or even video of certain events and locations on their mobile devices and transmit these images to a central location for processing and storage.
The internet also played a big role in the retrieval of documents. EDM systems were incorporated with web-based portals where the central database could be accessed from any location. Reporters could create their stories, access the central database for any information they need, and proceed to create their story from a remote location.
We can also take as an example residential customers of communication companies. These companies provide a web-based portal for the customers to be able to check their records, make payments, or request for services. Invoices from the companies are transmitted to their customers by using email with a copy of the invoice stored at the central database for easy web-based retrieval.
The paperless office is still a dream, but we are closer than ever to making this dream a reality. Technology has played a big part and so has EDM systems. Paper is still being used, but this is caused mostly by social unawareness and the lack of affordable technology. A typical office needs to be able to print out invoices and receipts to customers who require them due to non-availability of the technology required to access EDM systems.