Decades after computers were supposed to end paper activity, we still use documents to send and receive information and act as proxies in business processes. It is hard to say if paper consumption has slowed down thanks to digitization, as it is difficult to find good statistics on historical usage. However, it does not really matter because business is drowning in paper – and, more importantly, the expense associated with it.
U.S. offices use 12.1 trillion sheets of paper per year, according to
Le Monde counts, an insightful site. Other types of paper, such as packaging, publications and newspapers, add to this number.
At the same time, there is an environmental aspect that is becoming increasingly important. It takes 75,000 paper trees just to print the Sunday edition of The New York Times notes the same site, and it points out that half of corporate waste is made up of paper.
It is not only that we use a lot of paper – it is also that the use is very temporary compared to the time it takes to grow a tree. Suffice it to say that the dream of the paperless office has not materialized, but that there is always an urgent need to use less paper, and for more reasons than the ## 147 ## 39, ecology or conservation only.
Printed paper is a substitute for cost and inefficiency. It requires printers and ink as well as human labor to use it, move it, save it and possibly throw it away. Too often, we view these facts as threats to the status quo.
I can almost hear people say, "What should we do, close the office? Absolutely not. Situations like this are challenges in inventing better approaches; they are the stimulus for inventing smarter ways to do business.
I was impressed by the tactics of the document management company Nitro (sometimes one of my clients) to deal with the problem. This week, he presented products aimed at improving the efficiency of paper-based management processes, which is different from simply scanning paper.
Effective processes can reduce the need for paper in the first place, allowing businesses to continue while saving paper, printers, ink, and labor.
After so many years, you might think that document management would go further. Frankly, other providers offer many of the same functions as Nitro, but usually at higher prices, which has the perverse effect of limiting the use of good technologies.
For example, signature capture can be done electronically, eliminating the need to print a form, sign it and return it, and other vendors are also doing the job. However, Nitro has risen to the challenge of being the low cost producer in a market that is stabilizing around more expensive products. The effort of Nitro is therefore classic: it is a matter of democratizing a technology to put it in the hands of all the people who can use it and thus reap the benefits for their organizations.
Like other document management providers, Nitro offers a suite of document manipulation tools to support basic processes. In addition, in the era of artificial intelligence, when it is so important to dig up usage data, Nitro applies scans to identify areas where a finer implementation can eliminate the problem. use of paper. That's why paper is such an important substitute, and why tracking its use can shed light on processes that may seem rather obscure.
As a challenger in the document management market, Nitro understood the importance of services and change management. After decades, the document management market is well covered, and it is impossible to expect to carve out a place if it means tearing and replacing what is already there.
My two bits
Nitro represents a real-life example of the "innovator's dilemma" on the challenger's side. Holders have historically had trouble dealing with a basic challenger with a better idea simply because their cash cow is still making money. When the cash cow's income starts to weaken, it is often too late, but not always.
We have seen many examples of historical suppliers who maintain their position in the market despite real challenges. Nevertheless, the markets adjust either by price or license concessions or outright commodification.
Cloud computing, which has penetrated information technologies for almost two decades, is an excellent example of commoditization that has gained popularity, even though the larger computer market has maintained its dominant position.
However, the slow pace of conversion from one site to another can largely be attributed to the great need to build an infrastructure. Now that the reinforcement of infrastructure has accelerated, we are seeing a faster rotation, and I see Nitro in a similar situation. Document management has capped with paper scanning, and the next move is the digitization of the process.