But its new-found popularity seems to mask the underlying dynamics and the real issues at stake when it comes to digital transformation. The digital revolution that businesses are currently experiencing is not just a matter of digitalising a document, however momentous and calculated it may be. Going paperless is a strategic project that unlocks huge potential, so you need to think about the big picture and take account of the business processes that are unique to your company.
While invoices are the king of corporate documents, we mustn’t forget the dozens of other types of documents that can be digitalised. Just think about payslips, meal vouchers and receipts. Sales departments are not the only ones looking to overhaul their processes; everybody from HR staff to operational teams needs to go back to the drawing board to evaluate the potential of digitalisation. To get the most out of the opportunities on offer, we need to think of documents as simply part of the business process being optimised. A document is practically worthless outside of the context in which it is used.
Successful digitalisation is about the right person having the right document in the right application at the right time. This means information needs to be accessible and modifiable from any application involved in the business process that it supports. A digital transformation project that consists merely of digitalising and backing up paper documents delivers extremely limited added value. It’s not the document that matters, but the information it contains, so the key issue is extracting that information from the document to make it as easily to access as possible, according to requirements.
Only once documents have been digitalised can the second stage of digital transformation begin – automation. Whereas going digital can save money, the automation of data flows paves the way to increased productivity and serious competitive advantages. Signing an entire batch of subcontracting agreements online, using an application with an electronic signature module, can optimise the way this information is handled. Plus, customers receive a much better service.
Automating processes is an investment and its costs must always be balanced against the return. But while short-term profitability is admittedly rather limited, the optimisation of flows is often an indirect benefit. For employers, it might be more profitable to retain paper-based administration processes and ask everyone to put in some extra effort, by submitting their own expense claims manually for example. But for the employer’s brand, businesses could end up regretting that decision, especially when dealing with young talent and digital natives.
Digital transformation is now quite rightly seen as a strategic turning point that every company needs to plan for and tailor to its specific circumstances. With piles of ever more important documents stacking up, going paperless is not just about digitalising a certain type of document; rather it involves analysing the processes with a view to automating them. So it’s up to your company to come up with its own tailor-made digital revolution.