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 user 2007-10-03 at 12:03:00 pm Views: 53
  • #18838

    Follow the paperless trail
    Companies are finding digital paper more efficient, secure, and economical than the tree-pulp-based variety digital,paperless .
    paperless world is a long way off, but many businesses are taking
    strides to at least create a less-paper world. Companies across various
    industries are finding ways to cut paper waste, from issuing electronic
    tickets and PDF receipts to incorporating electronic document
    management systems.As with so many other green technologies out there,
    the driving influence here isn’t necessarily sparing trees nor reducing
    one’s carbon impact on the environment (though saving one ream of paper
    means five fewer pounds of CO2). Rather, it’s a matter of boosting
    efficiency; making an easier-to-maintain paper(less) trail (nice for
    compliance purposes); boosting continuity (a digital copy of your files
    is handy if a natural disaster hits); and saving cash in the long term
    on costs associated with printing and mailing. (For some perspective on
    mailing costs, U.S. businesses spent an estimated $800 billion on
    direct mail correspondence to potential and existing customers last
    year, which translates into over 115 billion pieces of mail.)Also a
    boon: less time wasted tracking down evasive faxes and archived paper
    documents, as well as transferring the data on those pages to
    electronic format.

    Yeah, that’s the ticket
    One of the growing
    trends is so-called paperless tickets. (“So-called” because there’s
    still paper involved; just far less.) Last week, the IATA
    (International Air Transport Association) — which represents more than
    240 airlines comprising 94 percent of international scheduled air
    traffic — said that it would stop issuing paper tickets come May 31,
    2008. The AITA says that airlines will save $9 per paper ticket that
    way, which adds up to $3 billion in annual savings for the industry.
    (Whether any of those savings will get passed on to Joe and Jane
    Aisle-Seat remains to be seen, but let’s not hold our breath, lest we
    cause that little oxygen mask to drop.)The IATA says the move will also
    spare “the equivalent of 50,000 mature trees each year.”Now, I’ve read
    some comments about this move, the authors of which have expressed
    concern that the cost of the paper tickets is essentially being passed
    on to the consumer, but I think that’s a misconception or an
    exaggeration, depending on how you look at it.If you haven’t flown with
    a paperless ticket, here’s how it works: You make your reservation and
    receive a confirmation e-mail. Now, you could print up that itinerary,
    if you need a printed point of reference, but it’s not necessary. You
    could just access that info from your portable device, or jot down the
    basic on a piece of scrap paper. Then you show up at the airport before
    your flight and show your ID and a credit card to the nice person
    behind the counter (or better yet, you swipe it in one of those
    check-in kiosks). In turn, you’ll receive one slip of paper, your
    boarding pass, which includes all the pertinent info. That’s it.So from
    a customer standpoint, it’s really a lot easier than having to worry
    about whether your tickets have arrived, or whether you’ve left them at
    home on the bed beside the clean underwear you’d meant to pack. Plus
    with an e-mail confirmation, you can easily get at your details through
    your wireless device, just in case you’ve forgotten whether you’re
    taking off at 1:27 a.m. Pacific or Eastern Time.On a related note, The
    Boston Globe had an article last month about a company called Flash
    Seats, which is pushing electronic tickets to concerts, sporting
    events, and the like.It works similarly to the e-tickets for airlines:
    When you order your tickets online, the order is associated with your
    credit card or identification. And when it’s time to go to the game or
    show, you don’t scour the house for the tickets or stand in line at
    will call; you swipe your credit card or driver’s license as you go in.
    In turn, you get a paper guide telling you where your seats are.In case
    your card isn’t read, “venue officials verify the person’s identity by
    asking agreed-upon security questions, such as mother’s maiden name or
    first pet’s name.”The Cleveland Cavaliers gave the system a spin last
    season. Participation was voluntary. “About 17 percent of season ticket
    holders used the system last season, a portion that [increased] to 50
    percent during the club’s playoff run into the NBA Finals,” according
    to the Boston Globe article.In addition to reducing paper waste, the
    system means potentially better control and security. “Team officials
    say they would like to maintain greater control to improve security, to
    prevent counterfeiting, and to reclaim some of the money that is going
    to third-party resellers such as eBay, StubHub, RazorGator, and
    AceTicket,” says the Globe article.From an end-user perspective,
    though, you do lose some convenience. Rather than being able to give
    tickets to friends so they can meet you at a show later, you have to go
    through the steps of having the electronic tickets transferred to their
    names, or else be sure that everyone arrives on time to go in together.

    Would you like an e-ceipt with that?
    wrote about e-receipts a while back after learning that at Apple
    Stores, you can opt to have a receipt sent to you via e-mail instead of
    issued in paper form on the spot. To me, it seems like a natural
    evolution in receipts. That’s how my proofs of purchase show up when I
    order online, or when I pay bills online, so why not when I make an
    in-store purchase? (I might be a bit warier for purchases made with
    cash, but as long as there’s an electronic record stored with my bank
    or credit card company, I feel fine.)But the paperless push doesn’t
    just end for end-user purchases. Environmental Leader reports that UPS
    is trying to convince SMBs to adopt electronic billing by tugging at
    their eco-conscious heartstrings: “UPS has partnered with the National
    Arbor Day Foundation to make a $1 donation to the organization for
    every customer who opts for the paperless PDF invoice.”As UPS describes
    it, the benefits of a PDF receipt are numerous. It no doubt saves the
    company cash on printing and mailing receipts. And for customers, it
    means you receive receipts faster and in convenient electronic format.

    Make the pile lower
    tickets and receipts are, to me, really low-hanging fruit in the drive
    toward the paperless office. They represent the end part of complex
    workflows that are often tied to hard-to-change business practices and
    technology (or lack thereof).One of the most obvious ways to cut paper
    (and print) waste at the office is to crack down on all the superfluous
    printing and copies end-users make. The average employee reportedly
    wastes $85 worth of printer paper and ink each year through unnecessary
    prints. Products such as GreenPrint offer an easy, non-disruptive tool
    for putting a dent in the pile. The utility lets users preview
    printouts and easily remove specific pages, text, or graphics from a
    print session.But companies are taking further steps to reduce paper
    use, in the name of boosting efficiency. Insurance company Lloyd’s (of
    London) has most recently garnered attention in publications such as
    The Wall Street Journal and Times Online for company CEO Richard Ward’s
    paper-cutting efforts. According to the Times, “a colleague in IT told
    him that each day Lloyd’s was sending four tons of documents to its
    sorting office in Chatham, all carried by those white vans.”Ward told
    The Wall Street Journal that he’s tackling the paper deluge on a small
    scale, liking it to “eating an elephant with a teaspoon.” “We have to
    take small bites out of that elephant to make sure we can digest the
    changes we’re making,” he told The WSJ.Among changes Ward has
    implemented, as he outlined in a speech in May: “Last year, we
    introduced an electronic filing cabinet – a document repository that
    enables claims and premiums to be handled quickly and efficiently
    without the need for paper files. … Currently a fifth of all in scope
    claims are being processed using the Electronic Claims File. This is a
    significant increase on the 5 percent at the beginning of the year.”"In
    addition,” he added, “if you look at Accounting and Settlement, more
    than 80,000 premium-related transactions have been processed
    electronically. Once again there has been a significant increase from
    the beginning of the year.”He says that the company’s processing 30
    percent of its claims electronically now, but the the goal is to hit
    100 percent by March 31. “We might have a symbolic crushing of a van,
    and it might become a piece of art somewhere inside or outside the
    building. That might be quite appropriate to do once we’ve reached our
    goals,” he told the Journal.(Notably, crushing an otherwise useful van
    might not be the ideal way to celebrate an eco-friendly achievement of
    reducing paper waste and boosting efficiency, but that is another

    Keep your fax straight
    There are plenty of other
    recent examples I can point to of organizations strolling the paperless
    trail. Rosen Hotels and Resorts recently announced that it adopted a
    fax server solution called RightFax from Captaris and integrated its
    Microsoft Exchange, Cisco CallManager, and Canon MFPs (multifunction
    peripherals). The end result: a central document management solution,
    used at the company’s seven hotels, as well as its medical center and
    the insurance agency, to easily store and share documents that used to
    be passed around in paper format.Among other features, the combined
    solution lets employees send faxes from just about any desktop app, or
    right from the MFPs, rather than having to deal with paper. Moreover,
    faxes are filed into SharePoint, where they can be accessed from within
    the network or remotely. Also handy: Employees on the go can receive
    immediate notifications when important documents are received.Paper
    still plays a vital role in the business world, and no doubt will for
    years to come. But as more companies trade in reams of paper, stacks of
    pricey ink cartridges, and boxes of mailing supplies for PDFs, digital
    ink, e-mail, and document management systems, we’ll collectively reap
    the benefits of a less-paper world.