Digital Transformation

Moving up the Cloud ladder from Paper to Digital Transformation

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The three largest Cloud Service Providers are Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Amazon introduced its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud in 2006. Microsoft launched its Azure cloud service in 2008 and Google introduced its Google Compute Engine cloud service in 2012.

In February 2018 Google disclosed the size of its cloud business (including its G Suite productivity suite) at $1 billion in revenue for the quarter. Amazon’s cloud number is at more than $5 billion in revenue (includes its Workdocs, Workmail, etc. Business Productivity lineup) for its most recent quarter. Microsoft doesn’t provide exact numbers for Azure Cloud, but said its “commercial cloud” lineup (includes the Office 365 productivity suite, the Dynamics 365 software, and Azure) produced $5.3 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter. There are also many small and medium scale cloud operators that include IBM, Oracle etc.

Ladders are everywhere and they come in many different forms to fit different needs. When it comes to the cloud there are usually three models of cloud service to consider – Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).

IaaS – This usually involves a monthly rental for the servers, storage and network devices you require as opposed to buying it and setting it up inside your premises. It not only helps you save on a large capital expenditure but also helps you outsource the management of the infrastructure. One can develop programs to be run on high performing cloud computing infrastructures. Examples: Amazon EC2, Windows Azure, Rackspace, Google Compute Engine

PaaS – This service is a rung higher on top of IaaS. Platform as a Service is the model of cloud computing that provides the platform on which softwares are developed & deployed. This includes operating systems, hardware, network infrastructure etc. One can develop applications and let them execute on top of a cloud computing environment which take care of the execution. Examples: AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Windows Azure, Heroku, Force.com, Google App Engine, Apache Stratos.

SaaS – This is a rung up on top of PaaS. SaaS moves the task of managing software and its deployment to third-party services. The client usually accesses the application from a web browser. SaaS applications tend to reduce the cost of software ownership by removing the need for technical staff to manage install, manage, and upgrade software, as well as reduce the cost of licensing software. SaaS applications are usually provided on a subscription model. One can use email services and extend email/cloud based applications to form newer applications. Examples: Applications like email (Gmail, Yahoo mail etc), Social Networking sites (Facebook etc), and customer relationship management software (Salesforce CRM).

Most business is already using at least one of these models by subscribing to Amazon Workdocs, Google G Suite, Microsoft Office 365 productivity suites, or Salesforce CRM and then bridging over to other Infrastructure cloud services.

The following diagram shows the management of computing environments in a ladder format.

 

What does this mean for the business that is moving away from their paper based document intensive processes?

  • Choose the highest value paper based document intensive process that you want for digital transformation.
  • Map the process to visualize it allowing you to identify necessary improvements to increase your organization’s efficiency. If you are able, develop a Proof of concept (PoC) in order to demonstrate its feasibility with the aim of verifying that the digital transformation has practical potential. A proof of concept is usually small and may or may not be complete.
  • Let the business process requirements dictate the technologies that you consider to employ. You may not need to employ a cloud based solution to achieve digital transformation. Process and technology assists may be all you need. Consider involving an external resource with experience in your industry that is also familiar with the different technologies available to automate your process.

Technology is only one part of a digital transformation effort. Operational problem solving, compliance, best practices, documentation and training must all be addressed.

Audit and Compliance

Compliance and Electronic Records as Documentary Evidence

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Compliance should not be looked as a project after a serious incident has made it a priority.  It is your responsibility is to ensure that your records maintain all of the organizational, legislative and regulatory requirements.  Meeting compliance regulations has become one of the top priorities of organizations as fines and lawsuits increase. Electronic records need to be organized and maintained to be easily retrieved and identifiable as evidence especially in the event of an audit, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, or a discovery in a lawsuit.

Records Management in the digital age

There has been a rapid transition of manual document processes to digital platforms. The key reasons for keeping records have not changed: accountability, efficient business processes, Freedom of Information and the Protection of Privacy, and the ability to reconstruct the past. It subsequently follows that the records kept in digital environments need to have a robust set of concepts and principles to support the new digital age.

Pillars of Compliance

  • Executive Level Approval and Accountability Structure
  • Records Management Governance for defined Roles and Responsibilities
  • Record Capture, Workflow and Management Systems
  • Policy and Procedure Document Controls
  • Records Communication and Employee Training Programs
  • Corporate Audit, Monitoring and Evaluation Practices

These Pillars establish the core concepts and principles for the design, implementation and management of policy, information systems and business processes allowing organizations to:

  • Create and capture records to meet requirements for evidence of business activity
  • Take appropriate action to protect the authenticity, reliability, integrity and usability of records, as well as their business context, and to identify requirements for their management over time.

Organizations need to take a technology agnostic approach to Records Management and implement best practices on more specific aspects of managing records. This means incorporating new principles – metadata for records standards, the analysis of business context and work processes, and to validate exactly how all your records are created, captured and managed in the digital age.  Sometimes that cannot be achieved solely with internal resources and your internal staff should be able to focus on their core activities.

The creation and management of records today can have far-reaching consequences to the conduct of you current business and affairs.  This will prove crucial into the future because without well-managed records there are no archives. The age of digital disruption and the resulting changes from it demands Risk Management in your organization consider potential liability from mishandling information.

Digital Transformation

Transitioning highly manual document processes to Digital Platforms

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Increase your organizations efficiency, competitiveness, and accessibility by transitioning your highly manual document processes to digital platforms.

Start with paper, but look Beyond it
Keith Corbett, Blueskies Solutions

Reducing paper is a great place to start. Where you have identified a place to eliminate paper, there’s probably an easy opportunity to go beyond this and improve the process itself.

There are huge benefits in terms of cost savings, efficiency, and compliance to be gained by automating document workflows:

  • Cost savings from decreased print-related expenses and lower transaction times
  • Fewer errors and less rework
  • Increased employee efficiency since automation speeds the routine elements of each task
  • Improved security and compliance, better auditability, and reduced fees for non-compliance

The actual expense related to inefficient document processes is easily overlooked because it’s spread out across many processes in the business. There are “traditional” workflows which are readily identifiable (eg. case management) that are high-volume, repeatable processes with process controls in place and “ad-hoc “workflows that an employee may not like to think follow a standard process.

A tactical approach I have effectively used when automating these workflows include;

  1. Focus on making people’s work easier. If it helps them do their job it will take hold. Pushing a compliance or standardization requirement causes people go around the new processes or procedures.
  2. Look for process and technology assists. What seems ad hoc at first often has more structure to it than meets the eye. Even when others don’t see it or do not know what tools exist there are ways to save people time and simultaneously ensure better compliance.
  3. Tap into unstructured information. Your existing structured documents and information are easiest to include in a new process or workflow .They are the right starting point but they’re ultimately not the most important. Make it easy to use the unstructured information (eg. comments contained in a form or the emails surrounding a customer inquiry) and you will get the most benefits from you transformation effort.
  4. The last piece of the puzzle is records management and compliance. Just making documents electronic and automating the workflow is not enough. Controls for your business records from their creation to their disposition are set either by law at the Federal or Provincial level or by your organizational policies. Include Financial, Privacy, and Regulatory requirements to your priorities when considering your digital transformation improvement.

Trends in the Workplace

  • Continued shift from paper to electronic formats
  • An increasingly mobile workforce
  • Strengthened regulatory environment- auditing, discovery, and information privacy mandates around electronic information.
  • An expanded awareness and adoption of document workflow tools
  • A growing preference for online interactions
  • Social media and enterprise social networks are becoming a standard element of the workplace
  • A resurgence of SharePoint as a large number of add-on products are now available. These include tools for document assembly, workflow, content management and searching.

Moving Beyond capture to digital transformation

Document workflows that are now online must also be managed and formalized to ensure your organizations information are;

  • Trustworthy
  • Reliable
  • Authentic

To meet this standard it is your responsibility is to ensure that your records maintain all of the organizational, legislative and regulatory requirements.

Performance and efficiency optimization

There are big benefits in terms of cost savings, efficiency, and compliance from a digital transformation effort. Sometimes that cannot be achieved solely with internal resources and your internal staff should be able to focus on their core activities.

Technology is only one part of a digital transformation effort. Operational problem solving, compliance, best practices, documentation and training must all be addressed.