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Stage one of the digital transformation journey

The first stage of digital transformation is all about understanding where the business currently is and what can be changed. You might find you’re already in this position when it comes to digital transformation and you’re looking for change.

Understanding your paper usage...

In business, there is such a thing as ‘good paper’ and ‘bad paper’. The distinction between the two is what helps identify where you really need to use paper and where it can be removed from business processes.

'Good' paper

'Good' paper is documents that have a valid reason to be in hard-copy form. Examples include:

'Bad' paper

You guessed it, 'bad' paper refers to documents that are in paper format but there is no real reason for them to be on paper. Some examples are:

It is possible for paper to be bad from one perspective and good from another. It might be that your customers prefer paper and it makes commercial sense to let them, even though it might not be in line with your digital or sustainability goals.

However, there may still be ways to minimise ‘bad’ paper, possibly by capturing customer letters electronically when they arrive and submitting them to a digital workflow for the next step of the process.

Wherever and however you can shift a task (or part of one) from a non-digital channel to a digital one, you’ll serve customers at lower cost, reduce time to revenue, and make communications more timely and responsive.

How a paper trail can lead you to the problems

Since your aim as part of digital transformation is to move away from print, it makes sense to follow the paper trail to find the processes that can be improved. The more paper-intensive the process, the more inefficient it’s likely to be.

Looking at the way people use paper in your organisation can help you pinpoint areas for improvement.

If you have MPS in place, it should be easy to find which departments and processes are using the most paper and analytics can help pinpoint exactly which part of the process increases the paper usage.

Further to this, wherever there’s a lot of paper, there is likely to be a lot of human interaction with it as it’s people who are creating and using all that information. It would be far better if they were doing more value-added work, instead of dealing with paper documents.

When it comes to following a paper trail to try and find the inefficiencies, here are some of the warning signs to look out for:

  • People annotating paper documents that are disposed of soon afterwards (remember, around 50% of printed pages get thrown away)
  • People sharing documents on paper when they could be easily shared digitally (this happens far too often and creates digital gaps in the process)
  • People printing entire documents multiple times to track or share a minor change
  • People printing documents simply to "keep a record"
  • Too much space, time or resource dedicated to managing physical paper archives (some departments might jump out here, for example, printing, managing and filing invoices in the finance department)

It’s not all about print!

So, you’ve done some investigative work to find the route of the paper-based problems, it’s time to dig deeper and ask more questions, but remember, it’s not all about print!

Here are some of the areas to consider and question in your search to understanding what’s going on:


  • What documents are at the heart of your business processes?
  • Where do they live, and how do they move around?
  • Who creates, owns and uses them? (Print analytics will help with this)
  • How and why do they start out as paper, spend a portion of their lifecycle in paper format or get archived as paper?
  • How much does it cost to process that document? How long does it take on average?


  • What data does your business processes depend on?
  • Where does it originate, and how is it processed?
  • Who produces it, works with it or uses it?
  • When does it end up on paper?
  • How many times do you need to rework the document when mandatory data is missing?

Business processes

  • What are the tasks carried out within your team, department or business?
  • How does paper fit into them?
  • How many are unique to your team, task or line of business?
  • How many are different simply because nobody looked for ways to standardise them?
  • What’s the lag in your process?

User behavior

  • Who prints what, where, when and why?
  • Is there a good reason for them to print it? (Is it “good” paper?)
  • What rules, conventions, performance criteria or incentives might affect their propensity to print less – or print more?

Using document workflow analytics

The questions above are all good questions to ask in your challenge to understand your company’s current paper processes, but you may need some help finding the answers. Document workflow analytics includes five types of analytics that can help you answer the questions.

If you have an MPS contract in place, you might be aware of how document workflow analytics are used. They can give you access to hard data on how paper is being used and can show you which documents and processes could be worth digitising.

There are five levels of analytics, each offering different insights that complement and build on each other:

You can learn more in-depth information about MPS analytics here.

Ad-hoc and structure workflows

Business inefficiencies can sometimes be found by going back to the workflow to determine the structure and sequence of the workflow. Some workflows have rigid structures and some are flexible and dynamic, but it’s important to understand the difference.

Ad-hoc Workflows

  • Used by individual knowledge workers
  • Promote personal productivity
  • Often focus on one-off documents
  • Make ad-hoc relationships more efficient
  • Variable number and sequence of steps

Structured Workflows

  • Used by teams or the entire organization
  • Promote business-wide productivity
  • Usually involve higher volumes of documents
  • Reduce cost and increase transparency
  • Fixed number and sequence of steps

These workflows might be some of the causes of high paper usage and analytics tools can help to identify if this is the case in order to put change in place. Once the workflows have been identified, the different processes and paper tasks can be targeted for change.

What could you change?

There might be a number of opportunities for digital transformation and change when reviewing your paper-heavy processes. Here are some of the common tasks and processes that can be digitised, but remember, it’s different for everyone and you’ll need to identify areas of change in your business:

Process Current state: instead of... Future state: you could...
Approvals Gathering "wet ink" signatures... Use electronic signature tools.
Customer Communications Passing customer letters around the organisation and archiving them on paper... Scan customers’ documents when they arrive, then route and archive them digitally.
Applications Offering a PDF form that respondents must download, print, complete by hand and return... Gather all the necessary information via online forms.
Education Onboarding New recruits (or students, delegates, etc.) report to a physical location, where they receive printed collateral and complete paper forms... Have students register online and provide all material in PDF format via e-mail or secure portal, so they can serve themselves without your intervention.
Manufacturing Logistics Struggling to run a supply chain using paper-based documentation... Use e-forms and electronic workflows to make processes more accurate and streamlined.
Banking Services Conducting onboarding and customer support via in-person, paper-based actions Deliver a digital mobile experience via a secure portal and e-forms.

At this point, you’ve understood where changes can be made and where processes can be improved, and now it’s vital that you educate the business and make a business case for the proposed changes.

The first step to doing this is to set targets.


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Target setting

What does ‘good’ look like? To answer this question you need to consider the policies, targets and defining metrics that will help achieve digital transformation success.

You might start with paper processes that you know apply through the business, for example, you might consider creating the following:

  • "When to print" policy (acceptable or appropriate reasons for using paper)
  • "How to print" policy (when to use color, double-sided, high-quality, use of cover sheets, when to send to a central print facility)
  • Archiving policy (which documents to retain, where, how long)
  • Recycling policy
  • Energy-saving policy
  • Overage policy – monthly hard cap, or per-copy charge if printing goes over a specified volume

With the idea of what good looks like and the policies in mind, think about the targets and metrics you could use to measure success. Here are some common paper-process related targets that can be achieved with digital transformation:

  • Reduction in print volume (such as by team, document type or individual; one-off or year-on- year; percentage or absolute; focus on print waste or duplicate printing reduction)
  • Reduction in consumables used (paper, toner)
  • Device usage; more users per device means a smaller print fleet
  • Energy savings, carbon-footprint reductions, trees saved
  • Cost savings
  • Reclaimed storage space
  • Increased use of scanning
  • Number of documents diverted from the print stream and handled digitally

Whilst these targets should be set at an organisational level, analytics in the understand phase may have shown certain departments, teams or individuals with higher print usage. For these people and teams, there might be specific targets to help them understand what they have to do to make change happen.

When doing this, it’s crucial to consider the role of paper and printing in these departments and that balance is key. Your targets and policies shouldn’t have a negative impact on how people work or make their life harder.


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Assignment Two:

Identifying areas for change

Identify three areas of change for digital transformation; this should include the process, department, importance and digital alternative.

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Identifying areas of change allows you to find processes to start digitising and set digital transformation targets.
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Assignment Three:

Setting digital transformation targets

Identify three high-level metrics you could use to assess your progress, and targets you could set for each one.

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Your targets and policies shouldn’t have a negative impact on how people work or make their life harder, but should give you an idea of of what good looks like and a way to measure success.
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