While the seismic shifts created by an always-on digital world did not happen overnight, many organizations—across industries and in both the public and private sectors—continue to cautiously delay the critical changes necessary to adapt and move forward in the digital age.

Adapting to change may require some investment, but to delay can have unintended negative effects and unrecoverable consequences. The speed at which the digital economy is evolving makes now the time to move forward, or fall behind.

Despite the clear movement towards digital transformation, what keeps an organization from making the move—even now? Quite simply, for many private businesses and government agencies, the resistance is a matter of not knowing where to begin.

Paper to Digital Records: The Smart First Step in Your Successful Digital Transformation

According to IDC, beginning in 2019, 40 percent of all technology spending is allocated to digital transformation investments. But determining where and how to make these valuable investments is critical. When embarking on a digital transformation, an organization must first answer the questions:

  • What business outcomes do we want to achieve?
  • In the long term, how will the changes we make benefit our stakeholders, including—and perhaps most importantly—our customers?

Let’s consider why eliminating paper is a safe bet for meeting your business goals.

The information contained in physical documents, microfilm, books and maps is a vital business resource for any organization. And there’s more of it than ever before. So, when it needs to be accessed, processed and shared quickly and securely, paper just isn’t up to the job.

Paper-based records can lead to inefficiencies, low productivity and even risk. Paper also falls far short in terms of today’s very important customer experience. Digital content and paperless processes are more customer-centric approaches to managing business records. Plus, they can drive down or completely eliminate many operational costs, while increasing productivity and efficiency.

A paperless strategy may appeal to:

  • IT leaders trying to cut costs and deliver value to internal users
  • Business executives looking to differentiate through improved customer experience
  • Financial managers who want to identify and realize cost savings and efficiency gains

Let’s look at five specific and far-reaching benefits to document digitization and share real-life examples of how organizations are realizing these benefits.

1.Better Customer Experiences That Win and Keep Customers

Customer experience is now the most important competitive differentiator across industries, regardless of the size of an organization. In fact, Gartner found that 81 percent of respondents to its most recent customer experience survey said they expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience by 2019. Amid a digital revolution, this should come as no surprise.

In our always-on, digital world, consumers expect exceptional service—delivered at Mach speed. This applies to both private and public entities, so government agencies can’t afford to lag behind the private sector in meeting these sky-high expectations. Paper-based documents and manual processes can’t keep up.

Paper-based files can have—perhaps surprisingly—a very direct, negative impact on customer experience.

Here’s how:

Paper is inherently cumbersome and error-prone. With paper-based documents and records, it can often take hours to days to fulfill a records request—falling far short in meeting today’s heightened consumer expectations.

Consumers are increasingly intolerant of manual, paper-based forms and systems that slow them down or require them to wait. They expect fast service and want nearly instant information access that is automated, mobile and secure. When organizations fall short, customers are frustrated, and their loyalty shifts. That’s bad news for you, and an opportunity for your competition.

However, with the right document imaging solution, you get an accurate inventory of organized and searchable digital records that are easily and quickly accessible. You can track document activity, set up retention schedules, and have secure access to records anytime, anywhere. That kind of speed and efficiency results in a superior customer experience that builds loyalty and wins new business.

For public service agencies, digitizing records and transitioning manual processes to online ones not only improve customer experiences, but also provide public transparency. When Florida digitized the filing process for its Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which requires a public record filing by lenders for all commercial loans, it drastically improved the customer experience.

2.Increased Productivity of People and Places

Records requests are extremely time- and labor intensive. Gartner reports that employees waste 20 to 30 percent of their work weeks managing documents, including searching for information.

We’ve spoken to some organizations with large staffs assigned to physical records rooms, including employees exclusively dedicated to document management and search. A typical process might include an employee receiving a document request, walking to a separate and secure area to retrieve it, submitting the document for redaction, waiting for the redacted document, then physically picking it up and delivering it to the requester. Each time a document is requested, the same process is repeated.

Once digitized, content is organized and searchable, reducing the time it takes to respond to information requests and eliminating costly and time-consuming manual processes. Streamlining the process through digitization can have direct effects on productivity, and, ultimately, the bottom line. Fewer employees are needed to manage the process, and digital content eliminates the need for physical storage.

Prior to digitizing its paper-based files, Florida’s DOH Personnel and Human Resource Department’s paper files and manual processes overwhelmed a full-time staff, which spent a significant amount of times rifling through records and responding to records requests. Manual processes were prone to loss, misfiling, repeat requests and delays in response times, and contributed to the high cost of training new staff. Once digitized, it took staff a fraction of the time and effort to fulfill requests.

Digitized documents mean not only is staff more productive, but space that was used to store and manage paper files can also be repurposed for more productive use.

3.Cost Savings that Stretch Far Beyond the Price of Paper

Removing paper from business nearly always results in saving money, including fewer consumables and lower energy costs. Once your documents are scanned, you’ll also avoid costs related to physical file storage.

In fact, according to analysis conducted by Deloitte of a retail bank, eliminating paper can reduce operating expenses by as much as 25 percent. When the Texas Department of Insurance went paperless by scanning over 800,000 case files, it eliminated $300,000 in file storage and management costs.

Client after client, we’ve seen reallocation of staff and space previously used to manage and store paper-based systems drive significant cost savings. New York State’s Nassau County freed up and cost-effectively repurposed an entire floor of office space when it moved from paper-based records to a digital system. Digitizing case files freed up thousands of square feet of expensive office space for the New York City Housing Authority.

4.Enhanced (and Easier) Security Practices

Digitizing documents doesn’t just make processes quicker and more cost-effective, it also makes them more secure. Here’s how:

Paper is inherently insecure. Paper files stored in file cabinets and file rooms present a security risk. A printed sheet of data can be exposed with no accountability. With a digital document, there is far more control over who can access files.

Mitigating risk through physical security measures for paper documents is time-consuming, and enforcing security best practices for employees is difficult. However, once documents are scanned and securely stored in the cloud, organizations gain much more control over information. Firewalls, activity logs, role-based security, encryption, data mirroring, and more help keep digital content secure. When choosing a vendor, ask about multi-level security settings.

Complying with privacy requirements is much easier when you know exactly where and how your records are stored, who has accessed them (and when), and how the document was used. A document management solution to manage digital content provides a reliable, trackable audit trail. This is especially important for agencies and businesses that manage Personal Health Information (PHI) and must comply with privacy laws such as HIPAA.

When the Florida Department of Safety and Motor Vehicles digitized several million high-security images, it improved security of and access to confidential records such as state drivers’ licenses.

5.Reduced Risk of Loss from the Unexpected

Information stored in physical formats (paper, microfilm/fiche) is not sustainable, and it deteriorates further every time it’s handled. Document imaging ensures an organization’s most important data is saved and preserved for the future. Scanning and converting paper documents to digital files also reduces the likelihood of loss from fire, disasters or age-related deterioration, and it eliminates recovery costs and downtime.

Digitizing provides a safe format for information. With the right content management solution, it can be stored and secured, which means document recovery is only a click away.

For the South Carolina Department of Transportation, deterioration due to age and environmental factors was a significant risk to delicate maps and drawings, dating as far back as the 1900s. Through a careful digitization process, the historical documents were preserved and are now accessible to staff and clients.

Start Your Digital Transformation Now

For many public service agencies and private businesses, digitizing content is the first step in digital transformation, and this initiative alone is powerful enough to improve customer experience, increase productivity, drive down operational costs and reduce risk – a worthwhile return on the investment.

If you’re ready to start your digital transformation by digitizing your content, we’d love to share our experience, results and technology with you.