When I began my professional career - now many moons ago - we were just on the verge of applying technology across a broad base of business functions.  Word processing systems had just come of age - and there was this new piece of software called Lotus 1-2-3 that gave you all sorts of tools to manipulate and analyze numbers and statistics.  It even allowed you to easily generate charts. The future would be PAPERLESS!  Holy cow!!  We had arrived!!!

Nowadays you can’t find a typewriter and most employees don’t even recognize White Out as anything other than some kind of blizzard condition while you are driving.  People absolutely HATE filling out forms.  Today, we truly have so much computing horsepower at our fingertips that we can’t possibly use but a percentage of what is actually there.

At fiVISION (and other predecessor companies along the way) we have always carefully crafted our technology to make sure data can be presented as information so that its usable by viewers.  To us, this means that it has to be fast, has to be up-to-date and it has to support the business function it was intended to support.

Suffice to say that it is, therefore, frustrating to find my staff working with clients on perfecting the printability of some form or application that is resident in our systems.  When I ask clients or prospects why they want to print the answer I usually get is something along the lines of “because we’ve always done it that way” (generally phrased differently, but still the same answer).

Here’s a suggestion.  Let’s sit back and put that “Think before you print” logo into action.  Yes, it does make sense to still be able to print things … just not as often as we do today.  I’ll throw out three guidelines to help us get on the right path:

  1. Print only when requested by your customer.  There are times when customers demand some paper evidence of the activity that was just discussed.  If you are asked for a printed copy by a customer, its probably not time to go all tree-hugger and explain the green thing.  Just print it and smile as you hand it over.
  2. Print when you need it for a discussion.  Sometimes it is easier for people to meet and discuss over paper than it is to do so electronically.  Printing specific items out to help conversation flow is appropriate.  The key word here is ‘need’.
  3. Choose Information over Form.  When defining what needs to be printed, think about how important it is to get the information on the page as opposed to making the page a work of art.  Remember, what we are talking about here is providing a physical copy of written information on a piece of paper.  As long as it is done professionally, does it really matter exactly how it looks?

By just pausing to think a bit I believe we really can achieve some benefit from not printing so much.  Yes, I’m a fan of being environmentally responsible … but I’m a much bigger fan of the notion that relying on the technology and databases we have – and not printing – can save enough time and energy in most businesses to have a noticeable impact on operational performance.