Let’s take a trip down memory lane and just think about how much “stuff” businesses needed to operate in the past. They required filing cabinets, full of archived folders, documents and contracts. They needed big desktop computers, and mainframes to run their business systems. They needed expensive conference rooms and theatres to entertain clients. And they needed all of the paraphernalia that goes into constructing a modern office.
Then, around fifteen years ago, we were introduced to the idea of “natural capitalism.” This was a concept championed by some of the world’s leading technology companies. The idea was to have a capitalist system that could operate sustainably and protect the environment. Companies began work, looking for ways to reduce the physical footprint of businesses. Trailblazers wanted to find the means to deliver products that customers wanted. But they wanted to do so without the usual business resource overhead.
Of course, if they had succeeded there and then, then they would have made killer profits too to sweeten the deal. But dematerializing business is a tall order. If it was so easy, practically everybody would be doing it.
But then things changed around five years ago. All of a sudden we started hearing whisperings about a new technology, enigmatically named the cloud. The cloud was a sort of wonder platform – capable of being accessed from any location using any computer. At the time, people didn’t really know how it was all that different from the internet. But as soon as they saw how it could dematerialize business operations, it began making a lot more sense.
The Cloud And Dematerialization,
In the past companies lived and died on the back of their document processing abilities. Thousands of boutique firms, like estate agents, lawyers and accountants pushed paper until the cows came home. It was an expensive and environmentally costly exercise. There was first the energy and resources that it took to get the material to their offices. And then there was the additional cost of sending it back out again in its new form. It cost a lot of money and put up prices for consumers and businesses.
But the cloud sought to change all of that. With document management software businesses didn’t have to rely on traditional means to push paper. Instead, they could digitise their paperwork and get it sent from one location to another with zero resource cost.
Dematerialization Is Even Better Than Physical
It wasn’t just that dematerialization was the same, just cheaper. It was also better. Companies found that they could turn the cloud into a new usage platform, allowing them to collaborate on documents in real time. Cloud computing enables network working in a way that just hadn’t been possible before. People could work on documents without having to be physically present. And they could use automatic sorting tools that simply weren’t available when documents were filed by hand.
The changes that dematerialization has brought to the workplace are extreme. The only barrier to getting rid of offices entirely now appears to be a cultural one. How long before the corporate world figures this out, I wonder?