Via Canadian Business Online
From PROFIT magazine, May 2009
Achieving the paperless office is no longer just a dream — it’s a real competitive advantage.
By Laura Pratt
It would have been a ridiculous job posting: “Security firm seeks person to keep track of paper.” But three years ago, such a hiring seemed inevitable for Michael Jagger, CEO of Vancouver-based Provident Security. That’s because in the 10 years since starting his one-man security guard operation in 1996, the firm had exploded into a full-service security provider with more than 200 employees and 4,500 customers. In the blink of an eye, it seemed, Jagger was drowning in paper and administrivia when he should have been focusing on business strategies.
“If you don’t have control over every aspect of your business when you have a few thousand clients, what will happen when you are 10—or a hundred—times bigger?” asks Jagger. “To replicate the client experience we offered when we started out, we knew we’d need to spend our time and money on customer service, not administration.” So, in 2006, he began pulling the plug on his photocopiers, fax machines and printers.
When the “paperless office” buzz first sounded in the mid-1970s, office computers were clunky and the law didn’t recognize digitally signed documents. But today, it is possible to run a business sans paper: most offices thrum with network-linked computers loaded with software that lets users create, read, duplicate and distribute digital documents, the latest scanners are modern miracles and the digital signature is ratified. Yet, more than ever, we live in a world that encourages hard-copy proof, proliferated by the rock-bottom prices of printers. In the eyes of most businesses, operating without paper is impossible; but a handful of entrepreneurs are discovering that such a corporate change in today’s economic climate is not only possible, it’s preferable.