by BJ Johnson | 1/18/16

“Business at the speed of paper will be unacceptable in five years,” reads a statement from AIIM's recent market intelligence report that I don’t completely agree with.  Business at the speed of paper is unacceptable now. Continuing to have paper bog down processes means you’re falling behind in the race to digital transformation every organization must undertake.  Organizations that have effectively begun the transition to digital are more efficient, have lower operating costs and provide better service to customers (internal and external) than their competitors that are still shuffling paper. In short, a company that has made the shift to digital has a better chance of surviving and growing in a competitive environment.

The speed with which organizations provide access to information for employees, customers, vendors and auditors is closely tied to their performance in some key areas.  By looking at “business at the speed of paper” versus properly designed digital processes and technology, it becomes clear why those who have made the digital transformation are better positioned to succeed.

Accounting

All companies pay invoices and have similar goals when managing invoices.  The cost per invoice for payment processing should be as low as possible, the approval process should be efficient, payments should be accurate and timely and invoices should be retained according to rules and regulations.

Digital Process – Paper and digital invoices follow the same process after the paper invoices are converted to digital.  The data needed for invoice approval, payment, matching to purchase orders (POs) and entry in financial systems is extracted from invoices using capture technology.  In companies that issue POs, the data extracted from invoices is matched to POs and invoices are paid with no human interaction. This is often referred to as straight-through processing.  Invoices that require approval are automatically routed to the correct approver who approves digitally.  The appropriate data flows to the financial system and invoices are automatically retained and deleted based on corporate guidelines. Secure data rooms or email links provide auditors with secure digital access to invoices.

Paper Process – Manual processing and filing of invoices. Digital invoices are often printed. Data entry errors, no straight-through processing and late fees are common issues in a paper-based company.  If invoices need to be shared then copying/scanning and emailing attachments is usually required.

Benefits of Digital Transformation – Early pay discounts, lower cost of payment processing , little or no time correcting data entry errors.  Documents can be quickly and securely shared.

Human Resources

If you’ve got employees, then you have to manage employee files. Because employee documents contain personally identifiable information (PII) and federal rules and regulations govern how you manage these documents, employee files have some of the most complex compliance requirements. Employees, managers and auditors all need access to documents in an employee file, which only complicates things further.

Digital Process - Paper and digital documents follow the same process after the paper documents are converted to digital.  Key employee data such as status, position, etc. typically exists in the HRIS or ERP and integration with document management technology avoids re-entering information. There is also an ever-increasing amount of digital documents being created in HR technologies such as onboarding solutions, so integration between document management technology and HR technologies is a smart move to avoid managing various silos.  As documents are ingested, classification technology can identify documents so they are electronically filed correctly. As well, employees can review and complete all or most documents digitally, and based on document types and other criteria, secure access can be granted to managers and employees. Documents such as performance reviews can be routed for review/approval and can be digitally signed.  Missing or out-of-date documents are automatically identified.  Secure data rooms or email links provide auditors and attorneys with secure digital access to specific employee documents, while under your complete control and surveillance. Employee documents are automatically retained and deleted based on corporate guidelines.

Paper Process - Manual processing and filing of documents, additional printing of digitally born documents, data entry errors, filing errors, slow employee onboarding and HR staff having to spend a large percentage of their time on administrative busy work are common in a paper-based company.  If documents need to be shared, copying/scanning and emailing attachments is usually required.  Emailing employee documents as an attachment is both time consuming and not secure.  During audits documents must be pulled, copied or scanned and refiled.

Benefits of Digital Transformation – Reduce time spent on administrative processes by 30-40 percent, allowing HR to focus on strategic programs, enable employee and manager self-service and eliminate missing or expired documents. Documents can be quickly and securely shared with auditors avoiding fines and penalties.

Customer Service

Exceptional customer service must exist for any company to be successful.  Customer service increases customer loyalty, the amount of money customers spend, and of course generates positive word of mouth, which in turn builds on reputation. We live in a world where customers demand quick responses, which is why first contact resolution and response time are such important metrics.  Customer service reps need immediate access to information so they can provide quick responses to their customers.

Digital Process – Again, paper and digital client documents follow the same process after the paper documents are converted to digital. Most organizations have a CRM that has information about a client’s lifecycle which is typically integrated with other technologies.  Contracts, statements of work, work orders, invoices, etc. must all be in digital systems or the CRM, enabling customer service to access these documents in just a few clicks.  As client documents are ingested information such as contract expiration can be extracted to populate fields in the CRM.  Document classification technology can identify documents and route them to the correct system. Technologies that manage customer documents should also allow customers to access some of their own documents such as invoices.

Paper Process - Manual processing and filing of documents, filing errors, slow response time and low first contact response rates are common in a paper-based company.  Because the documents customer service reps need could belong to numerous departments responses can take days versus minutes which results in frustrated customers. In a paper-based company customer service reps spend too much time on administrative work versus providing excellent customer service.

Benefits of Digital Transformation – Response times are generally three to four times faster when digital processes are in place. Modern approaches to customer service such as Chat can be implemented.  First contact resolution rates increase and customer response times decrease.  Customer self-service portals can also be created giving customers access to their documents as well best practice and training documents.  All of this leads to happier customers.

As I said at the beginning, business at the speed of paper is unacceptable now, not five years down the road.  The real question is, how many companies doing business at the speed of paper will actually be around in five years?

BJ Johnson is VP of Solutions at Archive Systems.