Data is the lifeblood of business today, and it’s not easy digging through it to uncover insightful, actionable intelligence. That’s one takeaway from a survey of 600 IT decision-makers in large US, Canadian and Western European organizations. The “Digitization at Work” report from Xerox shows the move from paper to digital processes is nearly upon us, however, many survey respondents admit they may not be ready for it.

The report found broad concern over paper-based processes, with cost (42 percent) and security (42 percent) cited as primary issues. 40 percent of Canadian respondents said cost reduction was the prime reason for digitization followed by improved data collection at 33 percent. Survey respondents predicted an average of only nine percent of key business operation processes will run on paper in the next two years.

But more than half (55 percent) of the respondents admit their organizations’ processes are still largely or entirely paper-based, and about one third (29 percent) are still communicating with end customers via paper, rather than email or social channels.

This is despite the fact that 41 percent agree moving to digital workflows will cut organizational costs, and 87 percent appear to have the skill sets available to make this happen.

The survey showed that Canadian companies are generally ahead of their global counterparts in digitizing processes in the areas of invoicing, contracts, customer engagement, HR on-boarding, new product development, and vertical and operational processes. 44 percent of Canadian respondents said they will have all seven digitized in two years - the highest across all countries surveyed.

“Organizations foresee a lean and agile digital future, but current business processes are still weighed down by paper,” said Andy Jones, vice president, Workflow Automation, Large Enterprise Operations, Xerox. “The disconnect between an organization’s vision and the steps required to achieve successful digital transformation has stalled the promise of digitization.”

Automation is top of mind
When it comes to automating processes, almost three quarters of respondents said they already have identified areas for automation. More specifically, they cite accounting (38 percent), expense reporting (37 percent), accounts payable (36 percent) and customer care (35 percent) as the most likely functions to become fully automated within the enterprise.

Yet the report identified a number of basics that many enterprises have yet to address to make automation and digital workflows a reality in key business functions. According to the organizations surveyed:

  • 40 percent have not yet implemented solutions for the mobile workforce
  • 47 percent have not yet added or improved cloud services
  • 45 percent have not yet incorporated or improved predictive analysis through big data

In many cases, digitizing or re-engineering paper-based processes before they are automated will lead to better results. Analyzing employee print habits, for example, provides an insight into hidden opportunities for digitization where paper use is high. The report also found that 90 percent of respondents said they have good tools to analyze employee print habits, but only half of them (45 percent) are using those tools to their full extent. Comparatively, 86 percent of the Canadian executives surveyed said they have these analysis tools but a third do not use them fully.

The key reasons Canadian executives said they are still printing documents was for hard copy reference (69 percent), signatures (65 percent) and sharing (48 percent).

Xerox has introduced workflow automation services as part of its managed print services offering to lead the way to greater productivity and digital transformation. The company is also developing automation tools throughout its portfolio to support its full line of business – including customer care centers, finance and accounting processes and the healthcare sector.

About the Study
In the second half of 2015, Coleman Parkes Research surveyed 600 IT decision-makers and influencers from organizations in the United States and Canada, as well as Western Europe (Benelux, France, Germany, UK). This research activity was designed to understand their attitudes, challenges and initiatives in relations to digital transformation and paper-intensive processes.

All respondents had responsibilities that included digital technology strategy, solutions and infrastructure. Industries covered were public sector, financial services and corporate enterprise. The full Xerox report on the study can be downloaded from here: