Project Management

The Paperless PM: Is It Even Possible?

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

Many, many years ago now, we were promised the paperless office. A clean, austere and organized environment where everything is at our finger tips, filed, indexed, tabulated and cross-correlated to within an inch of its life, all available and searchable at the touch of a button.

Despite promises, vaunted technology solutions and desperately fervent attempts at the person, team and organizational levels, this goal still seems remarkably elusive. If you are like most project managers that I know, you are surveying the ever-growing mound of reports, forms and budget documentation threatening to engulf your cubicle in a biblical tsunami of letter-size proportions and snorting in derision at the very idea.

So what happened to the vision? What happened to the dream? What happened to all that lovely hippie stuff about a paperless society full of tree huggers? In a word: reality. The ideal of a paperless office ran headlong into the wall of how we currently work. Ideal: 0; Wall: 1.

Speaking for myself, I like to think that I manage pretty well in a paperless manner, most of the time. I read reports on an iPad. I reference materials I am writing about online or using soft-copies. I usually have no less than a dozen different applications and a couple of dozen documents open at any given time, and I am a veritable master at switching between them at will. I have written …


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"My goal is simple. It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is, and why it exists at all."

- Stephen Hawking