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How small businesses can use digitization to improve operations


Digitization can greatly cut business costs, especially in paper-heavy processes like accounts payable and payrolling. Digitizing means cutting paper, reducing manual processes, and reducing manual data entry, because digital data is easy to automate and share. Digitization means automatic workflows, near-instant processing, and faster documentation.

In fact, most organizations want to or have already begun digitizing, with 68% moving to digitize operational processes. This is easier said than done, and many face gaps including technology, legacy software and solutions, and a lack of real organization or planning around digitization. While planning involves setting goals and outlining teams, the technical barriers are often the most important to define when planning and budgeting.

This technical checklist for small businesses will help you decide what you need before you move into the digitization process.

Reviewing and Resolving Processes

Technical planning is the key to any digitization process. This means creating oversight of your business and technical processes, analyzing them, and optimizing them. Do they work? Are they efficient? Are they being used? How do they interconnect?

In his book, Vision to Value, Luis Abreu, COO of Nmbrs, advises businesses to look at processes first when digitizing. Abreu says “If you automate a bad process, you don’t make it better, it just runs more quickly – the switch to automated processes can quickly create issues that paper processes never did, because they happen automatically and without manual intervention to make up for issues.”

This may mean delaying your digitization while you review processes and optimize them, how they connect, and how they run. It may also mean digitizing some processes while optimizing others for future digitization.

You also have to consider how each step of the digitization process will be handled. For example, what programs will you use for each step of creating, storing, editing, transferring, signing, and finalizing digital documents. Can your print services or managed print services provider offer an all-in-one solution, or are you sourcing everything separately? Finally, how will digitization impact the end-user during digitization?

Your protocols should streamline the digitization process to make the transfer as smooth as possible, so that you largely do not impact end-users.

Incorporate the Cloud

McKinsey & Company shows that 81% of successful digital transformations incorporate the cloud in some way. Most can’t actually avoid it, and chances are, your organization is already using some cloud technology. Cloud technology makes digitization more affordable and more scalable for businesses, because you can quickly implement new solutions and scale them up with minimal investment.

Cloud tooling also offers the advantage of remote management and monitoring across networks, print, servers, and tooling, creates better opportunities for linking processes together, and ensures that everyone on the network has access to the same tooling and processes.

Organizations requiring more compliance or security can consider either closed virtual private networks or hybrid cloud-physical server solutions for this purpose.

Reduce Bottlenecks

Most organizations will have significant bottlenecks preventing digitization. Some of the most obvious include legacy IT systems, networks, budget, and hardware. Identifying where you will experience bottlenecks is critical to following through with digitization without issues.

For example, many organizations opt to integrate existing legacy IT systems. This might be the best option, but it might be a mistake long-term if it can’t keep up or facilitate digital processes. Other organizations patch legacy IT systems with a cloud solution and utilize that while switching to a permanent solution. And, in some case, you can quickly leverage a new system with the usage of Managed Services vendors.

Networks are another common bottleneck, simply because your existing network might not be able to handle the increased demand of digitized services. Here, it’s important to review your IP stack capabilities for consolidating traffic, consolidating IP requests, and even user access management.

You need full oversight of who and what is using your network, where latency is occurring, and the ability to remote-manage to redirect traffic and throttle non-essential traffic during peak usage. Here, you may want to utilize virtual networks, you may want to expand the capabilities of your current network, or you may want to install a new network, complete with servers to provide an optimum solution.

Delivering Training

Technology is just one aspect of digitization. It is your people who actually make it work. Successful digitization means getting your teams onboard and choosing solutions that work for your teams. In some cases, organizations also find it beneficial to make new hires to supplement teams, adding on people who are experienced working in a digital environment.

Training teams to make the most of new digital tools and workflows should be essential to the digitization process, and that means training everyone. Digitization affects everyone, and it will bring a sense of fear and uncertainty. Delivering training to ensure that your existing workforce has the skills and tools to continue adding value in the new environment offers security for them and will improve results. Not everyone will adapt to digitization, but most will, and you can always supplement with new hires after delivering training.

Digitizing is quite often the easiest way to improve your value stream, literally offering the potential to cut hundreds of hours of manual work from processes.

Digitization reduces physical paper costs, speeds up processes, and often gives you tools to offer better and faster customer service. Implementing digitization typically requires a combination of new software, new hardware, and new processes, alongside an evaluation and optimization of existing processes and frameworks. Leveraging third-party service providers can prove influential in making budgets and timelines work, because managed service providers can quickly install hardware, networks, and optimize what you have, typically for a flat-rate monthly lease.

Digitization is not right for everyone. But, it can reduce costs long-term for many, making work faster, supporting flex-work capabilities, and allowing organizations to leverage automation, workflows, and digital documentation. Hopefully this checklist helps you to determine if your organization is ready, or if you still have to review and resolve existing issues first.

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