I did a webinar recently for a client, Nitro, a document management company that focuses on improving paper-based business processes with digital solutions. You know the drill, turn documents into digital images to route them around organizations and the greater vendor/partner/customer community. It saves time and costs, reduces error, and adds a degree of accuracy and precision to the mix.
You might yawn at this point and say been there, done that and want to move on to the next big thing in IT. But working with this company made me realize how incomplete the transition from documents to digits has been. In some ways the move has been locked in a time warp for a couple of decades.
Numerous companies have only made cosmetic changes to their document management implementations since they were installed. Documents might now be stored on conventional storage arrays rather than optical disks since the cost of storage has plummeted. But otherwise, the processes haven’t changed much.
One surprising result has been how piecemeal document handling is in many organizations. For instance, some employees don’t have the ability to capture e-signatures for important documents from customers. This results in the insane process of printing a document in need of a signature or sending it to someone to print and sign and possibly scan and return. Variations on this include using the US mail for the communication. Another gets the paper document back and has the employee do the scanning—days later.
All this sounds trivial but American business uses 12 trillion sheets of paper each year and printing documents that should remain digitized is one of the culprits. If you want to identify why all this happens in “modern times” go back to the cost of document management software. It hasn’t evolved much. Often a business still purchases licenses by the seat which creates the need to identify the employees who need software and those who don’t.
But the reality today is that the advent of document management was highly successful and changed the landscape. Everyone, not just a select few, needs software to capture signatures and participate in myriad business processes, many of which have sprung up since the first implementations of document management.
If you have ever wondered how software revolutions get started this is a good case study. They begin at the grass roots where theory meets reality and nimble vendors identify previously unidentified needs. Many businesses realize they need additional functionality for all employees but the costs are out of line with the benefits. The need in this small part of IT is for licensing across an organization to saturate users with the tools they need and can’t take for granted.
Interestingly, this is not about a technology fix. Instead, it is a story about entrepreneurship at the customer relationship level and it’s fascinating to see a company like Nitro innovating on pricing and licensing in addition to its technology. At the technology level, they’ve leveraged AI to help businesses figure out where in a business process, adjustments to licensing can improve things. This is enabling them to be a lower cost producer which is always destabilizing for an incumbent.
It’s unlikely this scenario will ever compete with the latest discussion of AI and machine learning. But if you’re an IT leader, your costs of mundane things like paper and ink and a general need to speed up business processes keep you up at night. That’s why even in an old market you can always profit from opportunities to improve.