18 November 2021
Traditionalism, aversion to innovation, but also inertia and a unwillingness to invest are often the reasons why companies consistently refuse to digitalize business processes. At the same time, global competitive pressure and changing customer requirements will force the decision-makers to deal with new process technologies and to take more offensive initiatives in the field of digital transformation.
We show why such a “culture change” is profitable for companies, which aspects need to be observed in the introduction of new process technologies, and how a document management system can help.
Why digitalize business processes?
First of all, it is necessary to define the term: What is a business process generally? A business process defines a value-adding sequence of tasks that – triggered by the input of various acting persons – serves a final customer benefit (output). Behind this, there is a variety of other processes that can be viewed at different levels of aggregation: Business processes exist as well as in the company as a whole, but also within their respective units. These include departments (controlling, marketing, human resources, procurement, etc.) as well as individual functional and divisional areas. Most processes are closely interconnected in many ways: In contract management , for example, purchasing, the legal department and controlling are directly involved in the entire life cycle of a contract creation and execution.
Benefits in daily business
It is often the administrative routine tasks in particular that characterize many business processes and commit a significant number of human and time resources. Booking invoices, preparing applications, searching for and providing information: Many of these activities still use analog, i. e., primarily paper-based, processes. This results in high error rates, and more important – especially strategic – tasks fall victim to administrative monotony or are not prioritized. For this reason, many decision-makers today are focusing on digitization as an essential factor for business process optimization. This means above all: less paper, but an increase in transparency and efficiency.
But there are more reasons to digitize business processes.
Three important reasons for digitizing business processes
Legal certainty: The storage of documents (German only) is regulated by special legal provisions. Having an overview of these at any time and still maintaining a uniform folder structure is time-consuming and costly. Legally compliant and complete archiving of documents based on electronic files makes sure that no project-relevant information will ever again be lost or untraceable. At the same time, an automatic time management system ensures that applications or contracts are always stored in conformance with the applicable guidelines.
Cost reduction: Anyone who works toward a paperless office in the long term must expect high entry investments at first: The conversion of the IT infrastructure, the training of employees – all this demands a lot from the company. But it’s worth it: The automations and standardizations based on software applications reduce the response and processing times and speed up standard procedures – whether in customer service or logistics. The potential savings are enormous (German only).
Competitiveness: In the course of globalization, digitalization becomes a very important issue. The developments in the areas of artificial intelligence, blockchain or 3D printing are hardly predictable today. But it is becoming clear: Anyone who closes themselves to the power of innovation risks their competitive ability in the long term. This can already be illustrated by the example of a missing data competence in the workforces of many companies: According to a representative study, 42 percent of the top managers of 1,000 companies (German only) surveyed fear competitive disadvantages as a result of a poor level of data competence in the workforce. This is just one aspect of many that shows the urgency.
The starting point for digital process optimization
The implementation of new sustainable business processes needs a strategic process that can cover all areas of a company. Nowadays, there are a large number of corresponding process models and techniques of different complexity. Independently of SWOT and ABC analyses, other analysis techniques and agile methods, there are, of course, some important factors that companies should generally observe when they digitalize their business processes:
Inform the employees
As soon as the management decides over the employees in the specialist departments, the necessary acceptance for the implementation of new processes and solutions in the individual work areas is lost. For this reason, the topic of change management has greater relevance today than ever before: all measures and activities in connection with changes in corporate and process strategies are bundled here in a unified structure. A key aim here is to give employees the opportunity to have an active role in new developments, to involve them consciously in strategic planning, and in this way to achieve a high level of commitment in the workforce. This is where managers have a key role to play in countering potential resistance at an early stage and actively supporting relevant training programs.
Make processes transparent
From the planning phase to project completion, it should be ensured that every step is documented and can be retraced by all company and organizational units. When introducing new tools such as enterprise content management, it is essential to get employees “on board” earlier and to communicate clearly the benefits and the targeted goal. A Microsoft study showed that 48 percent of the employees (German only) surveyed emphasized their fears of digital transformation – and the switch from analog to digital processes at their own desks. This requires careful and trusting persuasion.
Deploy the right solutions
In almost every area, companies can optimize their current core processes and, most importantly, they can streamline and simplify them. Today, digital controlling applications are used for quality assurance and process monitoring, and training programs are made available via training apps. And the entire spectrum of industrial automatization can be found everywhere now: in the automotive industry, in plant and mechanical engineering, in the food industry or in medical technology.
As already mentioned: Especially in the administrative areas such as accounting, controlling or human resources, it is possible to identify numerous optimization potentials. Document management systems provide the instruments that enable the automated preparation, structuring and archiving of information, and save paper at the same time. An integrated workflow management controls the lifecycle of an incoming invoice through its booking, but also of a personnel file (German only) along to a complete application process. As a result of the time and location-independent access to the required information, the responsible persons will benefit from more rapid processing of their processes – and will also always be able to provide the information.
Digitization of business processes: Conclusion
Proceed in a planned way, focus on the goals, and take employees along for the ride: These are the key aspects that are important in the digitalization of business processes. It’s not just a matter of paying tribute to the trend toward economizing work. It is much more a matter of making room for more productivity and fulfillment of meaning, which technologies such as document management systems can provide decisively.