Have we finally achieved the paperless office?

One of the more interesting observations that came from our recent Purchasing  Insight’s webinar P2P Breaking Through – From Dumb Pipes to Smart Networks hosted by  Pete Loughlin, centered around an image which illustrated how through the progression from  the “paper age” to the “Internet age” electronic messaging has for the most part supplanted  the delivery of paper documents. 

This raises the question, have we finally achieved the paperless office that was originally  predicted in a 1975 Business Week article? And if we have, how did we get there? 

To best answer this question, it is important to first understand that it is not the mere  conversion of documents and other papers into a digital form that has brought about this  transformation to the virtual realms. It is instead the emergence of the cloud that has made  “going paperless” accessible to all trading partners be they large or small enterprises.  Specifically, and unlike the days of the old EDI interface in which communication was limited  to a select few large corporations, today’s cloud-based platforms have effectively removed  the traditional barriers to connectivity across entire supplier ecosystems. 

If accessibility is the gateway, then secure data capture and compliance is the key to the  successful evolution of the paperless P2P process. 

Within this context, think of paperless in terms of where the process has been automated to  remove errors and manual work. 

Take online banking as one example. 

Imagine that every transaction you submit online had to go to a teller to approve. It could  never become scalable. Same goes for P2P. 

Paperless is valuable when it enables process automation. When people get in the way,  paperless becomes meaningless.

In essence, it is the automated checks and balances that is the engine behind the move from  Paperless to Errorless and Effortless, in which suppliers are seamlessly integrated into a  collaborative process flow that allows you to streamline order fulfillment, eliminate errors,  and dramatically reduce costs. 

This is what leads to a certainty of reliable outcomes for all stakeholders that I believe will  herald in this new paperless era. An era in which what has been described as being the  traditional barriers to realization – the perceived unreliability of computers and cheap printing  costs – have at least in part been addressed. 

Have you achieved the paperless office? If no, please share your thoughts on what you believe  are the obstacles to your organization becoming the “office of the future”.