Going Paperless: It’s Time To Kill The Printer For Good.
My father hates cell phones. He carries one solely because my grandmother is in failing health. We have his number, but have been instructed to call it only if we “are on fire”. I would imagine that once my grandmother is no longer in need of my father’s services, the cell phone will go into a drawer, never to be seen again.
I hate printers the way my father hates cell phones. I fix peoples technology problems for a living, from updating their cell phone OS to configuring servers to explaining exactly what iCloud does not do. If I were to venture a guess, I would say that 40% of my time is spent “fixing” stupid printers. I put fixing in quotations because there is no “fixing” a printer as they are always broken. My stock answer to “Why did my printer stop working?” is “Because it’s a printer,” (this answer is usually met by laughter, then uncomfortable silence, followed by me saying “No, really,”).
Earlier this year, new Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer recently started an online shit-storm by abolishing “work-from-home” plans, requiring employees to actually come into the Yahoo! offices to do whatever it is Yahoo! employees do now (if my inbox is any indication, they are in charge of easily-hackable email accounts). Fifteen years ago, “tele-commuting” was all the buzz in the corporate world. Email and cell phones were going to make driving to the office obsolete. Before that, it was “the paperless office”. Scanners, faxes and emails would make filing cabinets, typewriters and the USPS obsolete. Yet last week, I was in a small law firm when, from a room away, I heard the unmistakable “click-clack-whirr” sound of an honest-to-god electric typewriter.
In my experience, law firms are the main paper offenders. I have one client who has been reduced to using his iMac from a table in a hallway. He has forced himself out of his own office with stacked boxes of paper that he has no room for. This is after relocating to a new office due to, of course, lack of storage space for paperwork in the old office. It’s not the lawyers fault (for once), but the antiquated courts systems they work in, whose idea of “high tech” is a rolling A/V cart that has a CRT TV and a VCR on it (I’m not making this up. I had one attorney who asked me how to transfer digital CCTV video that he downloaded for a case to a VHS tape. We actually had to go out and buy a VCR to do it.).
Some municipal governments have discovered they can save tens of thousands of dollars by no longer printing junk out. The Hampton, Virginia city council saved themselves $18,000 a year by no longer printing council meeting briefs. They now run their meetings off of iPads. Apple has seen the potential boon here and setup an online Apple Store for State and Local Government.
Yet the printer, particularly the “multi-non-function”, is still the bane of my professional existence, not scanning, jamming paper and barfing out its drivers on a regular basis. I’ve seen PDF’s printed, signed out by hand, scanned and emailed back. I’ve seen MapQuest directions printed and left on desks (A) MapQuest? Really? B) Who doesn’t have some form of GPS?). Most egregiously (this actually happened), I’ve seen pictures printed, scanned and emailed. All of this to the detriment of the environment and our collective sanity. We have to get smarter about our technology and how we get business done.
photo credit: (c) iStockphoto/Thinkstock