True transformation needs a strategic vision

True transformation needs a strategic vision

Despite digitisation, content-centric workflows remain manual and paper-based - a situation that must change according to Owen Balloch, Northern European Marketing Manager at Alaris.

information management
Owen Balloch, Northern European Marketing Manager at Alaris

For accountancy firms everywhere, documents, data and information management are critical to organisational success. Yet, despite the march of digitisation, content-centric workflows largely remain paper-based and highly manual, with nominal integration between human and/or computing resources.

At the same time, the business landscape remains challenging to say the least, which means enterprises are constantly striving for better financial performance. One way to do that is to look at how document processes are handled and automated.

The good news for accountants is that there are some big wins to be had. According to IDC’s June 2019 Document Processes Survey, employees spend more than 32% of their time each week on document-related tasks. More importantly, over 53% of the time knowledge workers spend on document-related tasks is focused on information dissemination: publishing, sharing, emailing, collaborating, printing, and mailing.

Lack of strategy

Those numbers alone are a compelling reason to embrace workflow automation. However, before jumping headfirst into the latest tech, it’s worth picking up on a key point from an IDC White Paper sponsored by Alaris, titled Automating Document Workflows in the Future Workplace, July 2019. The paper stated that all too often there is no overarching strategy, targeted funding, or high-level management support for document workflows. The content itself is randomly distributed across digital repositories including email, shared drives, thumb drives (and other physical media), and possibly personal/consumer cloud content sharing and collaboration solutions. The repository dictates access to content and the security of that content.

Indeed, unlocking data remains a significant roadblock for most organisations. Typically, business information is stored across a host of on-premise and offsite applications and document repositories, including information management systems, content sharing and collaboration solutions, local and network file folders, email, and hardcopy documents. This can be especially true of accountancy firms with multiple offices, sometimes across different countries.

Joined up thinking

For so many organisations, document workflow automation is all about digitising existing paper-based information. Unfortunately, however, businesses often fail to recognise that fully enabled digital workflows involve much more than simply scanning paper documents and converting them into electronic files. A truly integrated scan/capture workflow solution will allow businesses to work with data from scanned images or documents in much more effective ways to reduce the manual steps, free up valuable business resources, and make better-informed business decisions.

Data processing errors, for example, remain a key pain point for businesses struggling to migrate to digital workflow and process automation. Transcription errors that occur during data entry are particularly troublesome. These errors are caused by either human errors related to manual data entry or the misreading of data during the capture process, often the result of a legacy or poorly implemented optical character recognition (OCR) solution and/or low OCR read rates. Automated workflows can help to alleviate these problems.

Once again though – and this is the crucial point – even in cases where workflow automation technologies and practices are deployed, IDC research shows that results are limited because of the lack of integration and cross-departmental strategies. Siloed teams and/or functional areas conduct individual efforts, supported by ‘shadow IT’, with little communication or collaboration with other groups. Digitisation may occur via ad-hoc use of scanners, multifunctional printers, and mobile devices, but the lack of a specified budget or strategy makes it challenging to expand these efforts to develop a broader workflow platform.

The optimal solution

So, what’s the answer? How do accountants get the shift to paperless working right? Well, as the Automating Document Workflows in the Future Workplace White Paper details, to effectively optimise content-centric workflows, organisations must recognise and understand the content-centric use cases and the supporting business processes within their own businesses. They must adopt consistent practices for investment and for developing purpose-specific instantiations of content-centric workflow automation, driven by organisational priorities.

This is best accomplished by including content-centric workflow as a core component in the larger digital transformation initiatives of the organisation. Businesses should look to invest in key technologies to identify process pain points and enable workflow automation, including advanced capture software and smart scanning platforms.

The good news is that deploying these technologies as part of a cohesive digital transformation strategy could provide dramatic results. Even at earlier stages of maturity, the transformation of content-centric workflows offers firms increased process automation, efficient information access, improved compliance, and superior experience management.

Furthermore, IDC research has shown that organisations that had deployed technology to digitise, automate, and optimise content-centric workflows reduced the average time information workers spent on document-related tasks by over 17%. On average, productivity increased by 41% and errors were cut in half. For accountants everywhere, that’s surely a great proposition.

Resources & Whitepapers

The new rules of accounting

The new rules of accounting

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5 ways internal productivity can boost your profitability

5 ways internal productivity can boost your profitability

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Crushing the Four Barriers to Growth

Crushing the Four Barriers to Growth

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Make MTD work for you

MTD Make MTD work for you

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