I hate paper. I guess it’s because I?m messy and disorganized when it comes to handling paper. To me, storing information on pieces of paper just seems so inefficient. You have to physically organize that paper somehow so that you can refer back to the information captured in it easily. And I?m not so good at that organizational stuff. I?m like the guy in the cartoon above. Usually I will keep a stack of papers that seem important. Then they collect dust, and I eventually just throw them in the recycle bin after a few months.
GMail is Awesome!
That?s why I love Gmail and dislike Outlook. With Gmail, you don?t need to be all anal-retentive and create a bunch of little folders, categorize them, and then move all your mail to one of many little folders. In Gmail, you can leave all that stuff in your inbox and just search for what you want. One giant messy inbox, with really good search. And that works well for me! I don?t have to spend time moving little emails around just so that the number of unread emails is zero. When I need something, I just do a quick search for it.
Enter It Once, Retrieve It Intuitively
In my world of rose-colored glasses, all captured data would be entered digitally by either machines or by humans, passed through validation controls at the point of data entry, and retrieved in simple intuitive ways that don?t require user guides or manuals. Instead of storing and passing data around on pieces of paper, or entering data onto pieces of paper and then re-entering that same data into computer systems (with transcription errors and all), it would be entered once, directly into the computer system, and passed around digitally to other computer systems on demand.
I guess that?s what I?ve been trying to do at Terraine since about 2005…eliminating inefficient and labor-intensive paper processes, one application at a time. ?So far, we?ve succeeded in a few places:
- American Electric Power, a company with over 18K employees, which up until the end of 2012 used multiple Excel spreadsheets and email to manage their entire safety statistics program (OSHA incident rates, recordables, etc), now uses two systems that we built for them. Now their contractors log in themselves and enter their own data, and AEP personnel save a ton of time by merely having to QA their data. All metrics and reporting is handled automatically and on demand by the app when needed.
- Duke Energy, who used to commission entire power plants using literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper documenting startup results for devices (calibration, meggering, nameplate data, punchlists, etc.), now uses our software to commission new power plants. Instead of relying on guesswork as to % complete, now they have drilldown metrics that can tell them how complete the entire startup project is, or just a particular system, or a particular device, down to 2 decimal place % completion accuracy.
- EnviroChain, now owned by Promium, originated from an idea I had for using iPhones and Android phones to complete environmental Chain of Custody forms electronically in the field (instead of filling out 3-part paper forms) and transferring that data automatically and immediately to labs. I believe that this application is going to substantially change the landscape and status quo in the environmental consulting industry over the next few years, as it gains traction and keeps improving as we iterate. If you are an environmental consultant or environmental lab, don?t take my word for it, check it out and see for yourself.
- BernieSez, something relatively new that I am working on now, is a way for people who got traffic tickets (for speeding, etc.) to take a picture of their traffic ticket and upload it to a site where lawyers can bid on it. This eventually (we hope) will not only get rid of all of those dumb mailers you get from lawyers in your mailbox a few days after the cop hands you that ticket, but will also provide more transparency to traffic ticket holders.
There are other apps I?m working on, but they are not far enough along to talk about just yet.
So, do you have an idea for an application that makes a paper-intensive process more efficient? Drop me a line anytime. I?m open to new ideas that remove all of this paper shuffling and analog BS. You can reach me anytime at LinkedIn.