Why Company Employees Won’t Let Go of Paper and Adopt Automation
The spoils go to the competitor that best leverages data.
Not to the company with the most data and not to the one with the highest quality data, but to the competitor that can effectively use all its data.
To that end, many in IT have gone to great lengths to automate and mine information using BPM, ECM, ERP, CRM, BI and other technological advances. Yet mounds of company data have escaped those systems, nestled on paper and tucked away in banks of file cabinets far beyond the reach of any software.
No matter how diligent your efforts, as long as the majority of company data remains on paper you cannot triumph in the end.
Few would contest this fact yet inevitably many people within any given organization still cling to paper.
The Paperless Fight
A recent study by AIIM Market Intelligence titled Process Revolution found that “despite the acknowledged benefits, a third of small and mid-sized companies and 22% of the largest have yet to adopt any paper-free processes. Over half report that 10% or less of the processes that could be paper-free have so far been addressed.”
The report cites the prevailing reason for data still residing on paper as lack of management mandates and the second most common to be staff fear, primarily concerning the reliability of digital files.
The lack of management mandates can usually be attributed to a focus on issues perceived to be more immediate.
If only 10% of the processes that could be paper-free have been automated, then the company strategy is missing 90% of the available information.
That’s like planning a long distance trip but using GPS only to plot the route from your garage door to the end of the driveway.
Staff fears, however, are not so delusional.
Indeed, a certain amount of training has occurred that actually makes them scared to release their grip on paper.
Take online banking, for example. Most banks cache only 18 months worth of statements online. Any employee who has ever used online banking and needed anything older either discovered the data unavailable or the cost of retrieval to be exorbitant. That’s terrifying when you think the IRS can conduct an audit going back seven years!
Closer to home, most employees have experienced lost or damaged files on their home computer. Some have encountered that at work as well. Most are also aware of the dangers of malware and hacking and may even have experienced such first hand.
In essence, they have been trained, albeit unintentionally, not to trust computers or digital files. Yet their jobs require having the data available for a number of reasons ranging from compliance to project execution. Failing to do so can put one in the unemployment line.
Is it any wonder then that they feel comforted by paper in hand?
The Effects of Mobile
The AIIM report found that “whilst two-thirds acknowledge the importance, over three-quarters have made no progress towards mobile-enabling their business processes. 20% have sound security reasons, 32% have evaluated but not made a move, and 24% haven’t even thought about it.”
This deer-in-the-headlights position on mobile actually encourages employees to make paper files to carry with them or to do something even worse.
|“Employees, and even IT departments, often try rather creative methods to access the files they need to do their jobs, for example using third party storage systems, like Dropbox, have become an option, but that’s typically considered a huge security violation by most enterprises,” said Anders Lofgren, vice president of product management at GroupLogic. “Worse yet, some even resort to emailing private corporate files to themselves as a way to get around not having direct access to them on their [mobile device].”|
This creates data spread which becomes a huge and uncontrolled problem that lies well outside of your automated processes. And it’s time to rein it in before matters get worse.
Here are real world ways IT can get management and employees to move data off of paper and into your digital systems:
1) Plot the mandates
|Don’t wait on department heads and company bigwigs to notice the bulging file cabinets and take action. They’ve been walking past them for years and no longer consciously note their existence (or else the cabinets are stored out of sight and thus out of mind).
After IT has determined which processes are to be converted to paper-free for maximum company benefit, meet with C-level management and seek firm commitments on actions and dates. This way you’ll have backup if and when you need it to push department heads along.
Then meet with each department head and get them to commit to a specific deadline as to when they will have all the paper scanned or will turn it over to IT for scanning.
Send reminders as necessary to the manager and offer suggestions that will help with the task. Now may be the perfect time to hire temporary help or add interns to aid with the scanning, for example.
Ask department heads often for their feedback on the scanning process and on automating business processes from their perspective. You will be amazed at how adoption rates will climb when people are involved from the beginning.
Also, if you can show how a system alleviates their pain points, rather than adds to them, adoption will rise in a hurry.
2) Ease fears and step the process
|Acknowledge employee fears with digital files and address them but avoid any appearance of mere lip service.
Instead, offer small steps that may prove reassuring in a real sense. For example, assure distrustful employees that the paper will continue to be stored for a set amount of time so that if they have problems with the new system, they still have the paper backup.
Educate those that are concerned that only signatures on paper count so they know how to deal with this tricky issue.
Last but not least, devise a means for employees to access their files after hours and while traveling. Once they understand the need to return to the office will be diminished or eliminated if they give up paper and use automated processes, they’ll be more inclined to cooperate.
3) Cut the work into bite-sized chunks
Everyone in every department is overworked and stressed out and the last thing they want to hear from you is a deadline for an overwhelming task they don’t have time to do. Your request alone can demoralize an understaffed department.
Cut the job down to size by bringing in a professional organizer or by providing organizational tips.
For example, suggest that a busy professional scan only a file or two per workday, starting with their own desk, credenza and file cabinets. It may take more time to get everything scanned this way, but compliance will be higher.
The same holds true for asking input on automating processes. Ask department heads and staff to make an electronic diary of quick notes on pain points, must-haves, and wish lists at the end of each day. Then ask them to email you the diary once a week or so. You’ll get more detailed information this way and you’ll get it without overly inconveniencing anyone.
There is one last advantage to getting the files converted from paper to digital and for getting input on processes from department heads.
As CIO, you will know more about the business than anyone else and are therefore well positioned to take an active lead in the company. Promotion just may be in the air for you.