The Bane and Triumph of Paperless Process

I am currently a self-appointed 'champion' of paperless processes in my workplace and it really kinda sucks. It is a struggle against the tyranny of legacy systems, and the battleground is management's perception of value. I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone that persuading management at any organisation is an uphill battle at the best of times. It is the nature of most businesses to be risk averse, but perhaps counter-intuitively this conservative approach tends to be more strictly enforced on the small stuff. The small stuff is what individuals in the business have the most control over, and can most immediately manipulate, analyse and predict.

The biggest hurdle has proven to be one particular legacy 'application' and I use the term reservedly as it's actually an awful Microsoft Access behemoth. That look you have on your face as you read this is the look I get on mine every time this subject comes up in the office. Seriously.

This thing tracks our workflow, cannot be meaningfully revised or improved anymore, and simply cannot operate without their being paper copies of everything in parallel to what little process it manages. Where those printed pages are: who's desk or which folder, for the most part is the only real indication of the status of that work. It is a system that functions well, but that does not function efficiently in any meaning of the word. We have to move on.

The enemy is cost, both the expense and disruption involved in changing the tool around which the workflow of a number of teams operates. This enemy can only be vanquished with a guarantee of efficiency, both in roll out and ongoing time (and consumables) saved. It is very, very hard to produce something resembling a guarantee when all you have is the promises provided by each prospective new solution. It does seem that we're winning the battle at last though, as a new software solution has been selected and is supposedly in the tentative stages of development.

Frustratingly this seems to be down more to the good example of a separate management team rather than our own efforts.