In 2019, Gartner predicted that by 2023, fewer than one-third of digital workers would select the corporate office as their preferred place to work. Today Gartner says new surveys reveal that 48% of employees will work remotely some or all the time post-COVID-19.
But the desire to work remotely from anywhere will also need to have the support of technology and changes to the way of work. To truly achieve remote work, documents and workflow will need to be accessible in digital format.
And without this digitization of what is traditionally paper-based documents, how can companies expect to fully tap on the potential of what Gartner refers to as the hyperautomation of routine work.
In the future of work, CIOs will need to consider how technology can sustain a distributed workforce model that reaches beyond the restrictions of a traditional office environment and may be dispersed across geographies.
In a Podchats for FutureCIO session Chandra Sinnathamby, head of Adobe Document Cloud, Asia Pacific, spoke about the Forrester report How Digital Document Processes Are Shifting From Best Practice To Business Necessity.
Below are excerpts from the podchat. Click on the podchat player to listen to the discussion in full.
Referring to the Adobe commissioned Forrester study, what were the key findings for the Asia Pacific region?
Chandra Sinnathamby: Firstly, is on how the people view digital document processes, whether it was something nice to have, or if it evolved into something that is more strategic. It is fair to say that the impact of the pandemic has accelerated the need for people to view digital document processes to become more strategic for several reasons.
What the research also found was how unprepared Asia Pacific was relative to the rest of the rest of the world. Overall, in APAC, 68% were not prioritizing digital document processes and Southeast Asia in particular, was 78%.
That highlighted over 58% of people in APAC not prepared for the impact of the pandemic on how that will drive business continuity and collaboration, which are all digital document processes. As APAC was less prepared than the rest of the world, that also meant that we were more at risk from a revenue risk perspective because of these digital document processes remaining manual and or paper based.
And so, things like working from home – how can I still get that sales contract in a contactless way? With processes like that, suddenly people see the need to get this done in a 100% digital world. On an employee side, it also includes things like onboarding new employees, such as sending the letter of offer out and getting all the onboarding paperwork done where typically on day one, they would have come in to fill out all those forms. But there is no office to come to today because now everyone is onboarding in their study room or bedroom where their laptop is.
Driving projects and having everyone collaborating on a project document at the same time were suddenly things that they needed to do. All these business processes we took for granted that word document base, people now must think about digitizing it and doing these processes in a 100% digital world. And so those are some of the key findings there.
Do you treat this unpreparedness to work digitally as anything to do with the initiatives for some of the organizations to undertake these digital transformations?
Chandra Sinnathamby: I think a lot of it was more focused on some of the larger things like installing an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system that evolved into implementing a CRM solution, which then evolved into driving the marketing automation system to deliver better websites and things like that.
It is not like people were ignoring digitization at all, fair to say, but the priority was never that, at that scale of looking at my whole ERP or cybersecurity project or CRM solution, but the pandemic has accelerated that. And I think it is really evolved the shift from ‘nice to have’ to ‘strategic’ as one because we are now in a 100%, digital world, and from an operational perspective to keep the lights on, you need these processes to be fully digital.
Secondly, expectations from customers have totally increased, now. The rise in popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be attributed to the fact that people are looking for reasons to have a retail event, but also people are more comfortable generally now, with doing things online and using e-commerce as a platform. And that same comfort level now has reached digital documents, not just purely out of necessity, but this is how now I want to operate, I should say, and we have seen that in a couple examples.
People cannot necessarily go to the office; how do you go about implementing a digital transformation or document digitization of documents and document processes?
Chandra Sinnathamby: It is a very subjective question and very personalized to that organization. Firstly, everyone is at a different stage of maturity in their transformation, and they come from different backgrounds. You will see a lot of the digital, born in the cloud, digital natives’ type of organizations where digital is the be all and end all, they would never think about any paper based manual processes.
One of the biggest hurdles of any transformation is not buying the technology, it is the change in management process. So once again, born in the cloud types of organizations are more receptive than thinking digital first. So, they would never even entertain, regardless of the cost, a paper-based manual, digital document process for onboarding or any business process.
For some of the other more mature verticals, where they have legacy systems, they have an existing cost base that they must take into consideration the complexity of the workflow and how it goes. You can just imagine the banks, the amount of investment that is going in, and it is a lot harder for them. They tend to have a digital bolt on strategy, rather than a “I live in the digital world 100% DNA” on this side of the fence.
2021 is just around the corner. What is your expectation around adoption and or continued resistance to the use of digital document process?
Chandra Sinnathamby: My expectations are that it is going to accelerate even more. The pandemic was a forcing function for most organizations and people. So even if you had laggards in your organization, they just had to adapt because it happened so quickly. The implications of the pandemic to every organization were significant, and people had to adapt whether they liked it or not.
Overall, my expectations are what we saw last year will only accelerate and digital document processes will become a strategic advantage to those that do it right. In the banking industry, they're always talking about this race for a same day home loan and that's a vision of “I see my home of my dreams on some marketplace that I want to buy. I can do a virtual tour, examine the house, within the same sort of experience as applying for Home Loan online and get an approval and make a bid”.
By the end of the day, those kinds of experiences are what people are looking for and that is also going to fuel organizations to accelerate their digital transformation processes to be able to deliver on aspirations like that.