Have you ever had to sit around in the office, twiddling your thumbs and being unable to do anything because you are waiting for someone higher up the chain to sign and approve your documents before you are even allowed to do anything else? Most would likely be able to sympathise with this scenario as it is a fairly common occurrence.

Digital documentation is one of the many innovations that have arisen in today’s digital renaissance. Such initiatives have been introduced to various industries to reduce the risk of fraud, inefficiencies, as well as reduce the environmental impact and cost of using paper. Everything from electronic arrival cards to even police investigations.

Despite the advantages that digital documentation brings, Adobe research has found that 75 per cent of small businesses are still using the traditional pen and paper method even when paper-based processes have been found to be the top impediment to running business more effectively.

In an interview with SME Magazine, Chandra Sinnathamby, Head of Adobe Document Cloud, Asia-Pacific, discusses the issues that are stopping SMEs from making the first move to digitise their documentation.

  1. What are some of the potential applications of digital document workflows in businesses? Especially in SMEs?

All businesses work with documents. In today’s digital age, that means potential applications of digital document workflows are abound. SMEs are facing rising competition across the region, especially in the era of the experience business, and it has become more important than ever for businesses to adopt new ways to secure customer loyalty.

Providing your customer with a document which they are expected to download, print, physically sign and then email (or fax) back, is far from providing good customer experience. Document digitisation solutions allow SMEs to take any existing PDF form – an already widely used document format by many businesses – and automatically convert it to an online web form that can be accessed and filled up anytime and anywhere.

  1. What would the benefits and potential productivity gains from digitalising document workflows be?

Streamlining document processes through digitalisation not only increases productivity but allows businesses to deliver better customer experiences. With digital document workflows, SMEs can keep a close eye on the status and exact location of individual documents. Reminders can be automated and sent out when deadlines are approaching or have passed, ensuring that workflows don’t fall through the cracks which in turn helps to speed up document processes. Speedier workflows and faster turnaround times ensure businesses can move on opportunities faster and be more responsive to client’s needs.

Another key benefit not to be overlooked is the impact that digital document workflows have on workforce morale. A study by Forrester found that manual signature processes have prevented employees from completing tasks quickly, wasting precious hours that could have been put to better use. Digital document workflows save employees’ time, reduce frustrations they have about work and makes them more productive. By freeing up their time, employees are able to take on more creative and high-value work which enables the fulfillment of their aspirations and makes them feel more valued.

  1. What are some of the barriers to adoption of this technology?

Not having a strong change management plan and lack of knowledge among employees can pose barriers to adoption. Digitalising document workflows goes beyond just purchasing a solution. Businesses that want to fully benefit from workflow automation and increased productivity must introduce a change management program to get their employees onboard, to accept and understand the new workflow processes. We are all creatures of habit and businesses need to change the way employees do things to realise the value of the new implementation.

Other common barriers to adopting workflow automation solutions can be consolidated under one unifying category: resources. Be it because of the lack of budget to invest in the necessary technologies or the lack of expertise to properly utilise and connect the technologies, businesses are generally hesitant to adopt this technology because they feel as though they don’t have the resources to facilitate the transition.

  1. Should SMEs make the switch from pen-and-paper to digital immediately? Or should they wait it out for a while?

Digital transformation has been and is still getting a lot of attention in the media, and organisations are keen to get on board if they haven’t already. According to IDC, organisations in Asia Pacific will be spending an estimated 357.8 billion on technologies and services that enable digital transformation in 2019 .

So, why wait? Digital transformation isn’t something over the horizon. It’s happening now, and SMEs should make the switch from pen-and-paper to digital immediately. To deliver value to their customers, SMEs should be paying attention to every aspect of the user experience, from customer acquisition and transactions, through to the onboarding stages.

  1. With technology slowly turning businesses and services paperless, there is no doubt an increasing concern regarding cyber-security. Should businesses that adopt digitised documentation develop in-house security or should they cooperate with third-party security developers?

For SMEs with smaller teams and leaner resources, it’s naturally more feasible to look for workflow automation solutions with in-built security capabilities. Investing in multiple disparate technologies could mean wasting both valuable time and resources that growing businesses could instead be dedicating to completing revenue-oriented tasks. Instead of spending time to integrate different technology systems together, SMEs could benefit by adopting technology with in-built security capabilities.

Businesses should heed the adage “prevention is better than a cure”. This can be achieved through establishing clear and straightforward internal guidelines for employees to help them maintain the highest level of security. It’s important for everyone in contact with your business documents – interns, executives and everyone in between – to practise good cyber hygiene.

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