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Hard Copy

By Jacquelyn Lynn

Electronic documentation is on the rise--so why is your office still far from paperless? Don't feel bad. Paper is and will continue to be a primary element in even the most modern of offices, says Keith T. Davidson, executive director of Xplor International, an electronic document systems industry association. According to Davidson, there are four solid reasons why the paperless office won't be here any time soon:

First, paper is permanent. No other method of information storage and retrieval matches paper's durability.

Second, paper plays a significant role in our legal system. "Paper has been built into our common law," Davidson says. "It's why you need an original instead of a copy."

Third, paper is part of our society's traditions and institutions. Though newspapers, magazines and books may be expanding electronically, their paper versions will remain.

Finally, Davidson says, "Paper is the ideal human interface. It's the way we learn and communicate."

The truly efficient office will be able to blend electronic and paper documents. Davidson says an information technology plan should include a document strategy to accomplish this.

"Identify how your documents manage and contribute to your business processes," Davidson says. "Consider your document flow as part of your information system, not something that happens at the end of it." Understanding where and why you need paper is an essential element of successfully using electronic technologies.

It's also important, Davidson says, to keep technology in perspective. "What is the single most important information- processing invention of the past 30 years?" he asks, rejecting answers such as the computer or fax machine. "My candidate is the Post-it Note because it's the epitome of user-friendliness."

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