The typical corporation generates mounds and mounds of paper every day-potentially many tons a year. This is bad for the environment, costly for the corporation, and unnecessarily time-consuming because it requires the company to hire people to maintain and keep track of the paper trail. There are forms that have to be filled out and handled, marketing materials, sales materials and brochures to mail out, sales forms that need to be entered the list can go on for a long time.
All this paper has many hidden costs-it's not merely the cost of paper that is involved. There are a variety of overhead costs as well. There are sky-high mailing costs. There are often high costs for storing historical material. There is an even more pernicious cost-paperwork causes red tape, and the handling of all that paper slows down how a business can operate and can put it at a competitive disadvantage.
While the "paperless office" has been talked about and pursued for at least a decade, the advent of intranets can finally bring it closer to reality. A combination of communications technologies, Web publishing tools, workgroup applications, and e-mail can cut down on paper costs, help slash mail costs, help eliminate administrative overhead, and allow corporations to react more quickly to business changes and deliver goods and services more quickly to their customers.
The area where paper costs can be cut most-and procedures most streamlined-may be the sales and marketing department. In every aspect of making a sale, from marketing and advertising through making sales calls, to making the sale and then fulfilling the order, paper costs and associated expenses can be cut.
By posting marketing materials on the Web and drawing customers to the site, companies can print fewer expensive marketing materials, such as brochures. Many companies include Business Reply Cards in their marketing materials that people can use to request additional information. Business Reply Cards have many costs associated with them: printing, mailing, and then fulfillment-inputting the person's name into the computer system, then having someone mail out the additional materials. On the Web site, customers can fill out requests for materials. That request is automatically routed to the intranet, where it is sent to the fulfillment department. This cuts down on the printing and mailing costs that Business Reply Cards carry, as well as input costs, since the customer inputs the request, instead of someone employed at the company. A traveling sales staff can input orders on an electronic form on a laptop computer, and then later send that form back to the intranet, again saving on paper and administrative costs.
Internal paper costs can be cut as well. Company newsletters and communications can be posted on an intranet Web server or sent via e-mail. Personnel manuals can be posted as well. Forms for doing things such as requesting time off can be filled out electronically instead of on paper-again, cutting down on paper, overhead, and red tape.
One of the many benefits of an intranet is that it can cut the amount of paper and paperwork used by corporations, often dramatically. It can streamline corporate procedures and have them done electronically, instead of via paper. And it can also more directly communicate with its customers without having to resort to paper and mailing. Pictured here is an example of how a fictional record company, CyberMusic, uses an intranet to cut paper costs.