By Jonathon Osbourne, Executive Head – Intelligent Workspace Services at Altron Document Solutions
Social distancing and lockdown measures have accelerated the digital transformation agenda as companies shift to work-from-home and remote working models.
This has revealed the fundamental need for businesses to integrate work and personal devices with back-end systems and digitise workflows and processes to enable remote access to documents, with digital editing and approval capabilities to maintain business continuity.
However, the costs associated with top-down digital enablement can limit the pace and scale of the digital transformation process. The need to rip-and-replace legacy enterprise solutions or write-off sunk costs in on-premises systems can make digital strategies unpalatable amid the economic crunch.
Prohibitive costs? Change the model
But costs need not constrain a company’s digitalisation strategy. A bottom-up approach can leverage a self-funding digitalisation model where realising incremental cost savings and greater efficiencies effectively increases an organisation’s buying power.
This model allows companies to sweat assets and capitalise on existing hardware, while reinvesting saved operational expenses and working capital to fund strategic digitalisation initiatives.
In this regard, the foundation for a bottom-up digitalisation plan starts with Intelligent Workplace Services (IWS), which bridges the gap between paper-intensive processes and a workplace environment that uses less paper.
In essence, IWS uses comprehensive security, analytics, digitisation and cloud technologies and software to unlock automation and build seamless processes across paper and digital platforms to enhance collaboration, increase productivity and deliver a better work experience.
Legacy paper processes limit document access and workforce mobility. Traditional IWS management and office automation services applied best practices and methodologies to assess a workplace environment and its infrastructure footprint to identify areas of paper-based inefficiencies and optimise processes to drive print suppression.
However, the current circumstances require a new model. The challenges posed by COVID-19 and the lockdown require mobile and remote workforce enablement, with seamless and efficient access to information through a secure mechanism, and the ability to work on documents and collaborate.
Faced with the challenge of a decentralised workforce, print avoidance and process digitisation have become the key objectives. This strategy begins with back-scanning to digitise mission-critical documents and information.
To optimise this process, businesses must determine a break-even point by prioritising the most pertinent information and documentation from a process and regulatory compliance perspective.
Companies must also decide how far back to go. Beyond a certain point, digitisation efforts will deliver diminishing returns, which is when the process should switch to a second tier archiving exercise. At this point, it may become more cost-effective to store older documents in hard copy format.
Once all documents and data are digitised and hosted in a cloud environment, companies can begin to unlock operational efficiencies by automating workflows and elevating the user experience.
For example, many organisations still operate with silos of buried information, with the average worker spending 2.5 hours per day searching for the information they need to do their job. An interactive IWS interface improves accessibility and enhances searchability and retrieval.
And solutions that leverage open APIs ensure services providers can customise applications that link into back-end systems and leverage existing enterprise applications where possible to contain costs and minimise workplace disruption.
Business will also benefit from these capabilities without sacrificing security and information integrity, as IWS can restrict access to specific documents or certain elements within documents, while meeting compliance requirements with audit trails.
And the enhanced user experience also extends to the customer. IWS can streamline onboarding or application processes via a digital portal, and empowers businesses to engage and communicate quickly and effectively using accurate and relevant customer information.
Beyond the immediate efficiency and cost benefits, an IWS-centric digitisation programme driven from a predominantly print environment creates opportunities to advance to full digitalisation. Companies can then begin to leverage next-generation technologies such as robotic process automation, big data analytics and artificial intelligence.
In addition, once in the cloud, businesses can process documents on hosted platform and start applying analytics and intelligence to this data to create a more connected and intelligent workplace.
For instance, leveraging powerful AI and machine learning enables businesses to automatically capture and validate information from paper or digital mediums, and any source to feed important data directly into the processes that need it.
New opportunities will also emerge around security and data protection, such as proactive risk analyses that can pinpoint security risks and reveal vulnerabilities before a breach occurs.
Ultimately, a bottom-up IWS-led digitalisation strategy will redefine the way a business interacts with content. Managing content in this manner can help organisations automate manual tasks and processes to save time and lower costs, improve compliance through auditable workflows, and more easily integrate with appropriate ERP, CRM and third-party systems.
More importantly, IWS can enhance collaboration with access to content from anywhere and at any time, and speed up decision-making by making data securely accessible at the point of need. These capabilities create the type of nimble, agile organisation that can respond to the dynamic and challenging market environment in which we currently find ourselves.
Altron Document Solutions
Altron Document Solutions (ADS) is Africa’s leading document management technology and services company and the largest Xerox distributor in the world. It is the authorised Xerox distributor in 26 sub-Saharan countries offering the complete range of Xerox document equipment, software solutions and services. ADS forms part of JSE-listed Allied Electronics Corporation (Altron).