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My Graduation Advice: A True Digital Workplace or a Computer Museum?

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DocuWare Graduation-541445-edited.jpgGraduates of the class of 2017, as Chief Evangelist of AIIM, a major technology association, I come here today with three missions:

  1. To talk about the incredible opportunities you all have in the digital workplace of the future as “digital natives”;
  2. the reality of the digital workplace you are about enter; and
  3. some advice to think about that first post-college job.

Every year, Beloit College publishes its “Mindset” list, a set of 70+ characteristics and experiences of the current year’s entering freshman class that you alone possess as a class. These mainly serve to highlight how insufferably old and out of date people like me are. 

Bear with me as I recall some of the items on the 2013 list when you entered college.

During your lifetimes…

#4 – You have never used a card catalog to find a book.

#14 -- Text has always been hyper.

#34 – You have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.

#44 -- There have always been flat screen televisions.

#64 -- There has always been a computer in the Oval Office.

#72 -- Migration of once independent media like radio, TV, videos and compact discs to the computer has never amazed you.

I will add a few more of my own.  In the year you were likely born, Windows 95 was considered a cool thing. MP3s didn’t exist. Google was a startup. Hardly anyone had a cell phone, and of those who did, 99% thought texting was “useless.”

The good news for the digital workplace that is coming: You are technology natives. And by 2020, your generation will be 20% of the workforce. The combination of Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z will be 80% of the workforce.

And now the bad news.

When many of you walk into your new post-college job, you will be in for a shock. As a class, you have experienced technology and connectivity for all of your personal lives, and are likely interested to explore what the modern digital workplace has in store.

Sadly, many of you will feel that you’ve walked into a computer museum.

So here is my advice as you think about how to put to work your parents’ hard-earned tuition money and your mountains of student loans: when you interview, look around the office of your prospective employer. 

If you see rows and rooms of file cabinets, run for the hills. 

If you are given stacks of paper forms to fill out, run for the hills.

If the company doesn’t have a website – and one that looks good on your phone – run for the hills.

Because organizations still relying on paper and manual processes won’t survive the coming tsunami of digital disruption. Like Sears, Blockbuster, Circuit City, Borders and dozens more once-great brands, they’ll fail to understand the inevitable wave of change already eating away their foundation.

One last item from the Beloit list before you are officially declared graduates of this university. Number 75. Consider this fact: For all of you, there has always been blue Jell-O. 

The mind reels.


Is your organization bogged down by manual processes? Download our tip sheet that explores how to use digital workflows to create a paperless office. 

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