Towards the paperless office

A few weeks ago I reported that I could sense a new, much more determined mood across the UK business community to embrace electronic channels to overcome the postal strike. You can really see the aspiration in the eyes of sales executives to turn a major disaster into a business opportunity. So what has the response been so far?

My contacts in Mimecast, a leading vendor of cloud-based email security services, tell me that they noted a 20% increase in the volume of email on the first day of the Royal Mail postal strike. In fact they’ve seen this level of increase before during previous strikes. So is this just a routine knee jerk reaction? Or is it something different?

In fact I believe we’ve hit a tipping point. Things are different this time around. One of the main characteristics of tipping points, as articulated by Malcolm Gladwell in his groundbreaking book on the subject, is the ‘power of context’, the particular conditions and circumstances of the time and place.

In this case we have several factors coming together. Firstly, there is a greater recognition that electronic channels are now the norm, rather than the exception, for many forms of business. Secondly, there are now plenty of easy-to-implement security products to help companies make the transition from snail mail to secure email. And thirdly there is less fear of deploying complex technologies such as encryption to solve business problems.

But above all, there is a new confidence that a paperless business environment is now a viable, as well as a desirable objective. Years ago, we used to joke that the paperless office would come after the paperless toilet. Perhaps we were mistaken…