Hybrid working is accelerating our move to cloud-based document management. But many businesses are reluctant to take an advanced step towards digitisation, argues Max Ertl, President of the DocuWare Group.
It is incredible how quickly life can change. Only two years ago businesses generally set the agenda regarding working practices and processes, and fixed offices were a central part of this dynamic. While the latter remains true, the role played by our ‘place of work’ has shifted – in many cases from being the place where you travel to most days, to the location you attend when it’s essential to have face-to-face collaboration.
Hybrid working is driven by human behaviour and preference. Yes, it is a boost to profit to have less office space, but businesses would not make that trade off unless it helped them deliver better quality, improve culture or attract top talent.
There are many benefits, and I do not need to tell you the statistics about hybrid working. We have all seen them hundreds of times, and we accept that COVID-19 has brought greater flexibility and fluidity to the workplace. The focus now is not on if, or when, this shift will happen – but how we make it as effective as possible.
Technology investments are central to this. The global market for Cloud Computing Services is projected to grow at a CAGR of 17% over the period 2020-2027 according to Research And Markets. We are all realising that not only do we not we have to own all our systems and platforms, but it makes more business sense to adopt cloud-based solutions.
However, while the trend is towards digitisation, it is clear that many organisations are still getting to grips with this conundrum in some areas, particularly where e-signatures are concerned. While the use of this technology can accelerate workflows and business decision-making, there is still reluctance or resistance to move away from traditional, manual processes.
The latest DocuWare survey of 1400 businesses around e-signatures revealed an astonishing 70 percent of UK businesses are missing out on the benefits of the technology due to common misconceptions, particularly around security, compliance, and forgery.
E-signatures are legal and enforceable in most countries around the world and have layers of security and authentication that are not present in the traditional handwritten format. But it seems that these messages haven’t permeated through most UK businesses yet.
These tools should be vital components within the document management ecosystem. Users of e-signatures within the DocuWare survey spoke about much greater speed and agility, reduced costs, better security and fewer errors. They were also seen as contributing positively to sustainability strategies, reducing paper, streamlining logistics and decreasing the use of printers.
Those working across international teams were particularly enthusiastic about the ease of use, convenience and cost reductions delivered by the technology. Decisions, contracts or supplier deals can be signed-off almost immediately, breaking down the geographical barriers to business.
In customers where electronic signatures have been embraced by management, there has been a rapid change in behaviour. We have seen that they are no longer viewed as a ‘good to have’, but a vital tool to maintain business continuity – allowing employees to seamlessly and securely complete documents anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Businesses who embrace the speed and agility of digital workflows understand that they can’t be held back by slow and cumbersome legacy processes, especially where the technology is available and easy to integrate.
As employee bases become more distributed, there needs to be an increased focus on keeping the balance between accessibility and control – delivering a seamless employee experience and automation efficiencies, without compromising on the security and consistency of important documents.
So, as we adapt to new ways of working and more flexible relationships with employees, we must remember that changes to policies are not enough. We must also leave behind archaic practices that hold us back and are not in step with progress.
A lot can happen in a short space of time. Five years from now manual processes and hand-signed documents will likely seem as out of date and cumbersome as faxing. Organisations that digitise now will gain the benefits earlier and appear immediately in-step with the needs of their employees.