Published here December 2017


Musings Index

Optimizing Project Administration in this Digital Age
Are You Doing Enough? Five Suggestions on How to Find Out.

Editor's Note

The following article is adapted from a guest column by Xerox Canada, circa July 2017. The author was Mohan Mailvaganam. The original article focuses on five signs that show your company may not be doing enough to join the digital age. When the ideas are applied to projects specifically, we may interpret the original ideas as follows:

  1. Your project manager and team have no idea how much paper they use on a daily basis, let alone why.
  2. They don't understand the difference between bad and good paper.
  3. Your project leadership and workforce are not always exactly on the same page.
  4. Your company is producing and storing reams of paper that is not really necessary, and
  5. As a consequence your company or organization is not as efficient and competitive as it should be.

We have further thoughts on this topic at the conclusion of this article.

Printer's Remorse: by Mohan Mailvaganam
Five signs your company isn't doing enough to join the digital age

As the work world around us speeds into the digital age, more of us are beginning to feel printer's remorse. For example, we get the email with a document attached from a colleague or a client. We open it and read it on our computer screen. And then — for a variety of reasons that usually can't be justified — we hit print.

As the printer hums to life and spits out pages, the feelings of regret and doubt begin to sink in. Did I really need to make a hard copy of this? Did I just waste my time and my company's resources? Chances are the answer is staring you right in the face from the recycling bin filled with pages that other colleagues have already read and discarded.

Even without seeing the hard numbers that prove how digitizing work processes and reducing our reliance on paper can save significant time and money, we get an inkling in our guts — all that paper shuffling from hand to hand must be lethal to efficiency and productivity. But still, companies of all sizes — from small- and medium-sized businesses to large corporations — forge ahead and hit the print button far more than they should.

The recent findings from Xerox's Digitization at Work report reveal that less than 50 percent of IT decision-makers currently use processes that are mostly or fully digitized. With that in mind, here are five signs you aren't doing enough to realize the benefits of going digital:

1)  You have no idea how much paper you use on a daily basis, let alone why.
Without the right data in hand on print habits, it's difficult to uncover the hidden opportunities for digitization. You're stuck guessing on what might work, which is never as reliable as well-analyzed data. Armed with solid print analytics, company executives can then make informed decisions about optimizing or automating key processes.

2)  You don't understand the difference between bad and good paper.
"Good" paper refers to documents that have a valid reason to be in hard-copy form, such as documents that originate on paper, like customers' handwritten letters or documents that require a "wet ink" signature.

"Bad" paper refers to documents that are in paper format, but without any compelling reason to be so. These could include documents that were printed from digital originals or documents that get shared, stored or transported using physical systems.

Understanding the distinction between them helps identify where you really need to use paper, and where you can get rid of it.

3)  Your leadership and your workforce aren't on the same page.
Going digital involves changing the way people work and how they think. People fear the unknown so communicating the reasons and benefits of change is crucial. By far, the greatest barrier to change is institutional culture. There has to be company-wide buy-in to effect real change.

4)  You're storing reams of documents because you "have to".
Many organizations are required to retain a variety of documents for regulatory reasons. In the past, that used to mean banker's boxes and multiple copies of the same paperwork. In many cases, government agencies and regulatory bodies now accept digital versions and electronic signatures.

5)  Your company isn't as competitive as you think it should be.
The weight of paper-based processes is holding many Canadian firms back from keeping up with competitors who have already made the digital transformation. Unnecessary paper use wastes resources, undermines productivity, bogs down workflow and prevents them from realizing advantages derived from becoming digital enterprises.

Keep an eye out for these telltale signs that indicate your ties to paper are too strong. Just recognizing you may have a problem is a good start that you need to get your digital house in order. And it'll help you avoid those bad feelings you get watching the machine print all those papers that are not really needed in hard copy.

Editor's Postscript Comment:

If it is a question of communication, then it should be possible to devise an electronic strategy that ensures that the right people get the right information at the right time for all instances but for a few copies for a general notice board or the like. Similarly, if the purpose is for archiving, then the same observation applies. However, in managing a project, there are many occasions where a hardcopy really is necessary, albeit for a short period of development time, and not for archiving.

For example, where ideas need to be developed, or multiple ideas or documents such as large progress charts, or financial tables or technical illustrations need to be examined and compared by a project team for purposes of reaching some agreement. In such cases the average computer screen is just too small, or provides insufficiently detail for constructive purposes.

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