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Digitization has become the business community's number one priority. In survey after survey, it is cited as the key strategic focus/challenge of our times, ahead of critical factors such as regulation and customer knowledge. Less surprising than this new-found urgency is why it has taken so long for organizations to appreciate the benefits that digitization brings – and the dangers of ignoring its possibilities. Digitization is a broad term. It encompasses both the literal – the conversion of analogue information into digital formats – and the strategic – the development of a digital mindset with the aim of transforming a business, its products and its customer base. Fundamental to digitization in all its forms is the embracing of paperless processes as the most efficient, productive, transparent and economical method of running a business.
To a great extent, organizations have already embraced digitization. Today, documents are created on computers, not typewriters, and more often than not they are sent and received by email rather than through the post. We fill in forms online, take our tablets into board meetings and scan expense receipts. Few organizations however have achieved a truly paperless state – just 1% according to a survey of 1,000 business leaders by document solutions company Altodigital. Neopost’s own research, CVA Analysis Across Transactional & Marketing Communications, shows that only four out of 10 small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are satisfied with their current level of digitization, whether that be fully digital (16%) or ‘steady state reached for now’ (25%).
Half of SMEs (48%) are in the early stages of digitization, and of those more than a quarter complain that they are being held back and would like to make faster progress. Consequently, most processes today still involve paper somewhere along the line. The Postal and Communications Strategies Survey 2012: Central Government undertaken by Neopost and the Government Policy Hub found that physical mail accounts for more than half of communications in one out of every four central Government bodies, and more than 75% of messages in 13% of organizations. Information is still sent and received in paper form and processed using manual workflows that involve moving paper from person to person, from department to department, sometimes from building to building. Even where workflows are predominantly digital, they are often disjointed or interrupted. The classic example is the signing of documents. Too many businesses still require 'wet ink' signatures on printed documents despite legally acceptable digital alternatives. Digital signature specialist ARX claims that 37% of all documents printed by US local and state government workers are output solely for the purpose of adding a signature. This adds considerably to print and filing costs and creates unnecessary delays, with 42% of respondents claiming that the need for handwritten signatures delays each signature-dependent process by two to seven days.
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