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Digital transformation has been a buzzword for quite some time, and it’s easy to see why. It’s hard to empower revenue streams, reinvent customer experience, or launch breakthrough products and services when companies are hampered by paper-bound processes. It doesn’t matter whether those processes connect customer-facing engagements or internal support functions: One delay, one error, one missed step drives down quality. Even worse, it can cost you a customer forever and negatively impact revenue.

Enterprise leaders recognize the importance of adopting digital ways of working. A survey from McKinsey & Company finds that top performing companies take advantage of digital innovation. In other research from Gartner, 25% of chief executive officers (CEOs) cite technology-related issues in their top business priorities, while two-thirds say their enterprises are involved in industry-level digital initiatives.

Going paperless is easier said than done, especially for large, established organizations. It takes time, expertise, and technology to analyze customer and employee journeys throughout an organization to then be able to successfully optimize and digitize processes.

Before organizations can go fully digital, they may have to manage hybrid environments of non-digitized and partially digitized processes as their first step toward digital transformation. This hybrid approach also helps organizations that aren’t ready to plow full steam ahead to start small by taking simple steps to reduce their reliance on paper.

Where digital transformation starts
The good news is that most businesses today are equipped with some form of digital and workflow automation technology that provides shared access to information and simplifies how works gets done. However, as companies have taken initial runs at digitizing business processes in silos, capturing this information involves a number of back-end systems that, instead, lead to disjointed, time-consuming processes and more challenging customer experiences.

Let’s be honest, it isn’t realistic to tackle digitization in every part of an organization at once, so start with the lifeblood of any organization—information and data. Most of today’s business-critical data is found in documents, so it’s only fitting to start the process by digitizing and managing documents.

Solutions like enterprise content management (ECM) have been around for years and focus on improving the flow of information throughout an organization. Modern ECM solutions help enterprises successfully embrace the digital future of work and address the challenges that come along with it. These solutions take into account how documents and information travel throughout an organization, so every company has the opportunity to customize their ECM solution to manage business-critical data based on the life cycle of the documents.

Uncovering process insights

Using ECM to digitally manage how documents flow through an organization is one thing, but understanding which paper processes are creating bottlenecks is just as important. By leveraging tools like managed print services (MPS) and managed content services (MCS), it’s easy to understand where documents originate, how they are used and shared, and what happens to them throughout their life cycle.

MCS and MPS are part of the ongoing evolution of a company’s document environment, and both embrace the fact that organizations are dealing with an abundance of paper and data that must be controlled and analyzed. Taking a next-generation approach to MPS that leads to MCS will yield valuable insights about inefficient paper-based processes—opening up opportunities to digitize workflows and reduce a business’s dependency on paper.

It seems more possible now that we may one day find a suitable replacement to the “physical” artifact of paper, but we are not there yet. In the meantime, it behooves all of us to pursue the very achievable vision of a “paper-light” office.

Not ready for a full-blown ECM system?
To get started on the right foot, it’s important to understand some simple steps to get your organization to a paper-light environment while also taking your organization’s workflow and document life cycles into consideration.
  • Use best practices. First, print only when you have to. Second, use both sides of the paper whenever possible. Third, print in color when appropriate. Using color is a much more effective way of communication when used responsibly.
  • Scan to email. Scanning is a simple-to-use capability on almost every multifunction device now. It is the fastest way to deliver hard-copy information to a distribution list and is an ideal solution for teams to share markups and revisions.
  • Implement automation for everyday tasks. Focus on areas that add the most value, such as processing invoices, purchase orders, sales contracts, and resumes. By concentrating on a few core processes, you can build a well-rounded solution for managing how documents flow throughout the organization, and the resulting best practices can be applied to other areas of the business.
  • Develop a personal and office productivity strategy. Personal productivity tools and apps let knowledge workers initiate simple tasks and ad-hoc workflows easily. These tools can help boost collaboration and streamline work across tablets and mobile devices.
  • Go mobile. Many predictions foresaw mobile worker populations of over one billion by 2015, and it’s probably safe to say we hit that mark. Most knowledge workers are mobile at some time or other. Mobile is one more piece of digital transformation that’s redefining the workplace. It’s a trend that’s gone beyond mobile print into the realm of information access and use. Aim for a mobile strategy that is user-friendly, flexible, and accessible across different platforms and devices so employees, no matter where they work, can stay productive with your ECM system.
In today’s rapidly changing environment, the big winner is the company operating not only with new digital technology but with integrated, agile systems and smart process applications. Document management solutions, like ECM, help organizations understand how documents flow throughout the business while also helping them build smart processes to streamline routine transactions, ultimately, transforming how business gets done.

Andy Jones is vice president of workflow automation of large enterprise operations (LEO) at Xerox. He is a part of the LEO global senior leadership team, which is responsible for Xerox’s Worldwide Document Outsourcing business. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @AndyJonesXerox.

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