Digital Maturity Pathway: Start small and at the source
Businesses have long had in place policies and procedures around the creation, movement, retention and destruction of physical information. While there is always room for improvement in the way corporations manage their physical information assets, the ever increasing challenge they now face is related to electronic information.
Today, it would not be hard to believe that we create more digital records in just a few hours than we create physical records in one year. Yet for records management, we often lack the same discipline around our digital records as we do for our physical records. As a result, one of the most significant opportunities for corporations in the areas of records management is to apply traditional physical records management practices and procedures to digital records, helping increase both productivity and security of the data.
Digitize at the source
However, as with any process improvement initiative you have to start where the process starts and, not surprisingly, this especially holds true for digital information processes. Organizations that are further along the digital maturity pathway have sought ways to fully digitize key processes within the organization by “digitizing at the source.” Further, for those processes where information may still originate in physical form, digitally mature organizations have identified ways to immediately integrate the physical document into a highly digitized workflow. Thereby, the company begins to realize the various benefits of digitization, including mitigating risk, reducing costs, sharing information more quickly, faster decision making, and the recognition of being on the leading edge of technology. All may be worthwhile, but only if digitizing is incorporated into your existing records management strategy. By simply scanning your existing paper documents, cost savings and increased efficiency won’t be realized.
A classic example of digitizing at the source is mortgage applications. Homeowners can empathize with the incredible number of paper files that must be completed and signed. As the file moves through the process within the bank, various departments must review and then move the paper along internally. Instead, most banks now “digitize at the source” by creating an online digital workflow that reduces the time it takes to move the file and provides additional security for highly sensitive personal data, including social security numbers. Yet, for those customers that choose the traditional paper method for applying for a loan, most financial institutions will quickly scan the paper document, extract the relevant information, and essentially re-create the application in a digital form. This allows for a paper-based application to make its way into the institution’s digital workflow.
It’s not about a “paperless office”
In Recall’s customer forums, we found that most organizations will only digitize a process if it makes business sense; however they often struggle in identifying the specific process and creating the business case. Developing the business case is often complex and requires putting forth assumptions that many in the organization do not believe are attainable. Organizations that have seen success have a common approach – they focus on stopping the movement of paper, rather than eliminating paper altogether. Efficiency is created in stopping the movement, not in the elimination.
Identify where to begin
I’ll share some practical advice for records management stakeholders on identifying where to start the digitization process:
1) Identify those processes with high volumes of paper and significant movement of that paper throughout the organization – focus on stopping the movement.
2) Identify and leverage widely accepted efficiency improvement metrics within the organization. For example: for every minute reduction in mortgage qualifying time, origination rates increase by some percent.
3) Prioritize those processes that have a direct impact on the widely accepted improvement metrics and build the business case for digitization. If you can show the time savings, then decision makers will support the financial benefits.
4) Document the success and share it across the organization.
Our customer feedback indicates that digitization can also exhibit viral behavior attributes that can yield benefits throughout the company. Organizations that are digitally mature started small but expanded quickly as the organization realized the benefits. As I have shared in several other blogs, don’t always tackle the biggest and most challenging problem, start small and you will likely end up in a better place.