For the Love of Paper – Cautionary Tales

There are tales of woe around natural disasters and unexpected events because people and businesses don’t believe something harmful could happen to them. Here are some cautionary tales:

Hurricane. When Hurricane Sandy came through New York in 2012, Miriam Linna, founder of the magazine Kicks, the Norton Record label, and the Kicks Books imprint, lost “about a quarter of a million records, all of their files and the Kicks Books inventory,” according to an article in The New Yorker. “Thousands of books dissolved into nothing,” Linna said in the article.

Fire. Dudleyville, Arizona was engulfed by the Margo Fire in April 2021, with at least a dozen of its 73 residential and one governmental building destroyed. Wildfires in a dry climate are unpredictable and when the evacuation order comes, there is no time to think, just go. “All residents were under the county’s ‘go’ mode … which means to evacuate immediately,” said Lisette Padula, spokesperson for Pinal County. 

Flood. In 2010, the Cumberland River overflowed its banks after 13.57 inches of rain fell in a 36-hour period over the weekend of May 1, 2010.  The flood damaged or destroyed more than 11,000 properties and caused $2 billion in property damage and $120 million in public infrastructure damage for the city of Nashville. One year after the flood, The Tennessean, citing the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, reported that 300 to 400 businesses remained closed and 1,528 jobs were “very unlikely” to return.

Why wait for something to happen to take action? As they realize that standing still and continuing to use the manual processes is counterproductive, businesses have been gradually transforming their operations to better handle processes digitally.

The same can be said for important archives and records. Standing still and waiting while the water rises is not a good strategy — it usually requires a rescue. Digitally transforming back files and important records should be top of mind for all businesses so they don’t find themselves needing to be rescued. Have a plan.

From storage costs to security breaches, paper records are a heavy load to bear for a business. End of life for other media also contributes to a future problem.

Another worst-case scenario that affected everyone was the COVID-19 pandemic. In an article titled “From Surviving to Thriving: Reimagining the Post-COVID-19 Return,” McKinsey noted, “The future of work, defined by the use of more automation and technology, was always coming. COVID-19 has hastened the pace.”

What is important here is that businesses paused and reflected on what that statement meant. If a business was directly impacted, they assuredly started looking for solutions. But, if they survived and brought some of their staff into the office to keep their businesses going, they skirted a problem but really did not fix the overall environment in which their employees work.

What to do with your records to ensure they survive? What to do with your business to ensure you survive?

We are looking at a few scenarios: “The Natural Disaster,” “The Processing Problem” and “The Pandemic.”

The Natural Disaster

All is lost. Nothing is recoverable. Your inventory, records and physical state are in shambles. While you can move locations and buy new inventory, your records are lost forever. How to recover? Keep your records safe and digitize them.

The Processing Problem

The processing problem goes hand-in-hand with digitization. If a business has looked at their operations and realized that digitization is the way to go, they are likely doing more than digitizing records.  Their day-to-day can be creating more and more paper, and if their processes rely on this paper, they are short-sighted.

By thoughtfully looking at how work is done and how it can be improved, the paper for the processes should also be digitized. By using a content management solution, the information is safely stored in the cloud and can be accessed from anywhere.

The business’s staff is not generating more paper, and the business can gradually improve more processes through automation. With paper, automation is not possible.

The Pandemic

The pandemic is the worst of all worlds. It is about access and business continuity. Paper access and manual processes just stop when there is nothing in place to address remote workers. That spells trouble for business continuity.

During the pandemic, our company was able to pivot to remote work pretty easily. We all had laptops and we all worked from home on occasion. It is not a new thing to get the team acclimated to doing their jobs remotely – it’s planned, efficient and smart.

The pandemic really showed businesses the value of having information access from any location – and that includes access to records, access to automation to keep the business humming along, keeping their head above the water line instead of finding themselves at the bottom of an ocean.

We hear about businesses that experience unfortunate situations all the time. So what will it take to wake them up and take action for digital transformation? I would have put money on the pandemic with hundreds of workers safe at home. But, if that was not enough, it is now our job as providers of smart solutions, business continuity ideas and basic tenets for digital transformation to counsel and guide our business compatriots to make some changes and better secure their operations for the future.

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is a program manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. and is responsible for program development with the company’s Business Intelligence groups, including the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) practice. Her responsibilities are to build sales and customer-facing educational and thought leadership insights as well as strategic initiatives for ECM.