Businesses today have a far greater array of document workflow technologies to choose from than ever before. While these solutions can be tremendously valuable in streamlining paper-intensive business processes, deciding which ones to implement and ensuring their effectiveness is a daunting task for even the most seasoned IT professionals — to say nothing of other key decision makers within a company who do not work in IT. A recent study revealed that companies invest in technologies from which executives around the company can benefit substantially but might not even know they have. Consequently, the value of the IT investment is compromised.
Because nearly every company relies on technology to meet its goals, it is essential that both IT and non-IT professionals are knowledgeable about the technology investments their companies make and how they should be implemented company-wide. And yet, a survey of U.S. professionals commissioned by Canon U.S.A. and conducted by Harris Poll earlier this year found a significant disparity between IT decision makers and non-IT executives when it comes to the value of cloud, mobile and digital workflow technologies.
For example, IT and non-IT professionals disagreed on whether they consider investing in the following technologies extremely / very important to running their business more effectively:
- Enterprise server-based document management technology: 84% IT decision-makers vs. 60% of non-IT executives
- Cloud-based document management technology: 79% of IT decision-makers vs. 47% of non-IT executives
- Digitizing paper-based information: 78% of IT decision-makers vs. 54% of non-IT executives
- Integrating paper-based and digital information into company databases: 77% of IT decision-makers vs. 55% of non-IT executives
- Managed print services: 71% of IT decision-makers vs. 46% of non-IT executives
This survey also delved into IT and non-IT professionals’ awareness of which technologies their companies are already using and found similarly conflicting responses. The IT decision-makers surveyed were significantly more likely to identify cloud-based offerings that are used by their organizations than non-IT executives, most notably cloud-based printing (68% vs. 28%) and document collaboration software (66% vs. 36%).
The non-IT executives surveyed exhibited a similar lack of awareness regarding mobile technologies. Although nearly two-thirds (62%) of all professionals surveyed said their companies support BYOD, the non-IT professionals seemed less confident in their knowledge of the specific terms of their programs. The study found that 23% of non-IT executives said their companies support all devices/platforms, compared to 57% of IT-decision makers. Similarly, 12% of non-IT and 36% of IT professionals said their companies only support some devices/platforms. As for mobile printing, 47% of non-IT executives said their companies offer this capability, compared to 67% of IT decision makers.
Four steps to ensure the value of IT investments
Consider the following steps IT decision makers can take to promote the use of cloud, mobile and other workflow technologies within their organization in a secure and effective manner:
1. Clearly communicate financial benefits
Indeed, money talks. As Canon’s survey indicates, IT and non-IT professionals do not always see eye-to-eye on the positive impacts document workflow technologies can have on their companies, but offering the potential and realized effects on the bottom line will help showcase value. Understanding and providing the financial benefits can motivate non-IT executives to provide the necessary support to IT in overcoming the challenges with implementing these solutions.
Illustrating this point, the IT decision makers surveyed rated the potential benefits of managed print services as more appealing than their non-IT counterparts, with one exception: the impact on finances. Of the study respondents, 77% of non-IT executives and 79% of IT decision-makers cited printing and related cost savings as a very or extremely appealing potential benefit of managed print services. Thus, IT professionals should communicate to their colleagues the financial benefits workflow technologies have on an entire organization by reducing the time and resources required to process documents.
2. Convey confidence in managing workflows
The IT and non-IT professionals surveyed by Canon agreed on the continued importance of printed materials: 82% said they strongly or somewhat anticipate a need for paper-based workflows within their organizations for at least the next decade. However, 82% of IT decision makers and just 56% of non-IT executives said they are very or extremely confident in their organizations’ ability to effectively integrate paper and digital document workflows.
IT professionals need to become better advocates for themselves and the essential role they play within their organizations. Not only communicating which technologies are currently being deployed, but also presenting a roadmap of future technological investments that tie into their companies’ overall strategic planning, will allow IT professionals to alleviate their non-IT colleagues’ concerns and bolster support.
3. Make training a company-wide initiative
Of course, simply implementing new solutions won’t significantly change the way a company operates. Widespread adoption is necessary for workflow technologies such as cloud and mobile to truly have an impact, which means that non-IT employees need to be aware not only that these technologies exist but also how they should be used.
A comprehensive overview of companies’ BYOD, cloud storage and sharing, and other capabilities should be covered during new employees’ onboarding process. Periodic training sessions to provide a refresher and an update on new capabilities should be mandatory for all employees as well.
4. Allow employees to make decisions about technology
Restricting the access that employees — especially millennials — have to cloud and mobile technologies might engender the feeling that their organizations are unsupportive of their work, putting companies at risk of creating morale issues. Providing a range of company-sanctioned apps and implementing software that safeguards the material being shared on mobile devices allows employees to choose the technologies that allow them to excel at work while still providing necessary oversight by IT.
Deciding which workflow technologies to implement and making sure they are used effectively keeps many IT decision makers up at night. However, making communications a priority is often enough for IT professionals to gain much-needed support from their non-IT colleagues and deliver a more effective infrastructure from which everyone in the company can benefit.
Dennis Amorosano is the vice president of marketing for Canon’s Business Imaging Solutions Group. He joined Canon in 1994 and has played an instrumental role in marketing of the company’s products and services designed for offices. Mr. Amorosano is a frequent contributor to publications following the office equipment industry and speaker at industry events. Prior to joining Canon, he held account management positions at NCR Corporation and AT&T Global Information Solutions.