office sets new trend
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
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.
is an extract of the e-mail I received:
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.
your views on the subject.
C Mohan (scientist)
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
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!
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.
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:
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.
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).
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
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.
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
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.
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