It was a just over five years ago that former Google CEO Eric Schmidt blew the minds of everyone listening when he stated, “Every two days now, we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.”
Whether or not he was spot on in his calculations is somewhat irrelevant, because the gist of it is true. In the digital age, we are producing new data and new content with every action we take on an electronic device—and with the world’s adult population spending an average of 8 hours and 41 minutes every day using these gadgets, the possibility of Schmidt being in the ballpark with his statement becomes very real.
The amazing rate of information creation is increasing exponentially with the universal adoption of social media, and the democratization of business tools such as marketing automation, Salesforce tracking, customer relationship management, contract management, eSigning, and many others. In business especially, leaders have had to adapt the ways they leverage technology, processes, and people to accommodate—and ideally, capitalize on—this explosion of content.
As a result, we’ve seen three trends emerge as the core drivers of major initiatives to address how content, specifically at the document level, is being managed and processed at companies around the globe.
As mentioned, the rate of growth of new content continues to accelerate. Knowledge workers in all departments are creating, modifying, repurposing, and building on content.
Marketing is pushing out collateral, sales is pumping out proposals, legal is drafting contracts, human resources is creating policies, and executives are architecting new strategic presentations. In essence, documents—paper and digital—are multiplying like crazy.
All this wonderful, essential, and often confidential content is being stored in an ever-widening set of locations. Locations that span from company networks, to business applications, to personal computers, to cloud file-sharing services, to mobile devices, to SaaS applications, and even to old fashioned paper.
In conjunction with the growth and sprawl of content, professionals are also changing traditional roles and processes within companies to stay competitive in an ever more demanding, dynamic, and accelerating business environment.
The result is new, specialized, technology-driven workflows that promote communication and collaboration between knowledge workers.
These trends are creating much value for companies; however, they also introduce new challenges that must be addressed proactively. Like any modern-day, technology-driven change in business, a significant upside exists for those that act swiftly.
Three of the most common challenges these trends are presenting to companies include: declining productivity, compromised security, and eroded sustainability.
Security is one of the top 5 initiatives for just about every company around the world. Documents floating around in paper or digital format create an immense risk for a company’s sensitive and confidential information. Risk is also created when employees use internet services that have not been properly vetted and potentially expose documents to an unintended audience. Organizations must address how documents are being shared, published, and stored.
Another top initiative for many of the world’s leading companies is sustainability. A significant aspect of sustainability initiatives involves a reduction in energy consumption and waste creation. The growth in content has unfortunately accelerated the use of paper by many companies. A paperless sustainability initiative can be a powerful step toward becoming a more sustainable organization, and cut costs in the process.
The good news is that there are several steps companies can take immediately to start managing these challenges.
These steps do not require lots of money, nor do they require lots of tech savviness. These are things that can be done in all departments within companies of all sizes—and the best part is, they will have an immediate impact.
— Provide workers access to the right tools. Do knowledge workers have access to a PDF editing tool to avoid printing and scanning?
— Eliminate paper wherever possible. Do knowledge workers have access to eSigning solutions?
— Create prescriptive collaboration best practices. Do knowledge workers have access to an approved collaboration platform?
— Investigate a Smart Documents Platform. Have you started to think about equipping knowledge workers with a holistic platform to create/edit documents, to share and sign documents, and to track/analyze document activities?
It’s fully expected that the growth and sprawl of content will continue to accelerate as professionals adopt more specialized, divergent workflows for their daily tasks. The manifestation of these trends will amplify the productivity, security, and sustainability challenges for businesses of all sizes, but there is hope for those organizations that take a proactive approach to implementing technology, adopting new processes, and training their employees.
Learn more about the challenges these trends are creating for businesses: