The workplace has come a long way in the past 15 years. New technologies like smartphones, cloud computing and automation have changed the way we live and do business.
Think about it: A “phone” no longer just refers to a device on which one makes and receives calls. A phone now is an entire communications hub, encompassing everything from text messages and video conferencing to social media and business applications.
Smartphones are one small part of a greater digital trend in the workplace: what’s being termed “digital transformation.”
Digital transformation can be defined as the use of technologies that empower all employees – not just those in IT – to improve business performance, transparency, efficiency, speed and agility. These technologies bring together previously siloed departments, allowing a highly collaborative environment and creating a more seamless, efficient workplace.
According to a QuickBase, Inc. study, the top three reasons businesses pursue digital transformation are to grow revenue, reduce costs and solve problems – not exactly an epiphany, as these have been standard business goals since the barter system went out of fashion.
What was an epiphany was that 80 percent of the study’s respondents – from the CEO down to the employees on the ground – overwhelmingly agreed that technologies that facilitate data integration and workflow automation will play a massive role in digitally transforming organizations.
Digital Transformation Tool Must-Haves
For many businesses, processes like document routing; setting and approving tasks; transparency around logistics; and appropriately directing flow of work and information could immediately benefit from the digital transformation paradigm.
As enterprises revamp their processes to meet the demands of a changing marketplace, workflow automation and document management tools can accelerate digital transformation by letting employees work smarter and streamlining business operations.
Not all of these tools are created equal, however, and there are some key features IT leaders should look for when shopping for them:
1. Integration of Technologies
According to an IDC survey, 81 percent of business leaders say that problems arise because their different applications don’t talk to each other, meaning employees need to perform separate, manual activities to complete tasks – which is not efficient.
Systems that can adapt to and integrate with other third-party business technologies (for example, Salesforce, DocuSign and others) allow the organization to be more productive; even though multiple tools are being used, having them all integrated builds bridges between various departments in the business. Users can take advantage of the various features their suite of tools offers and combine them into one highly efficient process.
Digital workflow automation technologies let employees be more effective by allowing tasks to be delegated, grouped and balanced across different teams. Every organization has a structure – some employees may have admin rights or different clearances than others – and a workflow automation system accommodates a variety of organizational structures through role-based accessibility.
3. Reduced Risk and Liability
Companies deal with a huge amount of data on a day-to-day basis, and much of it lives within items like documents and contracts, which are attached to revenue. According to IDC, more than a third of business leaders say they have problems with documents that are missing information, and 51 percent have problems with documents that are misfiled or lost – all risks created by not being digital.
A paper document relies on human intervention to catch any flaws, sensitive information or clauses that create business risk. Document management software can flag this information automatically, and the document can be fixed before it goes out into the wider world.
Today, companies can employ artificial intelligence techniques, allowing systems to parse out the meaning of various documents and take action. This lets an organization make decisions about the fate of a document through advanced computing techniques. Superior language processing using categorization and taxonomy instead of keyword-based searches will allow programs to make sense of a document based on its content and make decisions without human intervention, thus achieving standardization and efficiency and further eliminating errors and risk.
We live in an on-demand economy – everyone wants-slash-needs to have everything immediately. Business documents need to be sent from person to person in a workflow process, from approval to editing to redlining and signing, at the speed of now, and it’s no longer feasible to route documents the traditional way. It’s simply too slow.
Speed of delivery is a big advantage created by workflow automation and document routing technologies. Whether employees are delivering an internal document to other team members or whether a company is delivering a service to vendors, digital methods give immediate access, allowing documents to be instantly collected, modified and routed via cloud, email or software.
Visibility ensures documents and tasks are progressing correctly and on time, and lets a business track any breakdowns in the process or recurring issues. Digital dashboards and process management consoles allow employees to view progress toward goals, and can see at a glance what documents are being routed and where in the process they are.
A digital system also can send updates and notifications on progress via email or through the system, ensuring everyone is on the same page at the same time – no more wondering where documents are bogged down or when one can expect them.
6. Sharing and Collaboration
In the not-so-distant past, employees would print out documents, redline them with a pen and send them to the next person to add comments by walking them down the hall, faxing, or scanning and emailing. This no longer makes sense in the digital era.
When documents live digitally, they can be shared instantly and be worked on by various departments simultaneously. Document management tool features like versioning and reverting mean that older versions are never lost because the document can be reverted if needed.
A New Era in the Workplace
The very idea of digital transformation involves technology – but it is actually the employees who are at the heart of this paradigm shift. Businesses are moving away from building products and have moved into building experiences that make employees’ lives easier and customers happier, creating new methods of addressing shifting market needs and giving companies new ways to meet current and future challenges.
IT leaders need to continue to add value to the workplace by utilizing artificial intelligence to crunch the enormous amount of data collected every day and use it to automate actions, simulate complex tasks and drive accurate decisions. Through single-purpose-yet-connected systems, tasks can be broken down into tiny inputs and outputs (actions and results) that will accomplish major goals when chained together, simplifying business processes.
With a combination of technology and the capabilities of today’s IT professionals, businesses will see a major transformation around how work will be accomplished in the future: by swapping out old processes for new ones and making them consistent across all departments through automation.
Using digitally transformative tools like workflow automation and document management systems connects people and departments, streamlines processes, reduces risk and fosters collaboration, allowing a business to focus on its higher goals: creating innovative products faster and satisfying more customers. Today’s technology and tomorrow’s workforce will lead us to a smarter, faster future. By embracing new trends in technology and understanding their audience’s expectations, organizations will be able to be more relevant, reach more individuals and bring in more business than ever before.