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Travels with The Mobile Executive
By: Brenda J. Trainor


On a recent business trip, I initially planned to attempt to execute the paperless journey: I had visions of replacing the standard traveling set up of back pack/purse, bulky folders and my heavy brief case with a small purse, a shoulder-strapped portfolio, a stick drive, an IPad, and my IPhone.   


I thought I could eliminate a lot of weight and increase my mobility and flexibility if I didn’t have to slug through an airport both a rolling suitcase and a big heavy rolling technology briefcase.  To travel “paperless,” I calculated that I could have my working files electronically, but since I really needed a keyboard, the iPad idea was the first casualty of my plan (though you can get wireless keyboards for your iPad, I just don’t have one yet!).  So, then I decided to go with heavier laptop option, but still tried to minimize the paper weight.  I loaded up whatever documents I knew I needed into a special file on my system’s desktop.  If I would need to generate or acquire more documents at my meetings, I postulated that I could do so electronically through a stick drive (aka a thumb drive or a memory stick or “that little thingamajig that you stick in the USB port”) that is small in size but bountiful in data capacity.  I thought I could still eliminate the orange day-glow colored file that I always take on business trips – I keep it easily accessible in the outside pocket of that heavy briefcase and load it up with the hard copies of boarding passes, flight itineraries, address books, and the hotel and shuttle confirmations for my destination.  Could I replace this by planning well and loading the right files and apps on my laptop and smartphone?  Could I pull off the paperless business trip?

In short, no, but I got close! 


For the first leg of my trip, I was taking a small commuter plane to make a connection to a more major city with bigger planes.  For the first leg of my trip, the airline did not make available the option of a “mobile boarding pass,” which is merely a QR (Quick Response) code that shows up on your smart phone through a free app your airline makes available.   So, I needed to print out the boarding pass 24-hours before my flight and put it in that super-bright orange file folder of travel documents that stands out so well in whatever briefcase I might take. 


Already thwarted in my vision, and not wanting to end up stranded without an airport shuttle or a place to stay at my destination, I went ahead and printed both the shuttle and the hotel confirmation.  I could have easily created notes on the app on my phone with all the relevant information, but that would have entailed retyping the data and risking typos.   I could forward the emails with the confirmation, but then I would have to boot up whatever device I was using in order to access the information (how do you tell the cabbie where to go if your computer is in the trunk?)  And don’t we all wait in enough lines without have to wait for someone in front of you to unpack their computer, fire up the system, find the email program, and open up the relevant document?  Sometimes it is easier to just grab the pieces of paper.


If you want to be a paperless mobile executive, there are some other risks to plan for.   After a long day of travel and working on a plane, you might well run out of power rendering all that data on your smartphone, iPad or laptop in your possession, but totally inaccessible until you find a plug.  So the first important acquisition is a rechargeable supplemental battery  -- it is a great feeling to bring that iPhone back to full-operating strength and keep it going for a few more hours.


I opted belts and suspenders, as we learn in technology – always do a backup:  I had paper copies for security, but used the electronic versions whenever possible.  Businesses, especially those in the travel and mobile business industry have quickly adapted to the needs of the mobile executive, and have built in resources and tools that can help overcome some of these challenges of deploying paperless technologies.


All in all, paperless travel seems pretty doable for the mobile executive – the travel industry is quickly adapting to these new needs.  Most major airports have now installed recharging towers with multiple, easy-access plugs strategically placed by seats in gate areas so that while passengers gather to wait for boarding, they can plug in and charge up those hard-working devices.  These are heavily used and obviously very popular, and it seems the days of sitting on the floor in order to plug in to the janitor’s outlet for the vacuum are thankfully days of the past.  And Airports also make generous use of QR codes in their display ads; and some can even connect you to the airport’s free WiFi with shopping and restaurant discounts.  E-commerce is alive and well and very convenient for the mobile executive.


Business travel isn’t yet paperless (for instance the airlines will still print you a paper boarding pass with a paper sticker to claim your checked baggage; and you will always need your photo id/driver’s license to get through security), but technology is surely making business travel more convenient, less heavy, and often times more convenient, as long as you plan well, have a backup strategy, and keep your devices charged up.