Maybe the paperless office will still come

When PCs appeared in businesses 20-30 years ago there was a widespread expectation that we would become a paperless society.

Over that period there has been some dismay that in fact we were creating more paper as people created an electronic document and then printed it.  Because the printed copy often wasn’t filed properly (if at all) it got ‘lost’ in a pile of other papers.  So when it was needed again, another copy was printed. And so it goes on!

Recent research however has found that the amount of paper flowing through businesses is now decreasing.  It’s taken a while but we are getting there.

What has caused this turnaround and why has it taken so long?

It’s more than 10 years since New Zealand passed the Electronic Transactions Act (2002) (ETA) which aimed to reduce uncertainty (of dates and times) and permitted legal requirements to be met electronically.

In spite of this stated purpose of the ETA, there has been a reluctance to accept an electronic version and there has been continued uncertainty around what is legally accepted electronically and what needs to be in paper format to be a legal document.

More recently however there has been some movement towards acceptance of scanned electronic signatures though there is still some unwillingness to accept some contracts with electronic signatures.

This is reminiscent of the early days of faxes.  Who remembers when you could fax a document for quick response but you had to post the original as well so you could file the original because a signature on a faxed copy wasn’t legally binding?  Or when the faxed copy had to be photocopied for filing because the ink on fax ‘paper’ faded.

It’s good to know that businesses of all sizes are now looking more towards keeping the electronic version as the official record of the business.  There are a number of reasons for this that vary for each business.

Whatever you decide for your business, the decision needs to be formalised in a policy statement that is communicated to everyone in your business who needs to know.

A sample policy statement is part of my eWorkbook offering.  It is a simple one-page policy statement that you can amend to suit your business.  Because the key points are there, it won’t take you long to create your own policy.  It’s worth involving your staff so you get buy-in to the policy before it is confirmed and implemented.

You can read about more hints and tips to improve your business in my free eBook; and even more if you download the eWorkbook that gives you a full set of instructions on how to set up a filing system for your business.

Judy Owen has been working with businesses of all sizes and complexities for more than 20 years to improve and streamline the access to their business information.  She and her team can show you how to reduce risk, improve productivity and increase profits with good business systems and processes in your business.

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