As the workspace changes on a minute-by-minute basis thanks to constant technological advances, the need for office digitization of company data and records has become a necessity.
According to a 2019 study, The Modern Workplace, digital transformation of the office space and technology adoption are the top organizational challenges facing many of today's companies. Thirty-seven percent of businesses surveyed see digital transformation as a major challenge, and another 35 percent see technology adoption as an issue.
Conducted by Condeco, a provider of meeting room booking software and space utilization technologies, "the report draws from a quantitative survey of 750 business leaders in six regions: the UK, the USA, France, Germany, Australia and Singapore. This was followed by a qualitative stage, in which six in-depth interviews were conducted with senior executives."
Office Digitization Increasingly More Common
"Office digitization—taking paper documents and storing them on a computer—is a slow but unstoppable process," says Chris Nicholson, CEO of Skymind, an AI company.
"Digitization makes documents searchable, which means employees and management can share and find information faster," says Nicholson. "It also speeds up some business processes."
It's also becoming the norm, adds Carisa Miklusak CEO of tilr, an employment company that automates the recruitment process using a digitized AI platform.
"Every industry and aspect of business has improved as a result of technological integration and the digitization of tasks and data," says Miklusak. “Organizations can either adopt and learn how to leverage digitization or fall behind competitors that have made the choice to embrace technology."
Digitization is increasing rapidly and expected to grow across all industries, notes Dimitar Vouldjeff, CEO of Enhancv.com, an online resume service.
"From smart sensors that detect a meeting room's occupancy, to AI identifying manufacturing defects in production lines, digitization is here to stay," says Vouldjeff. “Without office digitization, companies aren't likely to survive."
Office Digitization on the Rise for a Reason
The list of benefits of office digitization is long. Some of the top benefits include better organization of company data and increased productivity. If employees and management can quickly and efficiently locate data and implement electronic workflow processes, it's much easier to be competitive.
"By digitizing their data and applying AI to analyze and interpret it, an organization can tighten its bandwidth and quickly scale with less resources," says Miklusak.
"How much of you and your employees' time is spent chasing down contracts or working through processes like accounts payable?" says Jesse Wood, CEO of eFileCabinet, a document management software company.
"Without office digitization, you limit your ability to scale and make it necessary to hire more people to do the same amount of work," says Wood. "Digitizing and automating conserves human capital and slashes operating capital."
Office digitization also leads to enhanced information preservation and tighter security. When information is stored in the cloud, rather than on paper, it's not vulnerable to damage from fire or water, and is generally less vulnerable to theft.
Some of the best digitization campaigns are rolled out one step at a time. Going slowly alleviates concerns over technology use, allows for processing change and shows potential impacts to positions.
—Scott Schoeneberger, managing partner, Bluewater
Other benefits include less transcription errors and the creation of information trails useful for audits.
Digitization also cuts down on overhead in terms of office space.
"With office digitization, businesses can locate themselves anywhere, which means lower overhead without sacrificing employees," says Pete McAllister, founder of OutreachPete, an internet marketing service.
The Human Component of Digitization
Of course, office digitization won't work well if employees aren't onboard—no matter your industry.
"At our building materials company, we use drones that capture invaluable data and statistics for the business, but that data needs to be interpreted by our employees," says Raul Duran, vice president of communications and marketing for CEMEX.
"Office digitization isn't possible without the human element," says Jimmy Chrabieh, CEO of Differio, an online menswear retailer. "The latest processes and programs won't be effective in terms of efficiency if there is no input from actual people."
This is true even for tech companies, adds Miklusak.
"It's critical to ensure that all employees embrace [digitized] approaches, understand the benefits and know best practices," she says "The best results are found in the intersection of technological advancement and human analysis."
Ken Costello, chief operating officer of MST Solutions agrees.
"True digital transformation cannot occur if your team is not fully invested in it," he says. "If they are resistant to change, particularly when it comes to new technology, it will result in adoption challenges, inefficiencies and a poor return on the transformation investment."
How to Effectively Manage Office Digitization
Getting your employees to adopt and embrace office digitization takes more than luck and an office-wide email—keep the following tips in mind.
1. Eliminate the fear factor.
"Solve the 'FUD' problem, which is fear, uncertainty and doubt," says Sean Beard, vice president of emerging technology at Pariveda Solutions, a business consulting firm.
"If employees fear that technology is replacing some part of their job, they will resist," he continues. "Show that you're using digitization to augment your workforce, not replace it."
"Ensure employees that their jobs aren't going to evaporate," agrees Nicholson. "Explain that the company is using office digitization and automation to augment existing staff and enable a kind of digital assistance that allows employees to focus on more important work."
2. Be candid and communicate.
"Be clear about what the company is doing by digitizing," says Miklusak. "Explain why and the expected outcomes. Tell employees how office digitization will affect their lives, jobs and daily tasks. Also let them know what assistance will be provided during the transition."
3. Provide forewarning.
"Overcommunicate about the move to office digitization and include the underlying rationale," says Scott Schoeneberger, managing partner at Bluewater, a meeting and event technology company. "This ensures people are aware that change is coming, gives them time to prepare for it and lets them understand why it's important for the company's continued success."
4. Ensure complete leadership adoption.
"It's critical that the full executive team is on board and clear on digital and technological initiatives," says Miklusak. "Without leadership alignment, adoption stands a poor chance."
"Include stakeholders and organizational influencers in the office digitization process," he says. "This will help with adoption across the board as everyone feels more connected and shows buy in to the change."
5. Provide training.
"Offer ample training and ongoing support during the transition," says Schoeneberger. "Multiple training sessions, open door trainings and access to experts all ensure changes don't cause productivity loss."
Ongoing training shows your employees that you're committed to them and office digitization, adds Miklusak.
"Continual training, such as regular demos, prepares your organization for the next level, and that motivates employees to be excited rather than hesitant about the transition."
6. Involve your employees in digitization decisions.
"Just as you seek feedback from clients while in beta with a new product, ask your employees for feedback on how best to digitize in a way that will empower their results and efficiency," says Miklusak. "This helps produce effective digitizing processes and gives employees a sense of involvement, so they don't feel isolated from what's going on."
7. Take it one step at a time.
"Some of the best digitization campaigns are rolled out one step at a time," says Schoeneberger. "Going slowly alleviates concerns over technology use, allows for processing change and shows potential impacts to positions."
Office digitization should be a "long-haul strategy," adds Beard. "Start slowly, especially with cultural transitions, and give employees ownership every step of the way."
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