No to Paperless, must have hard copy!

No to Paperless, must have hard copy!

My last post ‘7 years of failed attempts to go paperless’ got some great conversations started. It’s a topic that tends to get our sceptical hearts racing, mine included.


One of the private messages I got was from a chap working for a very big contractor, and his comments expressed a note of frustration shared by many others.


He essentially said that he’d love to use paperless technology but his customers insist on paper copies, in his words:

“We have shipping containers full of reports which will probably only ever be looked at by the mice as they make a nest from them”.

It might sound strange but I don’t see any conflict between going paperless and providing hard copies, if you’re using a system like APE Mobile that can print electronic data right onto your existing forms. The pertinent question seems to be:

When does the hard copy need to be made?

Are the customers really saying you can’t use technology, insisting you carry pen and paper around for ever? I don’t think so, in my experience the priority of these customers tends to be:

  1. The form gets completed on site (ensuring it’s really done by the operative doing the task and is not generic data pre-filled before going to site)
  2. The form is a standard format and reflects the standard process (ensuring compliance to their or your quality/safety plan)
  3. The form is signed with a real signature at the time of completing the form (evidencing the person’s acknowledgement of the content and commitments in the form)
  4. And finally, that they can have a copy for their records

There’s nothing in those priorities that conflicts with what we do with APE Mobile, in fact I designed it for this very purpose. From the outset we knew we had to be sympathetic to these requirements, and they were central in our design process. It meant some head scratching and hard work for the development team, but the results are worth it, particularly as you can capture the data in the forms and export or integrate in to you business systems and at the same time get a ‘hard copy’ from the system.

Just yesterday I spent a couple of hours training one of our users helping him prepare a form in his system.

It was a ‘Take 5’ provided by his customer that must be completed onsite (for a very large gas company). It was a complex form, but that just made it more compelling to do electronically. We found much of the data could be automatically populated such as User Name, Site Address, Project Number etc. It had a bunch of check boxes that we converted to pick lists, and it needed something like 20 different signatures accompanied by the name of each signee (which was another ‘dynamic’ pick list). In the end there was only one field that needed typing, reducing the time to complete from 20 minutes to a genuine ‘Take 5 minutes’.

So now his team can complete the form on their iPads in 5 minutes with it automatically synced back to the office. They can email or print the PDF in their customer’s format instantly, or as is the case for this contractor, the office administrator prints all the customer’s forms from the office and sends them to the client with their invoice (within minutes of doing the work).

If your customers want to make the mice of Australia comfy it doesn’t mean you have to keep working the old school way, not with APE Mobile anyway.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so comment away or ping me a message.

Example signature in APE Mobile:

And what it looks like in the form:

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