The Advantages Of Going Digital

By Mohan Mailvaganam

It’s not just about saving paper — going digital helps companies improve the bottom line and client experiences.

Every spring, thousands of students across Canada mull over acceptance letters and offers from colleges and universities, to decide where to go to school in the fall.

As tough as the choice may be for many students, the competition among the schools is even tougher. Academic reputations are at stake for the schools. They all want to attract the cream of the crop. And there are hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition fees on the line, which help institutions grow, enhance programs and innovate.

So how can an enterprising school stand out from the pack? Beyond the traditional recruiting tactics most schools use, Simon Fraser University (SFU) worked with Xerox Canada to find competitive advantage through the digital transformation of its admissions process.

The post-secondary application process in Canada is generally a very lengthy exercise. Students have to apply to the schools of their choice by the end of the calendar year and then typically don’t hear whether they’ve been accepted until spring — sometimes as late as the end of May. It takes weeks for admissions personnel to sort through the applications, extract the information they need and make offers.

Research shows that roughly 80% of students accept the first offer they receive from a school — so getting out of the gate quickly is crucial when vying to attract students in a highly competitive field.

By digitizing and automating the process, SFU aims to realize the benefits of faster decision making, reduction of operational costs, and improved student experiences resulting in greater acceptance rates on offers of admission. SFU is looking forward to assessing the impact of the investment once its first cycle of applications has been completed using the new process.

Organizations from all sectors and of all sizes – from small- and medium-sized businesses to large corporations – can realize similar benefits such as improving the client acquisition process and streamlining back-office operations by leveraging workflow automation and digitization capabilities.

So what’s holding companies back from overhauling their workflows?

By far, the greatest barrier to change we run into is institutional culture — how the organization thinks and acts from upper leadership to middle management and down to frontline staff. There has to be company-wide buy-in to effect real change.

Many organizations have a general idea of some of the advantages of trying to become more lean and agile for a digital future, but they don’t understand the specific benefits to their operations.

Until they have an accurate picture of how Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like operating expenses and client satisfaction can be improved, it’s difficult for business leaders to see past the logistical challenges and effort required for digital transformation.

We saw this firsthand when we worked with Family Service Toronto (FST), a not-for-profit organization that provides counselling, community development, advocacy and public education programs.

The organization faced a daunting prospect of digitizing its heavily paper-based processes prior to a move into a new office location, including the digital conversion of decades of paper records stored in more than 500 bankers boxes.
But with a positive 10-year cost-benefit analysis in hand that showed the initial investment in a digital document management solution was worthwhile, FST leadership committed to a digital strategy.

As part of its transformation, FST automated paper processes in its Passport program, which helps adults with a developmental disability participate in their communities. By going digital, the organization was able to cut operating costs and improve internal business process, including reducing invoice processing time by 60%. More importantly, FST was able to redirect resources from back-office processing to direct client service, improving experiences for both staff and clients.

Like all major decisions organizations make, it’s important that they be made from an informed position. Before companies can figure out how to cut ties to paper and harness the power of digitization, they need a solid understanding of their paper use and document flows. It’s also important to keep in mind that today’s documents are more than paper and span the digital space from e-mails, to office documents, videos and images – all equally capable of causing friction in the process.

It’s crucial that companies embarking on the digital journey today know the fate of their documents — how they were generated, why they were printed and where they will eventually end up — through document analytics, in order to avoid them in the first place.

Mohan Mailvaganam is Director of Digital Process Automation at Xerox Canada.