Three Starting Points for Digitization

0 Posted by - 24th September 2019 - Technology

by Lane Severson  |  September 24, 2019  |  Submit a Comment

We’ve been trying to eliminate paper in business processes for a long time. Endless numbers of blog posts have been written, presentations delivered, and projects kicked-off and completed. And yet, with 2020 a mere 3 months away, the paperless office is still (mostly) a unicorn. It is a noble pursuit. A bit of a Quixotic pursuit, but it is not a hopeless one! I’ve listed some of the starting points for a project below.


Written on Paper


The Three Paths to Digitization

The first consideration an organization needs to make for a digitization effort is where they will place their time and effort first. Options include:

  1. Digitizing historical documents
  2. Digitizing new paper documents that are entering the organization
  3. Eliminating the need for paper in a process

Digitizing Historical Documents Can Reduce Storage Costs

Let’s briefly examine each of these. Digitizing Historical Documents Some organizations decide that their primary focus should be to scan and index their existing historical files. There are several reasons why this might be the right choice. First, the storage of physical documents can be expensive and the cost for retrieving boxes from offsite storage is often very expensive. These are hard dollar costs that can help provide an ROI for the investment that a company needs to make in software and hardware to set up a digitization capability. The downside to this kind of project is that you do not impact current operational processes. There is no impact on the time or cost of completing an existing process. And the business may want to see those results sooner rather than later.

Digitzing New Paper Documents can Improve Operations

That leads us to Digitizing New Paper Documents that Are Entering the Organization. A majority of the cost and value around paper documents is the onboarding and servicing of client accounts. If this process can be improved there are benefits such as client retention, quicker time to value, improved profitability, etc. For these reasons this process is often considered the most appealing. Be cautious, introducing digitization into a current paper process must overcome significant hurdles

  • Technological – the software needs to be trained on your document sets and you need to have an understanding of the recognition rates you can achieve
  • Process – if documents are currently turned in at branch locations today do you want those paper documents to be shipped to a central facility where they can be scanned and managed by trained professionals or do you want to create a distributed capture network with each branch doing the scanning? There are challenges to each approach.
  • Design – an enormous amount of the errors in scanning paper have to do with how the forms were designed. If the forms are created by your organization and then returned by clients (we call that an “on us form”) then you can impact the design. But that takes time, money, and coordination. If the forms are created by other organizations or are government forms you often have less control on their design and may or may not be able to digitize them effectively.

Completely Eliminating the Need for Paper Can Improve the Customer Experience

Finally Eliminate the Need for Paper in a Process. Some organizations are choosing to begin their digitzation efforts by introducing digital first options into their process and forgoing paper all together. There are customer journey tools that can assist with this. In this case a process that would have normally begun on paper now begins on a web page or in a mobile app. The data is then passed through your organization without the content object. And a formal piece of content memorializing the transaction can be produced as a part of the back-end process for regulatory or records purposes.

Final Warning

Do not pursue a big bang approach and attempt to digitize everything all at once. The best practice is to address a core set of documents (ideally high volume and low complexity documents) to get your staff used to using the technology and  effectively managing the scanning process.


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Category: application-leaders  digital-disruption-and-innovation  digital-workplace-applications  digital-workplace-program  enterprise-architecture  it  

Tags: csp  digitization  ecm  ocr  the-cusp  

Lane Severson
Sr Director Analyst I
1 year at Gartner
15 years IT Industry

Lane Severson is a Senior Research Director within the Digital Workplace, Content and Insights group. Mr. Severson is an expert on content services platforms, content collaboration platforms, and customer communication management. He draws on over a decade of experience building digital transformation strategies for clients in a variety of industries including banking, life sciences, energy, and utilities. He strives to deliver value for technology leaders by clearly articulating the pragmatic challenges of leading digital workplace initiatives and providing strategic advice grounded in real-world experience. Mr. Severson has helped organizations capture the value of their transformational initiative by advising critical technology decisions, identifying risks to strategic initiatives, and providing guidance for unexpected challenges.Read Full Bio

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