Book: No Office » Part 2 - What if there was no office? » Chapter 19 - Ditch paper and go mobile | mobile.md

Chapter 19 - Ditch paper and go mobile

Modern businesses are paperless and mobile. With a virtual cabinet in the cloud.

Extend your trust to technology!

In the previous chapter we dealt with the issue of trust in a team. Now let’s extend it even more to modern technologies. In 2020 people should embrace digital and paperless world, the cloud and mobile access to data from anywhere.

But what if I have all the documents in my office!?

The laws are the slowest to adapt, but in many countries going paperless is already viable. Very often it’s the old-school accountant who’s just keeping the papers just in case.

If the reason to go to an office is to have access to some documents, then you’re doing it wrong.

Modern companies need to have a process that converts paper documents to digital ones. Today’s scanners or scanning apps not only do it very quickly but they can also perform OCR1 on a scanned document. This way the content of each digitized piece of paper is actually searchable.

Finding old receipts by going through folders of physical papers becomes a thing of the past. In a digital world you can find things in an instant.

Step one - create a process of going paperless

Again, no expensive scanner needed. And desktop scanners are relatively cheap anyway. You can even use a smartphone’s camera with a dedicated scanning app2.

The key here is to make it a habit of scanning everything that goes in. No exceptions. Everything gets digitized.

Step two - use the power of the cloud

Once things are scanned, they shouldn’t be saved to a local computer but instantly they need to be uploaded to a server. Only this way you get the benefits of having access to documents from anywhere.

There are many popular cloud storage providers and again, these are very affordable3. Some companies prefer to run and maintain their own servers for document storage, but in most cases I’d advise against it. Managing your own infrastructure is a hassle, and the cloud providers give you additional benefits:

Everything can be linked to

Once a file is uploaded to a cloud provider, you can link to it easily. This makes it so easy to send a digital document to people you work with. Just get a link and they have access to it from any browser.

And you can limit access to files and documents so that the link stays active only for a period of time or works only for certain people.

The files are properly backed up

All cloud providers really take backup seriously. I know we do. When people ask me about how we store our customers’ projects, tasks, comments and files, I always tell them it’s a priority number one for us. We make sure to have several servers with copies of the data and to have our infrastructure as redundant as possible. We even maintain data centers on different continents. Yes, we’re that paranoid.

When people raise the issue of their data’s safety in the cloud, I ask them this: “And what happens if someone breaks into your office or it burns down for some reason?”. I get a blank stare. When you have the one and only copy of a document in your office and it gets destroyed, you’re basically screwed.

Mobile access is a given

We have apps for everything now and cloud-based companies have them as well. This way the moment a document is scanned and uploaded to the cloud, it’s immediately accessible on a smartphone. It’s that simple. Everyone who has access to this cloud folder can see the document and work on it. They don’t have to go back to the office to get it.

Collaboration is built in

Most cloud providers these days give you an option to collaborate on any document or file. As mentioned in chapter 10, good feedback is the second most important part of the Pyramid of Communication. Cloud providers have this built in so you can comment on any file or even a paragraph in a document. No need to be in the same physical space with your colleagues to be able to join a discussion on an important file.

You know my stance on using email to collaborate from chapter 6, so no more sending spreadsheets documents to people. It’s easier to use online spreadsheets and collaborate directly on them4.

Secure access can be easily managed

Just because I like the convenience of cloud solutions, it doesn’t mean that we have to throw security out of the window. Not in the slightest. Access to cloud providers can be managed easily and everyone on your team can use their credentials (usually email and password) to get in.

Nowadays 2FA5 becomes a norm where you need an additional token device like a code on a smartphone to log in. This way a weak or stolen password cannot give access to your secret documents.

Encryption starts becoming an option now, too.

As people become more privacy conscious, encryption becomes easier to implement, too. As chat apps started introducing end-to-end encryption6, other apps including some cloud providers started also introducing full or partial encryption.7

It’s really important to use true mobile apps

When choosing a way to store files, documents or projects, it’s important to find a solution that truly supports mobile platforms. Where the mobile app is not just a companion app but something much more robust that lets you get work done on the go8.

I should know as I’m a big proponent of #iPadOnly lifestyle9 and I use the iPad as my main computer and the iPhone as my second computing device. I’m writing these words on an iPad Pro and I insist on using solutions that make my tablet a first-class citizen and support it very well. Moreover, even if I don’t have an iPad with me, because it shares the same operating system as the iPhone, I can really get my job done on the go if I need to.

It doesn’t mean you should work 24/7, which we’ll discuss in the next chapter about notifications and asynchronous work. It just means you can be productive on any of your devices. You don’t have to think that you’ll do something when you get to your computer in the office.

I still remember that at times we had to give up on a pretty good software product for a certain task and search for an alternative because the mobile version was completely useless.

You can add additional security with a VPN server

With the broadband Internet access and very robust servers, it’s pretty easy these days to configure your own VPN server or use a VPN service10. Again, these days having your own VPN server is really affordable.

We use a VPN server to limit access to many internal web sites and resources. We have it set up that these things can be visited only from one IP address which is our VPN server. You can try it yourself11.

When someone joins our team, they get access to VPN and through it to all of our stuff. When they leave, we can easily turn off their credentials and we don’t need to worry about them snooping around anymore.

Don’t be afraid to use software in an unconventional ways!

Programmers in my company use Git to collaborate and GitHub to host the code they’re working on. If it works for dev work, why not use it for collaborative writing as well? Our customer support department edits Nozbe Help Pages and documentation also like this. Our Marketing department works on sales letters and email Newsletters using Git as well. Heck, I’m writing this book in an open-source way and anyone can suggest edits using GitHub’s pull-request technique12.

Who says something that works for programmers cannot work for writers?

The one thing: embrace modern technologies fully!

Modern companies and teams should embrace digital world and go completely paperless and mobile. This ensures everything is more securely stored than in a physical office and yet everyone who needs can have access to it from anywhere. That’s the proper #NoOffice way of working.

  1. OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition it magically converts the words scanned to something that can be searchable with a computer. 

  2. There are many apps for that. In the past I used to use Evernote or Scanbot Pro. It’s even built in iOS for iPhone and iPad

  3. The usual suspects include Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive

  4. The salary formula discussed in chapter 13 in our team is a shared online spreadsheet document in Apple’s Numbers app. Alternatives include Google Spreadsheets or the good old Microsoft 365 Excel

  5. 2FA or MFA stands for Multi Factor Authentication 

  6. Some chat apps that boast encryption: Telegram, WhatsApp or Signal

  7. For example, all the files attached to tasks in our Nozbe apps are stored on our servers completely encrypted with their encryption keys on separate servers. We’re currently working on implementing encryption for project names, task names and comments. 

  8. That’s why we insist on building great mobile apps that are as powerful as their desktop counterparts. Everything you can do on a desktop Nozbe Personal or Nozbe Teams app, you can also do on our mobile apps. Moreover, they work offline, too. 

  9. Back in 2013 I co-wrote a book about it with my friend Augusto Pinaud: #iPadOnly - the first real post-PC book - how to use only your iPad to work, play and everything in between

  10. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network which basically means you can use the Internet to connect computers like if they were directly connected. 

  11. Try to visit our internal web site “Nozbe.team” and you’ll see that you cannot access it. 

  12. I wrote how Github can be used for any collaborative writing environment and on the about page of this project I explain how I’m writing this book

Next: Chapter 20 - Work asynchronously

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