Why is digitisation so important? | DMA

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Why is digitisation so important?

Digitisation is increasingly becoming the business community's number one priority. Indeed, survey after survey cites digitisation as the key strategic focus and challenge of our times, ahead of critical factors such as regulation and customer knowledge. Less surprising than this new-found urgency is why it has taken so long for organisations – and specifically their marketing teams – to appreciate the benefits that digitisation brings and the dangers of ignoring its possibilities.

So, what is digitisation? It’s a broad term, which encompasses both the literal – the conversion of analogue information into digital formats – and the strategic – the development of a digital mindset with the aim of transforming a business, its products and its customer base. Fundamental to digitisation in all its forms is the embrace of more paperless processes as the most efficient, productive, transparent and economical method of running a business.

Go paper-lite, not paper-less

Despite the benefits of a paperless office being endlessly touted, is it a good idea to get rid of paper in its entirety? The short answer is, no. While it might be possible for a start-up, it is often unfeasible – and arguably undesirable – for a more established business. Not least because paper has many benefits: it is a popular and effective means of generating and sharing ideas and is still vital in the context of customer communications.

Despite the availability of digital alternatives, people still like to work with paper. What’s important is that people are given a choice. Indeed, in research conducted for the KeepMePosted campaign, 84 percent of adults claimed they are unhappy if they aren’t given the right to choose how they are contacted.

With paper still a key communication channel for businesses, it continues to evolve and embrace new possibilities raised by digitisation. For example, variable data printing software lets you personalise pre-printed material with customer-specific greetings and special offers, while QR codes that can be scanned with a smartphone provide a link between printed documents and online content. Digitisation is subsequently not a question of going paper-free, but rather of using paper where its benefits are greatest and eliminating it from other processes.

How and why digitisation makes sense

In the past, digitisation strategies have been slow to take off due to a number of factors, including its perceived complexity, notably the difficulty of managing and synchronising digital and printed communications; a lack of leadership by senior managers; concern about costs; and fear of change. Today, even small businesses realise that there is no longer an excuse to delay digitisation. There are many reasons why digitisation is at the top of the corporate agenda in public and private sector organisations. Key drivers include productivity, cost savings, e-government, innovations in technology, customer choice, compliance and competitive pressure.

Businesses are also starting to realise the very real financial benefits of digitisation. AIIM, the non-profit association for the Information Management community, estimates that 60 percent of organisations that have implemented paper-saving initiatives achieve a Return on Investment (ROI) on paper-free projects within 12 months, with more than three-quarters seeing ROI within 18 months.

When it comes to digitisation, start-ups have a clear advantage in that they can go digital from day one. Established businesses have to take a more evolutionary approach, generally starting with pilot schemes and departmental implementations. Where you choose to start will depend to a great extent on whether the motivation for your digitisation project is to reduce risk (compliance-driven), to save money (cost-driven) or to improve efficiency (opportunity-driven).

Whether it’s digitising existing archives, switching to electronic invoicing, creating a digital mailroom or incorporating the use of SMS, web chat and social media into your marketing communication strategy, businesses increasingly have the opportunity to boost productivity and enjoy significant cost savings over time.

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