Image by: SIphotography, ©2017 Getty Images

Many businesses felt a new sense of urgency in 2016 to digitize paper-based processes. Findings from our “Digitization at Work” report predict only nine percent of key business operation processes will run on paper in the next two years. The time for digital transformation (DX) is now, and businesses need to make it a priority in 2017 or risk falling behind.

Why digital transformation now?

No matter the industry—financial services, retail, healthcare, manufacturing, government, or education—customers are growing more intolerant of manual, paper-based forms and processes that slow them down. They expect service and access to their information to be instant, automated, mobile, and secure.

These expectations are continuing to rise at an escalating pace, in part because some companies do a very good job of digitizing how they work, setting the bar higher for everyone else. When companies lag behind the benchmark, it’s a big disappointment to the growing community of customers, employees, and partners who live and work in a digital world. As customers get frustrated with companies that can’t keep up with the evolution of digital business, their loyalty shifts, and they seek out new organizations that value their preferences. They make their choice by moving on to someone who gets it.

Compounding the push to digital is the mobile workforce and today’s fast pace of business. Work is not necessarily a place with walls and windows anymore or strictly conducted between the hours of 8am and 5pm. The always-connected, digital workforce needs secure access to contextualized information from anywhere. To do this, companies must address mobile access and printing, as well as concerns around security in supporting bring your own device (BYOD) policies.

Moving the digital transformation needle

Going digital doesn’t happen with the flip of a switch. It’s often a gradual change—another reason to take the initial steps toward transformation now. Starting with managed print services (MPS) can be a springboard to more wide-ranging digital changes.

Printing and paper may seem marginal in operational terms, but many essential documents are still managed and processed this way. In fact, according to a study by Adobe, only 41% of documents are digital. That’s why changes driven by MPS have so much potential to transform the way work is done.

To start down the path of paper to DX, consider the following steps:
  • Understand: Establish how and where you use paper today, and identify what you could change.
  • Educate: Set targets, make your case, and change user behaviors.
  • Execute: Replace key functions and processes with digital equivalents.
  • Improve: Use data and automation to take your transformation to the next level.
If you currently have an MPS contract, the basics are already in place for DX, and much of the analytics data that is needed is available. The chances of DX success are greater when you engage MPS, because you can start with the day-to-day document processes that touch your device endpoints. This approach makes it easier to break DX into bite-sized chunks and implement solutions based on data. A measured pace of change lets you transform at a manageable rate.

For example, Cal State University started their digitalization journey by reducing their reliance on paper. They deployed iPad tablets to faculty, management, and other staff and began using a solution that facilitates direct, secure print on demand from mobile devices to those devices across campus. This, combined with automated scanning and digital distribution of documents, has reduced the school’s paper costs by an estimated $250,000.

What’s next in 2017?

The impact of DX and an increasingly mobile workforce is that work is completed faster and customer needs are more quickly met. This coming year, challenge the way you work so you’re less dependent on paper and you free your organization to focus on high-value activities that drive customer satisfaction and top-line performance. Once you’ve successfully switched some of your tasks and processes from paper to digital, you can explore the potential for more wide-ranging change projects to automate and simplify key business workflows.

No matter what issues you’re currently facing, future success will largely depend on how well your business adopts digital technology. In 2017, test your traditional thinking and look in unexpected places for hidden opportunities to simplify and add momentum to your business. If you put off your digital journey, you put customer loyalty at risk, because they will seek out other companies that provide a seamless, digital experience.

Kerry Sanders is SVP of Commercial Excellence at Xerox. He has more than 20 years of business success and experience as a collaborative global leader in sales, sales operations, and marketing. For more information, visit or follow him on Twitter @ngrossed.