No excuses: It’s really time to get rid of paper

  • Companies with digital front and back ends still dealing with triplicate copies
  • Benefits of digitising include talent acquisition and retention, and business agility
No excuses: It’s really time to get rid of paper

 
TALK about the paperless office stretches back decades, even into the previous century when this writer’s editor was a young, rookie reporter (Hey! – ED) … but companies are still sending and filing their reports in hardcopy.
 
The mobile-first and digital transformation era, indeed.
 
“The way people are consuming content has radically changed, and the way content is being delivered has moved on … except in documents,” laments Chandra Sinnathamby, Asia Pacific business manager of Adobe Document Services, a division of Adobe Systems Inc.
 
“If you look at music and books, it’s now about streaming and consuming digitally on any device – but documents seem to have fallen behind,” he tells Digital News Asia (DNA) in a conversation in Singapore recently.
 
Chandra has his tale to tell: He recently wanted to set up a direct debit from his own personal bank account. He was sent the form via email, and checked with the bank, which told him he could sent the completed form back by replying to that email.
 
“I tried that and the email kept bouncing – it was one of those emails that you couldn’t reply to,” he says.
 
After calling the bank and explaining the situation to them, he was told that he had to send the form via fax, or to print it out and snail-mail it back.
 
The reason (or excuse, rather): Security, the bank representative told him.
 
“You mean sending a fax to a machine that is sitting in the middle of your office is more secure than email?” Chandra told the bank rep. “The person on the line went, ‘I see what you mean.’ ”
 
The good news is that some companies are starting to realise that these mandated archaic processes are affecting their customer experience.
 
“In this day and age, when it is not just about the product or the service but also the experience, this can help really help differentiate [companies],” Chandra declares.
 
And it goes all the way to the other side of the equation: Sticking to a paper-based environment can affect talent acquisition and retention on the company’s end too.
 
“We did this research with IDC, and interestingly enough, a third of the respondents said ‘The way we work today is frustrating and I get bogged down by paperwork.’
 
“That’s leading to lower job satisfaction,” says Chandra, citing the IDC report (PDF).
 
“The impact of this is that people will look for other opportunities where they do not get bogged down by paper.
 
“It does make sense in today’s labour market – those sought-after jobs are highly competitive and people want to do their best work and not get bogged down,” he adds.
 
Starting to digitise
 
No excuses: It’s really time to get rid of paperCompanies often have paper document procedures stretching back years. This, coupled with the fact that there is no one person responsible for these processes, is making the pain of switching to digital a bridge too far for some companies.
 
“This is not like digital marketing, where you can have a chief marketing officer – documents are so widespread in an organisation, and so varied, that the first question is, ‘Where do I start?’ ” says Chandra (pic).
 
Companies should consider the following areas, according to Chandra:
 
“First is workforce productivity – how does your staff work in a mobile environment today? Do they have the same capabilities in the office and outside of it?
 
“Second, we see benefits in accelerating the sales cycle – how does your business send out sales contracts and what are the barriers to that today?
 
“One of the common barriers is decision-makers not being in country to sign a sales contract,” he says, adding that this would not be a problem with a digital document process “so long as they have a smart device and an Internet connection.”
 
Even that orneriest of corporate processes – procurement – can be made leaner and more agile.
 
“Procurement is where there is a lot of documentation, both internally and externally – a lot of request for proposals, quotes and vendor agreements,” notes Chandra. “That function is looking to become more agile.”
 
Companies usually stop short at digitising some of the legal processes, but even these can be dragged into the 21st century, especially when it comes to reviewing contracts.
 
Chandra offers an example: Sales teams sending out nondisclosure agreements to potential customers to sign.
 
“One of the challenges is following up on the signed agreement,” he says. “This has a significant risk exposure for the organisation.”
 
Digitising this “would free up the sales team to concentrate on selling and not on paperwork and legal documents,” he adds.
 
And if all these arguments are not enough, Chandra saves the worst for last: Consider a digital document process or end up eating the dust of your competitors.
 
“We’re really at the stage when [digital document growth] can become explosive,” he says.
 
According to IDC, in Asia Pacific, 60% of the top 1000 enterprises will have digital transformation at the core of their corporate strategy.
 
“For them to be truly successful, they need to look at improving – and documentation is going to be critical to that,” he declares.
 
Related Stories:
 
E-signatures, the last piece in the paperless puzzle
 
Are you controlling paper, or is it controlling you?
 
Malaysian startup out to redefine document processing … and how
 
 
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