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Should You Digitize Your Workflow?

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The computer age is everywhere, but lots of us still work on paper. Would we become more productive if we did everything electronically?

A feature from CIO magazine not only insists this is necessary, but provides three steps to digitizing your work:

The elusive concept of the so-called paperless office may finally be taking shape, if anecdotal evidence is anything to go by. A growing number of small businesses and startups, unencumbered by legacy processes, are quietly ditching printouts for an all-digital ecosystem, buoyed by soaring bring-your-own-device ownership and growing familiarity with a plethora of cloud services.


© Flickr user José Carlos Cortizo Pérez

It certainly seems like the wave of the future. The writer, Paul Mah, cites three reasons for this shift:

1. Making Life Easier

Convenience is a hallmark of modern life, both at the office and at home. As the piece says:

Digital data is both highly searchable, and is also easily transferrable. What’s more, the mature state of cloud services today means that you can expect the information you store online to be available across whatever devices you may own — be it a smartphone, tablet, PC laptop, Mac computer – or even a Web browser at a cybercafé or hotel lobby when on a vacation.

It’s beyond question that getting access to your information from anywhere is much better than wondering where you left your notebook or having to lug that briefcase around. But that’s not the only advantage.

2. Making Life Safer

What about information loss? Those of us who lived before the information age remember fireproof file cabinets and constant worry. In fact, some companies kept multiple physical copies just in case. Lah notes:

Digital documents are also clearly suited to data backup. Despite the calibration required to get things set up in a way that works for you, it’s infinitely easier to make a copy of digital data versus photocopying stacks of printed invoices or bills.

3. Making Life More Interactive

The final justification for an all-digital workflow is working better with others. When it’s just you at your desk, it takes more work to call meetings to get things done together. You could write a document with other people by dividing up the sections, but it’s a lot easier with modern document collaboration tools. Or, as the editorial suggests:

On this front, an entire generation of online tools are available for a diverse range of tasks such as time tracking (Toggl), project management (Asana) and collaboration (Yammer) – of which all are captured digitally without printing out a single piece of paper.

The article continues with three steps for making the switch: 1. choosing a digital notebook system, 2. taking a digital-first approach to new data, and 3. effortlessly digitizing legacy data. But it doesn’t ask the question: should we go all-paperless?

Various Tablets / iPads

© Flickr user Cameron Norman

In my view, digital data is good, but analog processes have value. Consider the following examples:

  • You’re in a meeting, taking notes on your phone. Do other people think you’re engaged or texting your friends?
  • You need to sketch out a quick diagram to explain workflow and fire up a graphics program. Would it have been faster just to grab a dry erase marker on a whiteboard?
  • You come to a networking event and someone asks for your contact information. Is an email as powerful as having a crafted, branded printed piece in the form of a business card?

And there’s a larger problem than the social elements of digital technology: truly using them. The tool you actually use is better than the better tool you don’t use. It doesn’t matter how incredible these resources are if you sign up, download, or purchase them—and they collect virtual dust.

Yes: you should be making your workflow more digital. But don’t forget about the people who are involved in the data you consume and create, including yourself.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


Troublemaker and productivity/workflow expert. Slightly more complex than 140 characters will permit.
@lorraineball First probably depends on the business. But second is likely training, especially with regard to sales. - 4 weeks ago
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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