Taking businesses and organizations completely digital is a movement that has been around since the world was first introduced to PDF and word processors. Over the years, the movement has gone through many changes. In the 90’s era, the movement was known as “computerization” and mainly supported by a few of the mid-level executives.
Today, computerization has evolved to become “go digital” and thankfully, technology and awareness has helped this movement gain a bigger and broader support. To help explain what computerization was meant to achieve and what it has become today, we are going to have to share some history with you.
The need for computerization
When office computers became a common sight, environmental organizations began pleading to businesses and leaders around the world to fully embrace the digital age and try to stop relying on paper. But, things were not that simple. In the beginning, computer memory storage was just too small to allow storing all data on their hard disks.
By the beginning of 1990’s, hard disk sizes had become relatively bigger but organizations around the world were still heavily using paper. The reason behind this move was that even though office workstations allowed file storage, they could not send or receive files to other office workstations. Also, storing a file on computer meant only that particular system could access the file; no one else had access to it.
By early 90’s, paper usage was at an all time high. Companies around the world had mountains of them in storage and hundreds of kilos of more paper was being added to the storage every day. From record keeping and invoicing to filing a complaint, paper was everywhere.
In fact, even tax collection institutions around the world were heavily reliant on paper. The United States Internal Revenue Service, with the help of US Postal Service, was mailing out tax forms to more than 110 million US citizens every year. Needless to say, the whole process was extremely slow, wasteful and inefficient.
Thankfully, by 1994, Adobe had made the Portable Document Format (PDF) available worldwide. The format proved to be a game changer due to the facts that it allowed files to fully retain their formatting when transferred to another computer, the format represented the file exactly how it would look like in printed form and lastly, it compressed files hence decreasing the file size.
Due to this and its inefficient tax filing process, IRS became one of the first adopters of PDF and started storing most of its forms on office computers. Eventually, PDF became a worldwide success and was released as an open standard which allowed users to convert word to PDF. But, that happened in 2008. In mid 90’s, IRS still didn’t have a means to send and receive files.
Since the 1960’s, the US Department of Defense had been trying to connect computers to each other in order to develop a whole network of them. By the 80’s, these networks had developed into local area networks. Then came the wide area networks. And soon after, they started connecting networks to other networks and then, these internetworks connected to become the internet.
The internet was not designed to be this way, it just evolved to become the biggest web of interconnected internet works in the world and, it is still changing and evolving. Internet is what made it possible for computers to send and receive files. It also made using an electronic database a practical option and moreover, it made cloud storage possible.[adsense]
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) started popping across the world by 1996 and made running a fully digital business possible.
The state of “Go Digital” today
Although awareness and technological advancements have taken the go digital movement mainstream, recent surveys show that the movement’s effects have been much smaller than expected.
Research has shown that 44% of businesses are still using paper in day to day operations. And even more shockingly, less than 2% of the world’s businesses have gone fully digital and use no paper at all.
When Digital Marketing Agency experts talked to employees from different companies, most of them said they were making an active effort to try to reduce reliance on paper. But, when the same group of people was asked how often they see their colleagues using the office printer, most replied “all the time” and “frequently”.
When these experts asked the employees what kind of data storage their employers were relying on, more than 70% stated that they were relying on online cloud storage as well as physical file cabinets.
Unfortunately, even out of these 70% of the employers that are somewhat reliant on cloud storage, most of them chose cloud storage only because it was the cheaper and easier option. Most employers are not making a genuine effort to reduce their reliance on paper.
Needless to say, paper usage encourages deforestation and deforestation in turn exacerbates problems like global warming, climate change, greenhouse gases and melting snowcaps. Thanks to today’s technology and media, the world is waking up to these dangers but, our efforts for the environment need to be more genuine than printing “save the trees” broachers.
Today’s go digital movement has evolved to become a broader spectrum movement. The movement is not just about saving the trees and ending reliance on paper anymore, it encourages businesses to streamline and smoothen their practices and operations by taking them digital.
Why “Go Digital” has not seen widespread success
As we discussed before, there’s a lot more awareness today about the go digital movement. But, the movement still has not seen the success that environmentalists and activist have hoped for.
There are several aspects that are hurting the progress of go digital, here we discuss some of the biggest ones;
Businesses fail to plan their objectives
First and foremost, businesses do not have a clear goal in mind when they say they want to take their company completely digital. Any office could painstakingly turn all their data into GBs and GBs of PDF and Word files and ban paper usage but the effort will be just a drain on the company’s resources. What’s the use if the business doesn’t see any big improvements?
The smart way to take a company digital is to first plan out how this movement can benefit the business. For example, you could add an online, self service buying option to your company’s website. This way, you will not only get rid of the paper usage involved in the buying process but your customers will also get to order from the comfort of their home and also, save time while ordering.
An organization could try again and again to fully commit to going digital but they will not succeed at it until and unless they find a way to use technology to improve their services. Embracing the digital world does not only help cut paper usage but it can also earn your business benefits like increased efficiency, decreased operational costs and increased revenue.
The benefits you extract from taking your company digital depend only on how well you incorporate tech into your operations. Also, once you’ve taken your business digital, the only way to stay fully committed is to set specific goals.
Set goals like “adding a new employee to the system in less than two hours and without any paper usage” or “deriving at least half of your new sales through the online buying option on your website”. Smart goals like these will help combine business growth with computerization and that is what enables organizations to stay committed to zero paper usage policy.
Organizations fail to extract maximum advantage
An organization’s digital transformation should be about more than just automating everything and getting rid of the paper. With going digital comes that potential advantage of gaining an edge over your competition. The edge could be anything, from automatic invoicing and payment to automatic dispute resolution.
When you get rid of paper, you do much more than just getting rid of the paper, you are also getting rid of the slow and inefficient process of writing things down. You are replacing this process with a machine and we all know machines don’t get bored, they don’t take breaks and they never get tired.
Use this fact to your benefit. Use the power of the mighty CPU to do something your competition hasn’t thought of and could never easily match.
Mistaking digital transformation for an overnight change
A lot of businesses have the old, inefficient and paper-reliant practices in their DNA. What’s saddening is that such business never commits to digital transformation even though they understand how important it is.
One of the main reasons why they never attempt digital transformation is because they mistake it to be an overnight process. Going digital does not have to be an immediate change, companies can divide it into weeks and even months long phases and transform their operations little by little.
Failing to fully commit to going digital
So often we see top level executives embrace the digital world and even introduce policies that will help integrate digital transformation into the organization’s DNA. But sadly, their efforts fail to show any real results because of the friction from the employees working in different departments.
It is important that all managers pay attention to the staff working under them. And also, all departments should work together to ensure that the company’s full commitment to going digital bears expected results and doesn’t result in a failure.
The steps in going digital
The process of abandoning your paper-reliant practices and embracing the modern age has a few important steps that everyone should follow. Here are some of them;
Replace paper with PDF
PDF is the world’s most used file format and one of the most secure and lightweight ones. One of the main advantages of PDF have been that the file format displays files exactly how they would look like in printed form. And with internet’s help, there’s no need to print files when you can just email them. So, start scanning all printed documents and store them as PDF.
As for the files you will work on in the future, just create them in a word processor and select the PDF option while saving them. You can also convert documents to PDF using an online converter. One example of an online converter is Classic PDF, which is one of the best PDF converters available right now.
Use a purpose-built group communication app
One of the biggest advantages that small businesses and startups have over well-established companies is that in startups, everyone is either sitting next to each other or just a text message away. This way, they not only communicate effectively and stay focused on their objectives but they also kill any chances of sending mails, printouts, faxes, etc.
Companies should use a communication app that allows every employee to effectively communicate with all other employees. To further streamline the digital processes, employers can encourage their teams to learn these 5 ways to manage communications as a digital nomad.
Encourage your staff to go paperless
Your promise to stop using paper in your day to day practices is only as good as your employees’. So, if you are serious about kicking your company’s paper usage habit, it is extremely vital that you encourage your staff to help you.
But, to make your employees help you in this endeavor, it is important that your employees feel like they are a part of a tight-knit community. The feeling of belonging is when everyone really starts working like a team and go above and beyond to produce great results.
So, there you have it. This is what going digital means today and this is how you achieve it. They say the first step is the most difficult one and we certainly hope you succeed in your business’ digital transformation process. But look at the bright side, if you are here and reading this article, you are already on the right track and now you know how to achieve your goal.