Take a look around at your office right now. How much paper can you see? If it’s not a lot, that’s great! And if it’s a lot, ask yourself, how different would your business be if there was none at all. No overflowing in-trays with documents demanding your attention, no struggling to find a working pen to sign the hundredth document that day, and no passing paperwork from one person to the other through the office, hoping they don’t get lost. Think of the amount of time you will save, how much more productive you could be, and how much more smoothly your business would run without all of that paper?
It’s something that can be a reality, and in a lot of cases is. More and more businesses are now turning to digital workflows as a way of reducing the struggles of dealing with endlessly increasing amount of files, paperwork, documents and devices. But while the end result might sound great, many businesses are avoiding it for one reason. They’re worried about the transition process, How do you go about transforming your paper workflows into a hybrid digital process that works for everyone?
Step 1: Document Your Workflow
Before you can even start looking at document automation, you need to work out what your processes are. That means you need to document and evaluate how your workflows work at the moment. So go through every process in your business and write down what happens at what stage (with diagrams if needed. In fact, we recommend them). What types of document are arriving in your business, and what happens to them? Are they being sent for signatures and approval? If so, how many people need to approve them, and how long do they take? Where do they need to go, and how many people will need access to them? Anything to do with a document of any kind, it needs to go in this plan. For example, if you’re drawing up a contract, it might start in legal, who create the document. They will then need to send it to the original salesman, the client manager and the department supervisor for approval, before being send to the client to sign. If any one of these copies are lost or edited, then it could cause delays, so it should be noted down.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll probably be left with a mess that’s not unlike a tangled ball of Christmas tree lights. But don’t worry! It will all become clear.
Step 2: Map Out Your Ideal Workflow
Now that you’ve got your ‘now’ worked out, it’s time to figure out your ‘future’. This means you can take that big tangled ball of Christmas lights and start to untangle it a bit by redesigning your new digital workflow. Here you can remove any redundancies in the processes, streamline any approval processes and ensure documents won’t be lost or corrupted in multiple transfers. For example, you can remove multiple paper copies of documents with a single digital contract, held in a central repository or an e-sign portal, where each person who needs to sign it can access and sign it in their own time digitally. Once all the signatures are there, the document can be automatically sent to the customer. By the end of this process, you should have a neat spider diagram, with no overlaps or dead ends. If you need some help in creating a map for your process automation, just get in touch with us and book your free consultation.
Step 3: Start The Migration
This stage is what most business owners are afraid of. But really, the process of document digitalisation isn’t as bad as people think. You need to invest some time and effort into moving from paper to digital. While you’re doing this, there are 2 factors you need to bear in mind – data quality and user experience.
Now we know that manual data entry might be laborious, but it’s also a great opportunity to improve the quality of your data. As you go through you can pick up duplication or errors on paper forms that might cause delays. Common issues often include required fields being left incomplete, or information being put into the wrong fields. This also helps you create the right fields for your digital forms to minimise document digitalisation processes later on.
One of the key benefits document automation brings to businesses is an increased level of user satisfaction. This is mainly because while paper forms are limited by space (and therefore only collect the essential information), digital documentation has no such limitations. So it gives you a chance to reassess the information you’re gathering and update your forms to reflect this change. You can also rearrange the sections in your forms for a more logical flow, adjust fonts and colour changes to allow for ease of reading and branding to reinforce your company identity. You can also equip the forms with tools to help people fill them in correctly, and add in e-signature features for true document automation.
And, yes doing that for every form might be tedious, but thanks to the document automation you’ve put in place, you only have to do it once, and the results will be fantastic!
Step 4: Test And Tweak
When you’re ready to deploy your new document automation workflows, it’s important to do some basic testing. This helps you make sure that both the internal and external elements of your workflows operate correctly, and that you haven’t missed a crucial step somewhere. Select a small group of internal and trusted external users to test your new processes and ensure you collect feedback at all stages. This will help you make critical adjustments and fix any bugs before you roll the process out company wide. By taking the time to define and critique your current paper processes you are able to create the perfect bespoke digital workflow that will work for you. Off the shelf digital workflow solutions can be a good starting point, but every company is different and so their workflow requirements will be unique. These 4 steps we have talked about are part of a long process which a workflow specialist will be able to guide you through to create your own digital process.
But process automation is more than putting a few digital signatures in place. Once you have put your process automation and digital workflows in place, you will be able to exercise complete control over the documents in your business and what happens to them. From finance to accounting, HR, governance and contract management, document digitisation brings new levels of efficiency and productivity to your business. For more information and guidance on moving from paper to digital, just get in touch with the team at Tipac today and book your free demo.