For financial directors and CFOs everywhere, the drive to digital transformation seems to be gathering momentum more than ever before. Driven by promises of enhanced efficiency, cost savings and error reduction, to name just a few, and against a backdrop of volatility and uncertainty, organisations are increasingly looking to implement digital solutions. However, it seems investment doesn’t always lead to success – and a digital divide is being created.
Recent research by IDC highlights this point very well. The survey of industry leaders found that 46% were what they called ‘digitally determined’, with a clear digital transformation strategy around culture, change, financial goals and integrated technology. The other 54% were ‘digitally distraught’ and suffer from a standstill culture, siloed islands of innovation and they work on a disconnected project-by-project basis.
Determined versus distraught
For FDs, there is a clear need to ensure the finance function falls on the right side of the divide – and that means exercising a strategic voice. IDC says the defining characteristic of the digitally determined organisation is a single enterprise wide strategy, as opposed to multiple digital strategies rooted in the various lines of business.
These organisations understand that transformation means reviewing and potentially revising and re-engineering processes enterprise wide, not simply creating digital copies of siloed departmental activities. In addition – and a key point for FDs – 73% of digitally determined organisations are funding their DX initiatives through a long-term venture as opposed to short-term funding mechanisms.
Digital transformation is an ongoing journey of continuous improvement, not a one-time project, and it requires ongoing, dedicated investment. This includes a shift from monolithic, on-premises applications to a platform approach that enables the creation of purpose-built solutions focused on use cases to solve specific business problems and to deliver greater customer and employee experiences.
The divide on paper
One area where this approach (or lack of) and the digital divide exists is with digital workflows. Unfortunately, businesses of all sizes often fail to see how fully enabled digital workflows involve much more than simply scanning paper documents and converting them into electronic files.
A truly integrated scan/capture workflow solution will allow businesses to work with the data from scanned images or documents in much more effective ways, to reduce manual steps, free up valuable business resources, and make better-informed business decisions. Even in cases where workflow automation technologies and practices are deployed, results are limited because of the lack of integration and cross-departmental strategies.
According to the IDC white paper titled Automating Document Workflows in the Future Workplace, which was commissioned by Alaris, siloed teams and/or functional areas conduct individual efforts, supported by ‘shadow IT’, with little communication or collaboration with other groups. Digitisation may occur via ad-hoc use of scanners, multifunctional printers, and mobile devices, but the lack of a specified budget or strategy makes it challenging to expand these efforts to develop a broader workflow platform.
To effectively optimise content-centric workflows, organisations must recognise and understand the use cases and supporting business processes within their own businesses. They must adopt consistent practices for investment and for developing purpose-specific instantiations of workflow automation, driven by organisational priorities. This is best accomplished by including content-centric workflow as a core component in the larger digital transformation initiatives of the organisation. Businesses should look to invest in key technologies to identify process pain points and enable workflow automation, including advanced capture software and smart scanning platforms.
Get it right and the rewards are there. IDC research has shown that organisations that had deployed technology to digitise, automate, and optimise content-centric workflows reduced the average time information workers spent on document-related tasks by over 17%. On average, productivity increased by 41% and errors were cut in half.
Reap the rewards
Despite the clear benefits, less than one-third of organisations have deployed intelligent capture solutions – including automated document classification, data extraction, indexing and verification – according to the report mentioned above.
For the finance function, which is traditionally a heavy user of paper, the rewards are arguably larger than anywhere else in an organisation. For example, the benefits of digitising paper inputs in an accounts payable process include:
- Faster processing and easier control of payment timing to take advantage of discounts or avoid penalties
- The ability to avoid costly and time-consuming effort to match invoices and purchase orders
- Reduced time consuming manual efforts involved in tracking and chasing approvals
Forward thinking organisations – the digitally determined – are therefore looking to reduce the amount of paper flowing in and out of their finance departments on a daily basis.
Deploying solutions to automate and digitise the function saves paper (and the planet), cuts costs, reduces the average time taken for both incoming and outgoing transactions and, crucially, frees up employees to add value in their roles. That can only be a good thing – and help your organisation stay on the right side of the digital divide.