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 further to include trust in modern technologies. In 2020, people should embrace the digital and paperless world, the cloud and mobile access to data from anywhere.

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

Law- or policy-based jobs are often slowest to adapt, but in many countries, going paperless is already completely possible. Very often, it’s the old-school accountant who’s used to keeping the papers just in case.

If the main reason to go into 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 isa thing of the past. In a digital world, you can now find things in an instant.

Step one: Create a process of going paperless

Again, no expensive scanner needed. Desktop scanners are reliable and relatively cheap, or 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; rather,they should be instantly uploaded to a server. Only this way will 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

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 create a link, and they have access to it from any browser.

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

The files are properly backed up

All cloud providers take backup very seriously. I know we do at Nozbe. When people ask me about how we store our customers’ projects, tasks, comments and files, I always tell them it’s our number one priority. 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 usually 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. 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 spreadsheet 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 doesn’t mean we have to throw security out the window. Not in the slightest. Access to cloud providers can be managed easily, and everyone on your team can use their credentials (usually an email and password) to gain access.

Nowadays, 2FA5 is the norm where you need an additional token device like a code on a smartphone to log in. This way, a weak or stolen password isn’t the only barrier between someone else and your private documents.

Encryption becomes an option

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

It’s so 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’m a big proponent of the #iPadOnly lifestyle9.– I use my iPad as my main computer and my iPhone as my secondary 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. Moreover, even if I don’t have my iPad with me, I can always get something done on the go with my iPhone 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 should have the option to be productive on any of your devices. You can then end the mindset that you’ll do something when you get to your computer in the office.

At Nozbe, we care greatly about mobile accessibility. At times, we had to give up on some pretty promising software products and search for alternatives just because its mobile version was completely useless.

You can add additional security with a VPN server

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

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

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

Don’t be afraid to use software in 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 like this, and 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 using Git, and anyone can suggest edits using GitHub’s pull-request technique12.

Who says something that works for software writers cannot work for other writers as well?

The one thing: embrace modern technologies fully!

Modern companies and teams should embrace the 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 access can have 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 ScanPro+. It’s even built into iOS for iPhone and iPad

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

  4. The salary formula discussed in 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 include Apple’s iMessage, 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. They work offline, too. 

  9. Back in 2013, I co-wrote a book about it with my friend Augusto Pinaud, and now you can read it on the web for free: #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 as if they were directly connected in the same physical space. 

  11. Try to visit our internal website “Nozbe.team” and you’ll realize 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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