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Digital transformation before the pandemic was often a technology-driven conversation focused on different ways to use cloud, mobile and other options to collaborate online and streamline workflows.
If you find the words “digital workplace” mean something different today than they did a year or two ago, count yourself in good company.
While the business world has been talking about digital transformation for quite a while now — before the pandemic it was often a technology-driven conversation focused on different ways to use cloud, mobile, video, and other options to collaborate online and streamline workflows.
We’ve all learned a lot this past year about what’s really essential when it comes to getting work done, whether that’s meeting the needs of customers or virtually connecting with co-workers. So, it’s safe to say our digital workplace initiatives are much more reality driven.
Long after the pandemic, we’ll still be processing what we’ve learned. We’re not simply picking up the pieces and going back to “business as usual.” We’re going back to a different workplace.
Data confirms this. According to an IDG survey conducted for Iron Mountain, companies on average reported 2–3 workplace transformation initiatives already in motion pre- COVID. Now, that number has doubled.
A number of factors are driving the workplace transformation change:
While technology is still driving a lot of the change, the shift is also generational. For many millennials, a work world that’s based on anytime-anywhere-any device principles is long overdue.
Getting real about the digital workplace transformation also means getting real about the roadblocks that stand in its way — like data accessibility. Making it easy for people to work from home or efforts to streamline business processes won’t get far if the data needed to make it happen isn’t easily accessible. And that’s unfortunately the reality at many if not most businesses today.
Think about all the paper documents packed away in file cabinets. Because they’re in paper form, they can’t easily be shared. They take up valuable space. No one really knows what’s inside them — and finding out is both time-consuming and expensive.
At the other end of the spectrum, trying to go “paperless” is a strategy but not often a successful one. Many businesses’ inputs still arrive in paper form — especially well regulated ones like healthcare, finance, or legal. And many people — including many millennials — often like to work with a paper document.
Many companies embark on do-it-yourself digitisation efforts, only to discover the process is more difficult and overwhelming than anticipated.
Where do you start? With everything on file? From a select group of documents? Everything from this day forward?
Scanning is time-consuming and, when not done carefully, highly prone to errors. One mistake and suddenly a significant chunk of documents is in question.
Many organisations launch their digitisation on an ad hoc basis only to end up with many individual digital repositories spread across multiple departments. This completely misses the primary digitisation goal of centralised visibility and ease-of-access.
Successful digitisation almost always requires behaviour change. If this doesn’t happen, you will likely find yourself in the worst of all worlds: digitising loads of documents only to find people printing them out after they have been scanned.
Iron Mountain works with companies of all sizes around the world helping them get digitisation right. Here are six key things we’ve learned along the way:
1. Keep your eye on the prize: Your goal isn’t full digitisation per se — it’s to make important information as accessible as possible in a secure and cost-effective way.
2. Adopt a holistic approach: Scanning is just the first step. You also need to take into consideration storage, security, and secure destruction of no longer needed information (what’s inside files and on devices). The last is often overlooked but is critical to successful information management and reducing your exposure to data theft and regulatory compliance issues. Identifying what’s needed and what isn’t only aids in workflow automation. Businesses can then incorporate metadata and more easily enforce retention regulations.
3. Focus on reducing (not eliminating) paper: Going completely paperless is a noble goal, but not easily achieved and a bit overwhelming to achieve. A better approach is to accept that some things will be digital, some will remain paper-based, and seek out every opportunity for reducing the incidence of the latter:
4. Look beyond scanning to storage: To succeed in making information more accessible, you need to think beyond physical to digital file conversion:
5. Keep your data secure: Information is a high-quality commodity to criminals, both for its intrinsic value (i.e., personal credit card details) or the ability to shut down operations by blocking access to data (i.e., ransomware). Cybercrime increased dramatically during the pandemic and paper records alone account for a substantial number of data breaches. To help prevent security issues, be sure to look at:
6. Know the value: Digitisation is a big undertaking that ultimately should pay for itself on the bottom line. Key ways you can see a return on investment include:
The pandemic is forcing us all to see the “digital workplace” in a new light. Realistically, in pre-pandemic times, the chances of a digital transformation effort meeting its goals were pretty low. A heavy dose of reality, and the practical learnings I have outlined here, will help change those odds for the better.
Samantha Bullard is the Portfolio Marketing Manager for Global Digital Solutions at Iron Mountain. She focuses on digital transformation, workflow automation, content classification, information governance and privacy topics, working closely with Iron Mountain experts to provide scanning, indexing and storage for companies around the world.