Survey Snapshot: What’s Real and What’s Hype in Digital Transformation?

After years of “mobile-this” and “cloud-that,” IT marketers have switched to talking about digital transformation.

Doculabs and Neocol, a cloud-based systems integrator based in Naperville, Illinois, decided to find out what digital transformation really means for information managers, security professionals, and IT in general. So we fielded a survey, “What is Digital Transformation?” for 4 weeks spanning July and August, receiving responses from IT, Customer Service, Sales, and Marketing representatives of organizations from some 29 industries.

The results surprised us. (Note: We’ll be presenting an analysis of those results in a webinar with Neocol on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, at 12 noon EDT.)

The key takeaways: Digital transformation is generally regarded as a marketing initiative. On the other hand, those organizations that demonstrate ROI when it comes to “digitizing” their business systems do so when they actually transform operational processes.

We see this dichotomy constantly at Doculabs. We work with businesses that in all too many cases seem to think that automating a paper-based process, or “modernizing” an older IT system will create business efficiencies and promote overall agility. That’s a false promise. The reality is that true transformation comes when you streamline and rationalize the connections between your organization and its customers, partners, and employees.

Key takeaway: The need for a “digital-first” perspective

There were several other key results from the survey. Apart from the view of digital transformation as a marketing term, we found that:

  • Simply transferring legacy, paper-based processes to a digital environment is not digital transformation. The hard work is in the need to rethink a process from a digital-first perspective.
  • The easiest digital transformation initiatives, the proverbial “low-hanging fruit,” include applications like new account opening and customer self-service.
  • Most organizations require a digitization factory to move paper-based client information into the digital channel
  • Organizations which have successfully moved to processes that end with an e-signature are more concerned with the impact on customer service than on potential regulatory concerns.

Perhaps the most surprising result of the survey was the proportion of respondents—about one-third—who said they were very active in enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) and in cloud in general, but completely lacked a strategy for driving out existing manual processes.

It’s rarely wise to take paper-based processes and plug them into cloud-based environments. Going to the cloud does not equate to overall transformation.

Not all organizations use document management systems

We also were surprised to learn that fully one-quarter of the respondents had no document management system to manage and store client experience documents. And, in a strange twist, one-half of this group did say that they are using EFSS tools.

That means they have, and use, file-share tools—but not for document management. They may have rolled out EFSS capabilities to help individuals do their day-to-day work, but they tied that effort to tasks such as customer on-boarding or self-service.

The irony is that, at many organizations, just about all EFSS tools are being upgraded to serve as a document hub. It may be that a heightened awareness for what the tools are capable of may spark wider adoption, particularly as organizations eventually realize they don’t have a place to index and store documents.

What’s leading-edge right now in digital transformation

Some other key findings helped us define those respondents whom we’d consider digital transformation leaders. These included:

  • Wet signatures are rarely used and are actively being driven out of the process.
  • Fax is identified as a legacy technology and is being removed as a channel.
  • Some three-quarters of respondents currently are driving customer interactions either through a portal or by using e-forms.
  • Some 80 percent of respondents are rolling out or are currently using smarter customer communications.
  • Digitization labs inside many leading-edge organizations are testing artificial intelligence, machine learning, and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and applications. The real leaders are beginning to roll out capabilities to their businesses in all three of these areas.

But this is just a quick overview. Join my Neocol counterpart Tom Rieger and me for our upcoming webinar, in which we’ll present a thorough-going—and guaranteed lively!—discussion of our survey results. Tune in on Tuesday, September 26, at 12 noon EDT, and compare your own experiences to our findings. To register for the webinar, click here. (And if you can’t make it on Tuesday, you’ll also be able to click there to watch and listen to the webinar at any time after we present it.)

And for those of you who want to read more, you can start with the kick-off blog post from my series on digital transformation, "Why Can't Our Transactions Be More Like a Turbo-Tax?".

Rich Medina
Lane Severson
I’m a Practice Leader, managing relationships with Doculabs’ West Coast clients to improve information management and security.