Remember the days when important information took between two days and three weeks to arrive via post? Or how about when an international call was so expensive that they had to be reserved for special occasions, or when expensive flights had to be purchased so that all meetings could take place in person? What about when every office was covered with file folders replete with all the paperwork vital to keep the organisation running?
The digital world has made an invaluable impact on our lives, from allowing information to be imparted within seconds via email or chat, to enabling meetings to take place via video conference, to storing and securing valuable information in the cloud to protect it from damage. Digitization has by all accounts made the lives of business and consumers alike easier and more efficient than ever before. Because of this, customers are now demanding the convenience that a digitized company brings, whether it’s the ability to securely upload documents to a server, complete financial transactions online, or to be able to download and store important records on their computers.
In a competitive market, failure to digitize can have catastrophic effects for any business. Likewise for employees, working in an analogue world can reduce transparency, enforce unnecessary bureaucracies and greatly impact efficiency. The truth of it is, if a company doesn’t figure out a digital solution to meet its customers’ and stakeholders’ needs, another one will swoop in to do so.
So what does digitization mean for a company? To put it simply, it’s transferring analogue information into a digital space. To put it more broadly, it’s about implementing digital tools and processes to improve workflow, reduce overhead, prioritise transparency and delight the customer.
The truth is, digitization involves many steps, and might mean a huge transformation for a company. Rather than migrating old processes into a digital world, digitization is about developing new processes altogether. According to an article from McKinsey&Company by Shahar Markovitch and Paul Willmott, meeting the needs of customers isn’t about just training a few employees in Microsoft Excel: “To meet these high customer expectations, companies must accelerate the digitization of their business processes. But they should go beyond simply automating an existing process. They must reinvent the entire business process.” This often means looking at how digital tools can enhance the business and offer better insight into customer behavior, as well as adapting processes to be streamlined to fit the needs of both clients and employees.
This is not a job for any one department, but rather a company-wide strategy geared at improving efficiency and improving the bottom line. Because most companies don’t have the capacity to handle such an endeavour in-house, hiring outside help to manage the process is essential. Anyone can spend a few months scanning all the company’s paperwork into pdfs on a server, but digitization requires a new set of processes and a transparent communication strategy in order to avoid chaos.
McKinsey suggests that digitization can cut costs in a company by up to 90%. By eliminating time-sucking procedures involving multiple stakeholders and doing away with unmanageable paperwork, companies can get a jump on the competition that might destroy their business models. But this means fully embracing the possibilities of the digital world and being ready to work with and not against them.
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