From increased productivity to improved collaboration, businesses of all sizes have a lot to gain from moving to a paperless working environment.
As co-founder and chief executive of Progressly, Nick Candito knows better than most about the benefits of moving away from an office that’s crammed with mounds of paper to a workplace that gives employees access to the information they need instantly.
Launched in 2015, Progressly is a cloud-based operational performance management platform that helps companies go paperless and align their core processes with people and performance.
We recently spoke with Candito about the pros and cons of going paperless and how businesses that aren't already moving in that direction can take the first steps toward doing so.
Q. How can going paperless improve your company's efficiency?
A. When the right action is accessible at the touch of a button, it takes only seconds to route and share information with any number of people across multiple departments and systems.
This ease of access greatly improves efficiency in a variety of contexts, such as approval workflows. And mobile, tablet or offline access translates into speed and agility. Your market will continue to move faster, and the agility that a paperless process gives you is vital to remaining competitive.
Q. What are the pros and cons of going paperless?
A. We need to change the perspective of users stuck in their "culture of paper." In many companies, the paper trail serves as a de facto audit and may even be a necessary part of controlling processes. However, paper cannot manage the integrity and reliability of human factors across multiple teams.
The biggest con for many companies is that jumping into a new routine or process can be intimidating – as we've seen with enterprises failing to remain competitive. Many sites are stuck in this predicament: They have filing cabinets full of paperwork that haven't been touched in 10 years, and some have information in databases that are 20+ years old, which means you either digitize as a first step or decide to incorporate older information with the first pass.
However, the benefits of either strategy make it worth the effort. If you're smart about your company's digital transition, you can standardize and centralize operational processes in a manner that result in more revenue, greater competitive advantage and increased efficiency.
Using a standard digital framework allows management to monitor your business and key collaborations in real time and with a view into analyzing bottlenecks to improve them and hence improve results.
For example, every industrial company needs to empower the frontlines with real-time results and connectivity when it comes to use cases like asset inspections or safety audits. This process is often a slow, manual process involving error-prone paper and spreadsheet entries. By digitizing that process, field teams work faster and more accurately through an easy-to-use mobile app that aligns to the entire organization's enterprise architecture. The push and pull of data allows for a complete shift in proactiveness and overall productivity.
Q. What kind of tools should you be using to go paperless?
A. Organizations need to make the right decision, otherwise, they could get tied to easily outgrown field tools, siloed vertical databases, or forced to adhere to a monolithic IT system.
At Progressly, we've developed a platform that provides powerful data-driven insights so teams can benchmark progress, improve the speed of collaboration, remove human error and manual activity, and ultimately make better decisions about driving effective business change, all while delivering organization-level visibility across your global landscape.
Q. For companies that aren't paperless, what are the best ways to start moving in that direction? Do you ease into it slowly, or can you quit paper cold turkey?
All organizations are seeking operational excellence and digital transformation – and getting IT aligned on business goals and driving progress will be a key initiative to getting there.
Change doesn't mean an overhaul of everything in one go, nor does it mean ripping out and replacing existing software. It's much easier for organizations to model and build flexibility and efficiency within their existing infrastructure.
That said, it's also important to have visibility into what's going on across the whole business in real time and then adapt as needed.
Q. What are the biggest mistakes organizations make when going totally digital?
A. Customers' needs and wants should be a focal point of how you digitize your business. It almost goes without saying, but a successful digital transformation requires teamwork to deliver solutions that account for all internal and external partners.
Remember that technology is not the only enabler – people are an organization's most valuable asset, and digital technology is just the tooling they're provided to allow them to perform more effectively.
For a company to capitalize on digital transformation, its employees need be empowered, and any implementation must also be accompanied by direct engagement of important stakeholders along the journey.
Q. Are there certain types of businesses that going paperless is more suited for? Or can it be used by businesses in every industry?
We're in the midst of a business revolution, as seen by the birth of the chief digital officer. The ways we communicate, organize, watch, learn, bank and shop have changed drastically. In 10 years we went from basic mobile phones to carrying supercomputers in our pockets – from internet cafes to ubiquitous connectivity. Digital transformation is no longer an option – it's a necessity for all businesses.
Companies must deliver a new way of thinking about their core businesses – one that starts with driving digital change into their business' DNA. Only this will enable them to deliver the experiences and outcomes their customers are looking for, plus it can propel them from selling products to keeping brand promises.