Digital documents are essential in the age of the remote workforce

Organizations must accept today's realities of virtual work, and that means making a complete transition to digitized documents, according to new research from Forrester.

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Image: iStock/Simonkolton

This year's massive upheaval of the workforce has laid clear how critical it is for the enterprise to accelerate a process that was slowly developing pre-pandemic, but became a top priority: Digital documents. It's unfair to depict an organization still reliant on creating a paper trail as outmoded, but it's a description that will surely haunt the business that hasn't stepped up to meet customers' demands and to remain competitive. Forrester research commissioned by Adobe revealed that in the adjustment to the new realities of today's work, and to stay productive while still meeting security and legal requirements, digital documentation defines the core of remote work today.

The Forrester research identified four key findings from interviews the company conducted with 450 senior IT and business decision-makers.

Range of new workplace practices must be implemented

The enterprise had to make a lightning quick transition from office-based staff to a fully functional remote workforce thanks to COVID-19, and it was a disruption to an organization's daily practices.

Critically, the shift disrupted the way staff works with documents and presented new challenges; 97% of businesses "with minimal digital document processes are seeing a negative impact on employee productivity," the Forrester research found. The percentage is five times more than the negative impact of processes within organizations that were already digitally advanced.

The research cited that an Adobe customer, the State of Utah, sent an edict to all divisions across the state to adopt Adobe Sign, which can address the high volumes of contracts and other approval processes. Because residents received responses within hours, as opposed to the expected days or weeks, it new-normalized government resiliency.

SEE: Can AI replace human decision-making? Most companies say no, but it can help (TechRepublic) 

Strategic necessity: Finding solutions in digital documentation

While nearly one-third of businesses haven't given staff tools to assist or improve virtual work, 60% of respondents plan to implement them within the next 12 months. While it's a hit to their budgets--Forrester estimates an increase of 55% for digital processes and tools--it's critical to operating a business, not just throughout the COVID-19 "recovery phase," but beyond. 

The digital document solutions that were once a supplemental perk will become standard operational procedure. Forrester cites an example of business Adobe did with the City of Seattle, in which e-signature transactions "increased substantially throughout the pandemic."

Win-win: Risk is mitigated, revenue increased

There's staying power in the use of digital documents, as 82% of organizations that are dedicated to only digital documents said their business will survive the pandemic. Conversely, organizations without digital processing are 10-times more likely to report at-risk customers and twice the at-risk revenue

Long-term improvement of CX and EX

Forrester said 63% of businesses said digital document processes enable them to better serve their customers (CX, customer experience) and meet expectations. 

Employees (EX, employee experience, 66%) indicated they'd like more digital alternatives for daily assignments, now, as COVID-19 continues to rage, and when it subsides. 

There's little doubt that digital processes will be adopted and fast-tracked, as a return to the office is unclear. Forrester stated, "Even as we get closer to that light at the end of the tunnel, the research suggests that companies see digitization as the standard moving forward to delight their customers and build a modern workplace."

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