It was mid-October.  I had waited for this day all year.  The air was crisp and filled with the honking of geese headed south.  The corn stalks had dried into a golden maze that rustled with every puff of wind.  I opened the truck door and released the latch.  My dog exploded from the kennel.  He was like a tornado as he ran in circles sucking in all of the scent his nose could absorb. 
As excited as the dog was, it didn’t come close to Punkinhead’s anticipation.  Punkinhead was a friend of mine.  Even though he was older than me, he seemed to approach our adventures with the outlook of a little kid. 
Before the truck even stopped running, he had put on his vest and cap.  By the time I had turned off the truck and got out of the door, he was eagerly anticipating the first flush.  If you’ve never heard the sound of a rooster pheasant cackle as it erupts from the brush, then imagine combining the excitement of Christmas as a kid with the exhilaration of your first kiss along with the awe of seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time.
The fence Punkinhead was supposed to check was an electric fence that went around the field we parked in.  Depending on whether or not the farmer had recently let his cows graze the field, the fence was sometimes on and sometimes off. 
As I tightened the laces on my boot, I saw Punkinhead tap the fence quickly with the back of his hand.  Not the best way to check, but the pulses of an electric fence aren’t too bad if you’re quick.  As I stood up and started to walk towards him, he tested it a couple more times.  Satisfied by his analysis, he grabbed the fence with both hands, swung one leg over, and that’s when it hit him.  As he straddled the fence, he began convulsing and shouting, “Ooh, ooh, ooh!!!  It’s on, it’s on!! 
What a predicament!  Can you imagine straddling a fence not knowing which side you want to be on, but knowing you can’t stay where you are?
That is exactly the predicament I see many businesses in today.  They have a printer that can be used to copy, scan, FAX and e-mail.  They have scanners scattered throughout their offices.  Business transactions like purchase orders, invoices and acknowledgements are e-mailed, FAXed and sent via snail mail.  File cabinets line the walls right next to servers and their backup systems.  The paperless fence is clearly being straddled.
It doesn’t take long to see why paperless systems can give any business an advantage in speed.  Sit a kid with a smart phone and the world’s best librarian in any library and see who is quicker at finding the answer to whatever question you have.  Though this might sound like a silly scenario, many companies are still using libraries of file cabinets to find the answers to their customers’ questions about past orders instead of using electronic Google like searches.
In order to perform these Google searches on your documents you will need a DMS (document management system) or in other words, a program that specializes in storing and searching documents.  There are many different ones out there and Microsoft even has a free one you can download called SharePoint Foundation.  These programs allow you to store documents and connect important information to them.  Depending on the DMS you use and the types of documents saved, searches can be made on the important information or on the contents of the document itself.
You can take it a step further and integrate the DMS into other applications like your accounting system or job cost system.  We have built custom programs where the user can pull up a past job, look through the list of all of the documents associated with that job and then click on any one of them to view, print or email the document.
Just like movie theaters were not replaced by TV, VCR’s, or DVD’s there will always be room on one side of the fence for the comforts of turning pages in a book, newspaper or magazine.  On the other side of the fence is the efficient flow of information enabled by electronic documents and paperless systems ideal for business use.  Don’t be a Punkinhead.  It is shocking how much your business processes can be improved by going paperless!

 
– as previously published in The Business News