Jain Temple

Hot Spots

India Links
Call Home


Art & Culture
Book Shelf



About Us

Contact Us
About Us

Article by Mohan Babu

Paperless office sets new trend

Many large companies and governmental agencies in the US have implemented paperless office projects. MOHAN BABU says that software designers and architects are fascinated by the concept because of the technical challenges involved and opportunities available for innovation

In a previous write-up, I had talked about the responses that I regularly receive from readers of this column. Many of these mails are very thought-provoking, sometimes providing ideas and fodder for my columns and even work since consulting is nothing but the ability to think outside the box. Among the e-mails I received in response to my recent article on Linux vs Microsoft was an interesting mail from L C Mohan, a scientist with a premier research institution in India. I will dedicate this column to Mohan’s query and my response to his mail.

Following is an extract of the e-mail I received:

I have been planning to introduce paperless office concept and its operation in the lab where I am a scientist. We have Microsoft based facility. If in future, Linux is adopted, what changes are required to be introduced to practice paperless office? Paperless office concept and operation are planned to be extended to all activities of project management, administration, finance, and communication. There has to be built-in transparency also.

Awaiting your views on the subject.

—L C Mohan (scientist)

Your question is tremendously thought-provoking. Your effort to embark on a paperless office project is laudable and in the lines of international trends in e-governance and e-business. Interestingly, a number of large corporations and governmental agencies have already either been successful in this endeavour or are embarking on paperless office projects. The latest being the US Patent and Trademark Office which recently began testing an all-electronic patent and trademark-processing system that’s expected to cost the agency more than $50 million to develop.

The patent office estimated that the system would generate an annual return on investment of 30 percent during the first five years of use, due partly to technology upgrades aimed at eliminating more than a half-million paper files each year!

Giving due credit to Microsoft and Bill Gates, the idea of “paperless office” was expounded in depth by Gates in his book Business@the Speed of Thought, a few years ago. However, with the trend moving towards open systems, one is not dependent on Microsoft technologies while envisioning paperless office projects.

Software designers and architects dream of exactly the kind of project you are embarking on because of the technical challenges involved and opportunities available for innovation. Paperless office, including the use of workflow engines and other tools, is a very interesting field, and involves networking myriad tools, techniques, systems and technologies. A comprehensive answer to your question would require extensive research and analysis. It is hard for me to give a “one shot” answer to the question without analysing all the facts. However, in a nutshell, here are my two cents:

a) Linux—as with other server software technologies, including Windows—has a whole suite of products and software applications that run on it. With most large vendors including IBM, Oracle and Sun throwing their weight behind, the Linux bandwagon of applications is bound to grow.

b) Before working on the blueprint for your project, you need to start by auditing your applications that you think will aid in your effort to work towards a paperless office (maybe even consider Web-enabling them).

c) After a successful audit, when you have an extensive list of products and applications along with your requirements for integration, you should contact the individual software vendors (or consult product documentation) to determine their compatibility with the server operating system, specifically Linux.

d) You might also want to explore the possibility of using software-on-demand (a.k.a. Web services) being provided by third party vendors, which will help you achieve the desired objective with little initial investment and cost.

e) Consideration for extensibility and future growth: As with most applications and business systems, you too must be experiencing growth in your lab, especially changes in budgets, applications, products, people, etc. During your analysis, you will need to give due weightage to extensibility of the systems and processes.

f) Successful integration of the different applications including project management tools, administration, finance, communication etc (that you suggested), will ensure transparency. There are several EAI tools and technologies in the marketplace, including workflow management tools (with or without built-in adapters) that will help connect your disparate systems.

As I mentioned earlier, these are mere guidelines to get you thinking about the scope and depth of your endeavour. I’m sure that you and your able colleagues—with extensive knowledge of your systems and applications—will be in a good position to adapt the best-practices and benchmarks of other successful attempts to enable systems towards paperless offices. All the best.


©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author.
This Article was originally published in Express Computers



About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
  • Sponsored Advert

    Advert: Visitor's Travel Insurance

    Click for free online Quotes


    For FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America, visit the Ask-A-Desi section

    GaramChai® 1999-2005