Understanding Your Journey to Digital Nirvana

We’ve all heard the story in some form or another: there is the easy road or the hard road to choose on your journey. If you take the hard road, you will suffer from more pain and if you take the easy road – in the end — you will find greater ease in completing the journey.

The Road Trip

It’s like that journey we are all familiar with: the family summer vacation. When I was a kid, we always took our summer vacation the first two weeks of August. Of course, it seemed like everyone was on vacation with us –  some crowds, some traffic and the need for solid planning. More often than not, we took road trips. We piled into our station wagon and drove to Cape Cod, or Wildwood, New Jersey, or even Orlando, Florida – someplace where my mom would not have to cook or clean (read: never camping).

Armed only with a map – no GPS, no Google Maps, no internet searches – we drove the interstates and the local roads to get to our motel and settle in. For this vacation plan to work, we needed to know:

  1. Where we wanted to go
  2. Who ultimately would make the decision (Mom)
  3. How much could we have to spend this year
  4. [As we got older] – who could bow out from the journey
  5. When, within those two weeks, would we go
  6. Would there be any side trips [e.g., stopping to see parental friends or relatives] included

In the Northeast, those first two weeks of August are pretty volatile weather-wise — always humid, sometimes rainy and, as I mentioned, popular for vacationing. The outcome of the vacation was mixed. For all the decisiveness of where we would go, where we would stay, our vacation dates and any side trips, sometimes there were glitches along the way.

For instance, I was not a good car traveler in the back seat. But, two adults and three kids … no choice but to sit in the back seat — in the middle. There was an incident after a tuna sandwich at Horne’s – but the point is, there may be bumps along the way on the journey.

Charting Your Digital Nirvana Journey

Taking your company along the journey to digital nirvana is not that different from that summer vacation.

There definitely has to be a plan. Everyone is not on the same journey. Everyone needs a plan that fits their preferences, needs and budget. [Our neighbors drove to Canada often. We stayed in the States. Those plans fit our needs and our budget.]  The critical point to realize is where your company is on the digital nirvana journey. Are you at the very start with turning your paper-based processes into digital assets?  Or have you already taken the first step and now are looking for the better workflow and analytics? It can be a long journey if you are ready to embrace all the digitization, content management and platform consolidation offers.

“Companies in early phases of digital transformation efforts tackle paper reduction and elimination of manual activities, while those in later stages focus on the extraction of data from digital documents to drive automation and enable analytics.”  — The Forrester Wave™, Enterprise Content Management – Transactional Content Services Q2 2017 by Cheryl McKinnon

Who is going to pull the trigger and say “go”?  Clearly, there has to be an advocate for transforming the company and the key decision maker to start the process – down the road for change. Even if you have already begun with eliminating the paper-based processes, the advocate still has to remain involved to ensure everyone embraces the change and to push forward down that road to continue the transformation.

Do we start small or do we start big?  The nice thing about developing a content management plan is that you can phase your journey and start where the need is most critical. You can get user buy-in and then expand to other areas to ensure your whole company can benefit from the transformation. For instance, if you start with accounting so you can build workflows for invoicing and billing you may move on to human resources or legal where onboarding and contract management have their own set of needs. A phased plan means you can learn from missteps (No tuna sandwiches from Horne’s ever again!) and you smooth out your journey. This does not mean a group can bow out, but you want your transformation to be calculated so that your implementation is effective and embraced by everyone.

When do we start?  We find that companies have every intention of starting or continuing on their journey to digital nirvana, but there are distractions. This means, within the organization, you need a dedicated manager to ensure the project gets off the ground and continues along the journey. With a project manager developing, implementing, augmenting, adjusting the plan, you gain two benefits on your journey:  1) your plan is not static and inflexible and 2) your initiative is in the forefront and supported by senior management.

Everyone is different. In a larger firm, the project manager is critical and for a longer-term. They become the expert with the software solution that you are implementing and a resource for others in the company. Often, there is some reluctance to make changes, so having an internal resource to quell the fears or issues – in the longer run – keeps the project on track. In a smaller firm, it is a person dedicated to the project for a shorter-term – but still, management has made the commitment and employees need a “go to” person to assuage any trepidation.

Do you allow any side trips?  Solutions for content management and understanding how they will impact your business continue to evolve. Your solutions provider offers a consulting role for not only helping get your company through your phased plan but also to offer intelligent thought regarding change.

For instance, you may be focused on your department transformation, but have not thought about how you can further benefit through the analytics that you can review. Better information for better decision-making may mean you sidestep your plan and investigate another area more in-depth.

Maybe your customer experience team sees the availability of information as a way to improve how they interact with customers. It was not something you thought about when you started on your journey, but now that you understand the implications of digitizing information, extracting content to feed other systems and making information more easily available for your service team, you pivot to that opportunity.

There Will Be Rainy Days and Ruts in the Road

Every company that takes the road to digital nirvana will uncover issues inherent in their organizations that will give a mixed experience on some days. You just need to plow on. We all hope for the best weather when we plan a journey, but understand that that may be too idealistic.

Overall, though, with a commitment to become a more efficient organization with better content management tools, you will find a positive outcome. Key for success, as always, is your plan, your flexibility, your communication with your employees and having the internal manager and external consultant on hand to help you along the way. You simply have to take the first step until you have reached your digital nirvana.

Joanne Novak is a program manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. and is responsible for program development with the company’s Business Intelligence groups, including the Intelligent Information Management (IIM) practice. Her responsibilities are to build sales and customer-facing educational and thought leadership insights as well as strategic initiatives for IIM.