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Paper is Great… Until it’s Not!

Even in today’s technology driven world, paper is still a prevalent part of our day to day lives. And from a business standpoint, you may be surprised by how much critical information is communicated and maintained via paper.

So, you might pose the question “If my paper is getting the job done, why should I change”?

Well, there are a whole list of reasons that we could dive into around efficiency and process optimization, but today we are going to look at how fragile paper really can be when it’s your source of data.

Let’s time travel back about 30 years when paper was utilized way more than it is today. My father was a high school math teacher and back then all the grades for his students were kept in a (you guessed it) paper grade book. For years and years this was an adequate solution, until one year it failed dramatically.

There was a student who apparently wasn’t pleased with what their grade was going to be, and I’m guessing the fact that they were probably going to have to attend summer school. So that student decided to break into the locked classroom and steal my father’s grade book from his desk. This was the only time I can ever recall him being stressed out at home from work. Everyone’s grades were gone, and it was two weeks before finals. There were no redundant backups, no copies, no nothing!

It would be easy to apply the powers of hindsight and say that there should have also been a lock on the desk, which there was after that incident, but the takeaway is that the same process had worked great for 25 years, but then when it failed, it failed dramatically.

In the long run everything worked out and he was able to get everyone’s grades in order, mainly based on him having (mostly) honest students and him pretty much remembering what grade everyone had. But now he was relying in tribal knowledge and group input to recreate the data, which obviously isn’t optimal.

So take a step back and really take stock of the critical process in your business that are relying on paper as the main tracking and communication source.

Maybe they are working just fine today. Invoices are getting created from paper picking tickets, or purchase approvals are getting signed off on and returned to the right person. Perhaps inventory is moved from one place to the other and a paper slip is used to record that. There are countless examples of businesses relying on this sort of paper communication, even when they own systems that can track it because it’s “easier” to do this way.

But ask yourself what would happen if that paper gets lost, or if there is natural disaster of some sort and years worth of data is lost. It’s not a pretty sight.

Even seemingly simple things like tracking visitors to your facility or employees requesting vacation should be tracked in a structured fashion. The tools are readily available to stop relying on paper, and the risk just doesn’t outweigh the reward.

Check out the Blaze Blog every Wednesday for more helpful tips for you and your business!

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