Digital Transformation: Things a Digital Document Can Do that Paper Can’t

By Georg Tichy

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When companies are wondering whether or not to go through the most basic stage of the digital transformation, moving from paperwork documents to digital document management, there are often a lot of fears about how implementation and unfamiliarity with the new system will slow down productivity and potentially confuse the staff. However, the same things can be said about any major change, including drastically altering the catered lunch menu. The real thing that administrators and business owners should be considering about the digital transformation is all the ways that digital document management can enhance the efficiency of your business both in predictable and unpredictable situations.

To help you understand the drastic difference between a business run on paper and a business run through digital documents and software, let’s narrow the focus down to the humble document. All the things that can be done with a digital document, but on for which the original and every copy is paper.

1) Same Document Form for Drafts and Final Copies

The first thing to realize is that no one writes their documents on typewriters anymore which means that nearly 100% of modern documents and paperwork start in digital form on a word processor. That word processor saves a digital document which is then printed out. Though many companies who work with paper still think of a paper copy as ‘the original’, in truth, the originals of all but historical documents are now digital. The paper is the real copy and every time an edit is made or a new version is drafted, the document is created in digital form, printed to paper, and then interacted with.

Why not just skip the paper stage? When you work with digital documents, there’s no need to print unless a client needs a physical copy for a specific reason like pen-and-ink signatures or they request a hard copy for their own private records. Otherwise, you can receive, develop, work with, and submit documents all in a single digital form.

2) Infinite Editing of a Single Document

When you’re working primarily with physical copies of your paperwork, edits are not just challenging in that they must be done carefully and neatly. Every old copy will need to be tossed in favor of new print-outs of the edited work. Edits on paper are permanent or, even with hand-written documents done in pencil, require wear and tear on both the eraser and the paper.

Digital documents, on the other hand, can be edited an infinite number of times, revised, corrected, and collaborated on without an eraser white-out/liquid-paper, or constant printing and re-printing because digital edits are easy and cost nothing. Along the same lines, the edited document and the original can be the same file, ensuring that everyone who has access now has access to the updated version.

3) Clean Copies from a Marked-Up Original

Speaking of editing and copies, one interesting thing about digital documents, especially form-based paperwork that often comes in PDF format, is the separation between the main document and the data used to fill out each form. Rather than all ink on a page being equal, meaning that a document once marked up can never be used for clean copies again, digital documents can easily be edited and wiped back to the ‘original’ clean copy form even from a marked-up piece of digital paperwork.

4) Self-Generating Version Control

Version control in software and document management is the automatic record-keeping of every change made to a document. If, for instance, three different team members are working on the same project. Version control can be used to specifically identify who made each submission to get the project to completion. Version control has a wide variety of uses. Another example might be if a customer says changes have been made to their account. Your version control system can identify who made those changes, when, and possibly even include notes as to why made by the acting admin or the customer themselves. It’s almost laughable to mention that paper documents don’t do that unless you want to incorporate handwriting analysis and ink forensics.

5) Instant Sharing with Coworkers and Customers

If your business runs on paperwork and memos, then you’re no stranger to deliveries of messages, missives, and new documents to work with. Usually, this is done by someone having to actually walk between desks and offices to hand out updates or an office-wide meeting is called to pass out everything together. With clients, it’s necessary to meet in person to trade paperwork every single time.

Digital documents, however, require none of this. All you have to do is save and then simply share the document permissions with anyone who needs to have access to the completed document. For those outside your current DMS access, a simple email and share will serve the same purpose. No pritning, stamps, or personal delivery required.

6) Access Through Any Web-Connected Device

Even when you forget to bring a copy of a document with you or when you are surprised by a situation that calls for a document, you are neither stranded nor stopped. Though you might be out of luck if all you have is paper, a digital document that has been hosted on an accessible cloud location can be reached, downloaded, and worked with anywhere. You can read and edit from a laptop, mobile phone, home or work computer, or even a borrowed device. You can also share documents immediately with new clients and business partners or, if they’re not digitally transformed yet, go print out a fresh copy with their name already edited in.

7) Direct Links to Additional Documents

One thing that no physical document can do that most digital documents do already is links. With digital documents, you can embed a URL into the text of the document that leads to other websites and content. These can be anything from links to online research to links between documents in the same or different projects. Following these links is as easy as clicking and exploring, as opposed to tedious manual references, ensures that your readers can seek additional information and context if they wish.

8) Automate Content Creation and Use

Finally, even in the face of all the convenience, access, and streamlining that becomes available when working with digital documents, perhaps the best thing you can do when all your business data is digital is to analyze and automate. AI, enterprise software, predictive algorithms, and process automation are all making it easier for businesses to take on a previously unreasonable amount of data and draw truly impressive results. From sending out personalized promotional emails to predicting the next market trend, digital documents allow you to analyze every scrap of data in your possession and use it with modern digital business solutions.

For more information about the benefits of digital transformation and the steps to complete your journey, contact us today!

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