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Why do so many organisations struggle to lift the paper weight?

Digital processes create agile, leaner operations, not to mention financial and time savings. So why are so many businesses still unable to part with the millions of pieces of paper that are printed across the globe each year, despite the fact that the majority of this paper will be used once, then thrown or filed away?

The paper weight rests heavily on many business workflows, meaning millions are risked on manual, time consuming and error-prone processes. Reliance on paper trails make the system of bringing products to market cumbersome and slow for manufacturers, banking processes are held up by a lack of auditable and secure records, and untimely documenting processes within universities are preventing students from having access to information at their fingertips.

Our Digitisation at Work report reveals that this concept of ‘digital transformation’ is attractive to most but achieved by the limited few. Overcoming this requires stopping, stepping back and assessing the environment and understanding what it will take to lift the paper weight.

Digital dreams, paper reality

We spoke to 600 IT decision-makers across a range of large organisations and according to their feedback, most foresee a workplace that is both automated and digital. A significant 85 per cent can already identify workplace processes that are candidates for automation technologies, finance and customer care being the prime candidates. In keeping with this, firms plan to remove paper from all but nine per cent of their key business processes

These are interesting ambitions but they certainly seem a long way off when you consider less than 50 per cent of organisations have fully digitised their workflows. Added to that, 37 per cent of those surveyed work for an organisation which does not yet have a social media strategy in place, while 40 per cent have not implemented solutions for mobile working.

Building the connection in five steps

So how do we take the ideals of digital workflows and automation, and get to a place where we start seeing the impact?

To allow this to happen, there are five key areas where companies can get a handle on their processes and create lasting, company-wide digital strategies:

  1. Get a visual on paper workflows

One of the biggest surprises of our report was finding that so many organisations (55 per cent) are missing the upfront analysis of how paper processes are currently running. With assessment tools in place, we’ll see more companies take advantage of the central configuration and monitoring of digitised workflows in coming months, much like how network operations centres currently function.

  1. Analyse what’s going on

Processes are becoming smarter and advanced analytical tools will drive genuinely useful data about who is accessing what document, and when. We should continue to evaluate that companies have the right tools in place for the right processes on a regular basis.

  1. Share updates

More and more organisations will take advantage of the real time status updates that are delivered by digital tools. Better use of these means greater tracking of tasks across various processes and ultimately, to change the functioning of that service altogether. For example, electronic records with ‘intelligent paper recognition’ are saving time, money and space for Luton & Dunstable University Hospital and leading to better patient care.

  1. Scale out

In the digital age, there are many such automation tools that businesses can scale quickly to take on additional work. At present, 45 per cent of those surveyed work for an organisation which does not currently use intelligent automation technologies. Inevitably, we’ll see more businesses use software which can mimic humans by manipulating data, triggering responses and processing transactions.

  1. Teamwork

With greater levels of analysis and assessment now possible, businesses will be closer to making the full transition into digitised processes. Handoffs between human employees and automated bots in a given workflow will become increasingly seamless.

From speaking with our customers we understand the urgency for companies to identify new opportunities to build comprehensive digital strategies and tools, and to make them stick. They’re looking for partners that can ensure these tools have the potential to impact the entire business, not just part of it.

With so much potential for positive change, the paper weight needs to be recognised and removed, in order to move towards fully digitised processes and make good on the promises of transformation.

Andrew Morrison, president, Large Enterprise Operations, Europe at Xerox

Image source: Shutterstock/Who is Danny