Here we are nearing the end of 2022 … more than two full decades into the 21st century. Are you disappointed that we still don’t have a flying car like George Jetson (who may have just been born, anyway)? Notable for its all-glass bubble canopy, dashboard radar screen, and jet-plane-like tail fins, the Jetson family’s mode of transportation from the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon is a familiar paragon of the possibility of innovation. But it’s also a failure as well; 60 years later we’re still chasing the idealistic vision of cars that fly.
In the information management industry, our dream for years has been to have a paperless office. We see a future workplace that has minimal paper-based processes and relies on digitized documents instead. Some organizations prefer the term “paper-light,” as many offices and departments cannot completely eliminate paper files because of process or compliance requirements.
Indeed, the very notion of digital transformation is, at the core, about getting rid of paper. The manual processes and antiquated ways of working that were great in the past, but today are an ever-growing encumbrance to superior and competitive performance. But despite the push toward digitization, many organizations continue to rely on paper-based processes and manual ways of working – often in key areas of the business – that directly impact the performance of the organization.
Spacely Sprockets vs. Cogswell Cogs
Organizations that continue to operate with last-century techniques will be challenged to keep pace today … and in the future. Now is an opportune moment to ask whether or not your organization is working with systems and approaches that will limit your future opportunities. This is especially important as demands for new digitally enabled ways of working disrupt every aspect of doing business today, creating new markets and new competitors that were unforeseen just a few years ago.
George’s boss, Mr. Spacely, was always at odds with his top competitor, Cogswell Cogs. With each one’s attention drawn toward their nemesis, neither business owner took much advantage of innovation and new market opportunities. Neither capitalized on digitization and instead slugged it out season after season on the commodity sale of physical gears instead.
For us, innovations are moving so quickly that it is easy to be lulled into some level of complacency or antiquation. But if you allow the systems and applications that support your enterprise to fall behind the curve, you put the organization in real danger, not just from a technological point of view but also from a strategic one, as information agility, process efficiency, and superior service become essential requirements of doing business in the digital age.
Today’s drivers for transformation
Most organizations realize that they must transform into a truly digital business in order to survive. The question is: Are you ready with a plan for digital transformation? Advancements in technologies and capabilities like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and smart systems are already enabling businesses to outmaneuver and outperform their competition. Top drivers for transformation are increased efficiency and productivity, greater innovation and problem-solving, and better levels of customer service. Where can we expect investments and innovation to be found? Top targets are document and knowledge management, process productivity and enablement of remote work, and team collaboration and information sharing.
All of this amounts to enabling a more digitally-enabled organization, often with consumer-grade tools in the workplace that allow knowledge workers to be more effective, no matter where they work. Here are a few advantages to consider.
The cloud is the de facto computing environment today. Cloud-based systems and applications are popular across enterprises in all industries today, often serving as a platform for process innovation and improved organizational performance. Advantages are found in several areas. One of the benefits is that cloud resources are always up to date. And there is often no need to develop business applications from scratch since many cloud providers provide pre-developed solutions tailored specifically for core business activities and industry-specific applications. Increased information security is another benefit. The move to remote work has prompted the realization that the cloud may indeed be the most fortified place for your information.
A remote workforce
The move to work from home is here to say. Enabling a remote workforce is a must-have, not only to react to COVID-driven workflow demands but also to allow your company to be more agile and responsive, and develop a competitive advantage in the new norm. Organizations that fail to empower a remote workforce risk getting left behind as agility, flexibility, and connectivity define the modern organization. But enabling a distributed workforce is difficult to do if you rely on systems that were developed in the days before mobile computing became predominant.
Team collaboration is one of the biggest factors that will contribute to the success of any business in the next decade. Companies that actively work to leverage collaboration as an organizational skill are more likely to be high-performing. This means establishing the ability to securely collaborate on content at any point in its lifecycle. But more importantly, to be able to do that securely, in a manner that fits in with the organizational structure and permissions throughout the enterprise.
- Perform a true assessment of systems that are, or will, put your organization at a disadvantage in the next 12 months. What are the security and performance risks of out-of-date or end-of-life software? How will your current systems and applications help or hinder your digital transformation journey as you move forward? What advantages are you leaving behind by not moving to a more mobile and cloud-enabled approach?
- Evaluate the makeup of your organization. In the face of “the great resignation,” attracting and retaining top talent is a challenge that all organizations must overcome to compete. A new generation of employees now expects to work with mobile and digitally-enabled systems and technology. Enabling a better work-technology-life balance is essential as workers evaluate who they are willing to work with and where.
- Consider how the organization needs to function from an analytical perspective. Augmented analytics and artificial intelligence are among the top innovations that will continue to significantly change and disrupt businesses in the coming years. It is important to consider how these impact your organization today and in the future, and adjust business models accordingly – or risk losing competitive advantage to companies that do.
George Jetson’s flying car was first conceived in 1954. Generations later, the dream of a flying car in every garage is still a long way from becoming a reality. Will our dream of a paperless office meet the same end? Or will today’s technologies, strategies, and expertise combine to bring about digital-first organizations that work in ways we have yet to conceive?
It could happen. Organizations have the unique opportunity today to reimagine how information, technology, and people can and must work together to create new opportunities, bolder innovations, and improve organizational performance in the future. The question is: are you ready? Consider these factors and recommendations as you map your strategy. And look for providers and partners that have the vision, expertise, and capabilities needed to help you make the most of your efforts.
Kevin Craine is the managing director of Craine Communications Group. He is writer, podcaster and technology analyst, as well as the author of the book Designing a Document Strategy and a respected authority on document management and process improvement. He was named the No. 1 ECM Influencer to follow on Twitter.