Ward told The Wall Street Journal that he's tackling the paper deluge on a small scale, liking it to "eating an elephant with a teaspoon." "We have to take small bites out of that elephant to make sure we can digest the changes we're making," he told The WSJ.
Among changes Ward has implemented, as he outlined in a speech in May: "Last year, we introduced an electronic filing cabinet - a document repository that enables claims and premiums to be handled quickly and efficiently without the need for paper files. ... Currently a fifth of all in scope claims are being processed using the Electronic Claims File. This is a significant increase on the 5 percent at the beginning of the year."
"In addition," he added, "if you look at Accounting and Settlement, more than 80,000 premium-related transactions have been processed electronically. Once again there has been a significant increase from the beginning of the year."
He says that the company's processing 30 percent of its claims electronically now, but the the goal is to hit 100 percent by March 31. "We might have a symbolic crushing of a van, and it might become a piece of art somewhere inside or outside the building. That might be quite appropriate to do once we've reached our goals," he told the Journal.
(Notably, crushing an otherwise useful van might not be the ideal way to celebrate an eco-friendly achievement of reducing paper waste and boosting efficiency, but that is another story.)
Keep your fax straight
There are plenty of other recent examples I can point to of organizations strolling the paperless trail. Rosen Hotels and Resorts recently announced that it adopted a fax server solution called RightFax from Captaris and integrated its Microsoft Exchange, Cisco CallManager, and Canon MFPs (multifunction peripherals). The end result: a central document management solution, used at the company's seven hotels, as well as its medical center and the insurance agency, to easily store and share documents that used to be passed around in paper format.
Among other features, the combined solution lets employees send faxes from just about any desktop app, or right from the MFPs, rather than having to deal with paper. Moreover, faxes are filed into SharePoint, where they can be accessed from within the network or remotely. Also handy: Employees on the go can receive immediate notifications when important documents are received.
Paper still plays a vital role in the business world, and no doubt will for years to come. But as more companies trade in reams of paper, stacks of pricey ink cartridges, and boxes of mailing supplies for PDFs, digital ink, e-mail, and document management systems, we'll collectively reap the benefits of a less-paper world.