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What to consider with the digitization of business processes

Many companies want to go digital, but they shouldn't abandon physical paper. Not everyone can digitize quickly, so it's important to accommodate them in a digital transformation.

Companies want to accelerate innovation, increase transparency and ensure that all partner and customer interactions are positive by digitizing business processes -- but this won't happen overnight.

Many businesses are ready to reap the benefits of a digital transformation, but often some of their partners and customers are stuck with their existing analog processes, including scanning, snail mail and manual data entry. Paper may be their method of working with other organizations. If businesses have eliminated paper, their systems may still be operating in siloes, requiring them to manually move information between their systems and their customers' systems. Regardless of the reason why, customers and partners may not evolve as quickly as the businesses with which they work.

While there is value in maintaining analog interactions with some customers, the future is digital and organizations need to move in that direction as quickly as possible. However, businesses should be sure not to leave analog users behind in a digital transformation or risk having them find another business to work with.

Analog is still in use

Business customers and partners still have paper records and may not be able to digitize them due to lack of time, technology or knowledge. While apps such as DocuSign and HelloSign help people go digital, not every business is technologically savvy enough to find options that are secure and meet its needs.

People may want to keep paper copies because they know they will always be able to find them in the future. Physical paper provides a certain level of trust, especially for those who grew up in a nondigital world.

While digital knowledge grows from generation to generation, there is no universal rule. Considering that older people typically have more financial resources, they can more readily purchase the services that businesses offer. However, older people tend to use technology less than younger customers, so forcing a pure digital move may remove them from a business's potential customer base. This switch can be a limiting move, especially when those organizations have existing analog processes.

The larger the organization, the more effort it takes to completely digitize everything.

Even if an organization is ready, it may not go fully digital all at once. The larger the organization, the more effort it takes to completely digitize everything. Completing a digital transformation requires time, money and people. An organization can only do so much at a time, while still serving its customers.

Even in a perfect world, the day an organization turns to digital processes, its customers, suppliers and partners won't all become digital on the same day. While some might already be there, others will be years behind. Shutting off manual, analog interactions with them may create as many problems serving them as a digital transformation solves.

Challenges of going digital

When dealing with digital content, the PDF format seems to be a safe option. However, people create PDFs with a variety of tools, which may not work well with all processing tools -- such as optical character recognition for full-text searching, creating thumbnails or combining into a single document. External PDFs may be secured, encrypted or even be a compound PDF document, such as a PDF Portfolio. These variations on the standard PDF may make the processing tools challenging to cleanly automate internal processes.

Some organizations try to reduce the effort needed to manage and manipulate incoming content by restricting the number of documents that outside parties can upload and requiring PDFs instead of various other formats, such as JPEG or Word docs. However, this may force customers and partners to find ways to combine PDFs and convert other formats into an acceptable format before sending them to another organization, creating new barriers to working together.

If customers have paper records and not digital ones, their process of sending an organization content is even more complicated. They can use scanners to digitize documents, which businesses can then process the same way internally as information submitted online. If they do not have a scanner available, digitizing a record involves taking pictures of the individual pages, converting them to PDF and combining them into a single document. For the average consumer, combining many images into a single document is easier said than done. Many people turn to free online tools that may steal their information and embed viruses in the resulting PDF. Or they may skip that extra work and go to a business' competition.

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