Financial executives are more educated than ever on the ability of digital workflows to cut the time, money and hassle wasted on paper, manual processes. Xerox, a company that built itself into an empire thanks to physical paper, has had a front row seat for the document digitization push.
It’s an evolving company: Earlier this year, Xerox announced that, like Hewlett-Packard, it would be splitting in two in an effort to narrow its business services. One of these halves will be to help companies in their migration away from paper documents, a move that sees Xerox making lemonade out of the lemony trend of digitization.
For some, it would seem a natural evolution for a corporation that wants to remain current. But the company has new evidence that other businesses aren’t following suit.
In a new research report, Xerox took to breaking down how much IT professionals understand what electronic documents can do for their organizations. The consensus is that businesses are well-aware of the benefits.
Still, executives are assuming that the majority of their processes — including invoice processing and procurement management — will continue to land on physical paper well into the decade.
“Surely, we can do better,” Xerox concluded in its report, “Digitization at Work.”
“This report … shows that while organizations have ambitions for a lean and agile digital future, their present is still badly weighed down by paper,” the report said. “Not only does this undermine productivity by perpetuating slow and expensive manual processes, it’s oh so wasteful: Easily half of the paper we print at work is used once then thrown away.”
Addicted To Paper
Among all industries surveyed — FinServ, public sector and corporate enterprise — less than half of the businesses surveyed said they are either mostly or fully digitized. That means the majority of companies are still stuck with paper for processes like invoice processing and procurement, on top of other functions like product and service development and HR onboarding.
But that doesn’t mean the survey respondents aren’t interested in some of the benefits of document digitization.
According to Xerox, nearly three-quarters of the executives said they have already identified at least one business process within their corporations that would benefit from automation.
A significant number of respondents (41 percent) said cost reduction is at least in their top three reasons for going digital, while another third of the survey respondents cited either agility, document security or speed of productivity as their number-one benefit of electronic documents.
These employees are also aware of how paper is burdening their company. For instance, 60 percent of those surveyed agreed that high costs associated with manual processes are at least in their top three list of problems arising from paper. The same portion agreed that data security is also in their top three.
Perhaps one of the most striking conclusions from Xerox’s new study is that the financial services sector is not immune to a dependence on paper, despite being in one of the best positions to understand the cost benefits of going digital.
More FinServ companies than other businesses are sticking to paper; 62 percent of professionals in this industry said they remain mostly paper-based, compared to 55 percent overall.
Similarly, 17 percent of financial services professionals agreed that they are “essentially paper-based,” compared to 15 percent overall.
In a statement announcing the research results, Xerox Vice President of Workflow Automation and Large Enterprise Operations Andy Jones pointed to the significance of financial services sticking to manual processes.
“Once again, it comes down to the data,” he stated. “As automation efforts scale across financial firms, it will be important to spot performance trends quickly and validate data for accuracy.”
Automation leads to data analysis and greater transparency of the enterprise, which can benefit any business — but especially FinServ players.
“Digital business models allow organizations to gain a much clearer view of businesses processes so they can understand what departments or processes would benefit from digital transformation,” Jones added.
We Need A Plan
About 30 percent of respondents said they expect at least seven areas of business processes to be mostly or fully digitized in only two years. Can these professionals really make such a massive leap?
Not likely, Xerox said. But businesses need a plan if they’re even going to try.
“You can’t just jump into the digitizing process without a plan,” Jones warned. “You need to first assess your organization’s processes and then take the basic steps.”
If a corporate like Xerox — built on a foundation of physical paper — can migrate and evolve its business services into the digital world, so can corporations in financial services.