Are the Days of the Paper Mountain Numbered?
I got so fed up with the amount of junk on my desk that I set about to organize and file. What you’re looking at is a four-inch mountain of paper from my desk that I put into the recycle bin after round one of my battle with the Clutter Monster. It took me eight months to create that amount of paper (and there is still more for me to go through). My little mountain of paper got me thinking about leasing offices and the potentially larger mountains of paper produced every day.
As far back as the early part of the 20th century, predictions of a “paperless office” have been made. George Pake who headed the Xerox Research Center for many years, coined the term “paperless office” in 1975. A now- famous Business Week article on the office of the future, published in June 1975, predicted that most record handling would be paperless by 1990.
But how much progress have we actually made toward going paperless, particularly in the multifamily industry? Now, I don’t need to tell those of you in the affordable housing market about the mountains of paperwork required, much of it for compliance reasons. Some of these documents you have to save for up to 30 years! Even conventional communities are drowning in paper. Though the amount of paper used by office workers has declined since 2001, each white collar worker still generates more than 100 pounds of paper per year (source: The Economist).
But the days of the paper mountain may be numbered. Already, many property managers are turning to document management systems to control the paper flow and streamline and improve their business processes. Storing, accessing, editing, faxing and emailing an electronic form is much easier than a paper form—and saves time, money, and trees in the process.
Even HUD is now requiring forms to be submitted electronically…it’s just impractical and expensive to keep file cabinets full of paper. Plus, the information in these forms is a lot safer in a document management system, since it’s all encrypted.
That’s really important in these days of rampant identity theft and concern for privacy. I should also mention how HUD is beginning to collect data on tax credit properties: who you’re renting to, your prices, and other data they want to know as a way to better understand their constituency. In fact, it’s already mandatory that you keep this information – it just hasn’t been enforced until recently.
So, with these newest directives, HUD has reached its own tipping point, and property owners and managers need new, robust reporting solutions to start capturing and storing this required information.
After more than 30 years of predictions and prognostications, the technology is here to create a true paperless office. The question is how quickly “paper” transitions to “paperless.” Do you think the days of the paper mountain are finally numbered? Have you conquered Mount Clutter and gone paperless?