Pushing Past Paper: The Journey toward the Paperless Office

We’re all familiar with riddle, “What’s black and white and read all over?” The answer may be newspaper, but this could easily describe the paper housed in many a tax and accounting office.

Despite the fact that we lead predominantly digital lives, physical paper still looms large. From copies and print-outs to brochures and catalogs, it quickly adds up. In fact, the average person in the U.S. goes through an estimated 10,000 sheets of paper.

10,000 sheets of paper = one Douglas fir tree

Moving toward a paperless office, however, isn’t a new trend. Instead, it’s a concept with a 50-year journey behind it.

Punch Cards Give Way to Electronic Storage

The initial idea of the paperless office first emerged in the 1960s, when computers started becoming less a novelty than a necessity in many offices. Even though punch cards still were a popular technology for data processing, new generations of mainframe computers had the rudimentary ability to write and store data electronically.

The 1970s saw the arrival of desktop computers. Although large mainframe systems—which often occupied an entire room in an office— were still in use, early desktop models nonetheless harnessed comparable processing and storage power. The introduction of the 5¼-inch floppy disk in 1976—a popular format adopted by many desktop models—made portable the writing and storage of data.

The Desktop Printing Boom and the Beginnings of Cloud Storage

By the 1980s, the desktop computer was becoming mainstream in many offices. And so, too, were printers. Throughout the decade and into the 1990s, the laser printer would reduce significantly in both size and price. Not surprisingly, then, that the average workplace paper consumption doubled between 1980 and 1995.

But the 1990s also saw the beginnings of commercial cloud storage solutions. And with internet connection speeds scaling up in both speed and accessibility into 2000s, these services had a similar trajectory in improving capacity, security, and usability.

The Practical Benefits of the Paperless Office

Today, going paperless is less a hypothetical construct and much more a practical reality. For tax and accounting businesses of all sizes, making this transition may have immediate time- and cost-savings. For a deeper dive in current trends driving the paperless office, check out the post “Paperless Technology Trends for Accounting Firms”.

A paperless office is just one of the benefits made possible by moving to the cloud. Download 8 Ways the Cloud Improves Client Service and Profitability for to see the full picture.

AUTHOR

Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting

Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting is a leading provider of software solutions and local expertise that helps tax, accounting, and audit professionals research and navigate complex regulations, comply with legislation, manage their businesses and advise clients with speed, accuracy and efficiency. Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting is part of Wolters Kluwer N.V. (AEX: WKL), a global leader in information services and solutions for professionals in the health, tax and accounting, risk and compliance, finance and legal sectors. We help our customers make critical decisions every day by providing expert solutions that combine deep domain knowledge with specialized technology and services. Wolters Kluwer reported 2016 annual revenues of €4.3 billion. The company, headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands, serves customers in over 180 countries, maintains operations in over 40 countries and employs 19,000 people worldwide. Wolters Kluwer shares are listed on Euronext Amsterdam (WKL) and are included in the AEX and Euronext 100 indices. Wolters Kluwer has a sponsored Level 1 American Depositary Receipt program. The ADRs are traded on the over-the-counter market in the U.S. (WTKWY).

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