10 Mistakes When Investing In New Technology
Two things consistently heard from clients are that:
• Their organization is under tremendous competitive pressure, and
• They have to find a way to deal with documents in other-than-paper formats, and to manage the entire life cycle of a document—from creation to archival.
Taken together, the real challenge is how does an organization communicate more effectively with its two primary constituents: customers and employees?
As organizations move to be more customer or market focused, they indulge in internal and external benchmarking and best practices. Often, the result is rightsizing or downsizing, forcing management to empower individuals and teams of workers to "do more with less."
Employees must find new and different ways of doing things, innovating and reengineering work processes that can't be done with existing resources alone. Partnering with others who can add unique value—outsourcing, insourcing or omnisourcing—has fueled a tremendous growth industry. And so the loop continues, beginning and ending with the customer, all being enabled and effected by employees.
The need to communicate more effectively—to reach the intended audience more quickly, more cost-effectively and with a more compelling message—is one of the most important organizational challenges confronting management. Digital document technology holds numerous benefits to the communications process—such as speed, customization and quality—but requires "stakes in the grounds" such as strategy, standards and compliance. To develop this path forward, organizations need to understand where they are, determine where they want to be and decide on the best way to get there, along with what risk, time line and investment they can accept.
Based on more than 1,000 transactions "from the other side of the table," 20 years of document-industry experience, and 2-1⁄2 years of doing nothing else but help organizations design their own paths forward, here's a top 10 list of mistakes to avoid when investing in new document technology:
1) START with a plan. Demand a "less paper" mindset. Ensure that documents are of high value and low cost (and not vice versa). Establish standards and achieve compliance. Strive to eliminate expensive "bypass" work that goes outside the enterprise. Involve key users, employees, partners, management and, yes, select vendors. Remember, most companies spend between 6 and 15 percent of their annual revenues to communicate (more than two-thirds do so without a written document strategy and plan).
2) Name ONE decision-maker. Establish clear lines of roles, responsibilities and accountability. Reward and model desired behavior. In the absence of a unified, cohesive effort, resulting decisions are fragmented, energy invested is redundant and it's nearly impossible to justify needed investments in technology, training, systems and people. 40 percent of every dollar invested to communicate is wasted.
3) Achieve CRITICAL MASS. This is hard to do without #1 and #2 as prerequisites. Make a disciplined choice to do business with fewer, more capable vendors. It provides a position of strength and leverage (to negotiate for benefits beyond price), lessens risk and administrative effort, and avoids the financial dilemma of over-purchasing/under-utilizing assets.
4) Move AWAY from paper. Paper dependency is directly correlated to labor intensity. Paper carries the added burden of waste, storage, obsolescence and integrity. Plus, it's slow and expensive. Committing to digital-based communications allows the shift from merely transmitting data, or sending static information, to enabling the sharing of knowledge across the enterprise—making what is needed quickly accessible. The most effective way to cut costs relating to documents, is to make less of them on paper. Thirty percent of documents are used even though they contain obsolete information.
5) REENGINEER (the communications) process. Functional excellence vs. functional integration are two very different realities that don't necessarily translate into great productivity or quality. To realize sustainable change, recognize that the cost of printing may be only 10 percent of the entire cost to communicate. Align everyone to focus on the 90 percent as much as is done negotiating with vendors on the 10 percent.
6) REENGINEER content. The most important person in the communications process is the receiver. Effective communication requires a command of who the intended audience is, what they want and need, and how they prefer to be reached. It may be on paper or in the paper, by e-mail or on the phone, using the Internet or on a billboard, in black and white or in color.
Achieving a consistent look and feel (across all media and every message) allows the personality of your brand (and message) to be received as intended. Digital technology allows for one-to-one dialog, customized and personalized initiatives, and knowledge and relationship-based decisions. Targeted communications can return $20 to $40 for every dollar invested. It can take as many as "12 touches" for the message to be heard and acted upon. Remember, only 10 percent of a company's interaction with its customers is live—90 percent is through printed and/or electronic documents. Make them count.
7) DOMINATE on the Web. The Internet is the de facto "receiver-dependent" medium. Its emergence has helped raise the level of importance of an organization's brand. Whether used for commerce or communications, the Web, along with intranets and extranets, should be a cornerstone of building a robust document strategy and digital document repository.
8) Be FACT-BASED. Measure what's important. What gets measured gets done. Certain bits of information are mission-critical to making the right decisions. Unfortunately, many existing "systems" and "metrics" were not created to reflect the digital and dynamic nature of documents and to do so on-demand. With emphasis on and investments in Y2K, the Internet, ERP reporting systems and customer relationship management, now is the time to solidify your future by ensuring that what you need to run your operation and report to your employees and management is embedded in these projects. How else can you be fact-based? How else can you truly communicate the value you deliver?
9) Get help NEGOTIATING. Technology salespeople negotiate day in and day out. Their companies invest thousands of dollars per salesperson training them on decisions you may make once a year, once every three years or once every five years. Numerous sources inside of and external to your organization exist to help you be a smarter, savvier buyer. Procurement is there to add value and help take emotions out of decisions on the internal front. Likewise, local, national and international associations, newsletters, and consultants can help provide relationships and/or access to benchmarks (for price), best practices (for process), an external, unbiased mindset (for perspective) and leverage beyond your organization (for long-term relationships).
10) Pursue WIN-WIN. The reality is that most vendors want what you want. At the end of the day that translates into: predictability, commitment to quality and continuous improvement, a long-term relationship, favorable word-of-mouth, the opportunity to serve and remedy mistakes quickly, all at a fair price. Recommendation: Choose to deal with fewer rather than more vendors. Share your plans and needs openly, in a manner that truly allows the prospective vendors to differentiate themselves and optimize the end-result.
Keith Nickoloff is a long-time friend of the in-plant industry, and serves as president of PathForward. He was previously president and chief customer officer of Pharos Systems, a software and services provider to the higher-ed, government and corporate markets. He received the Print on Demand Pioneer of the Millennium award in 2000 and was named one of the 10 most influential leaders in digital printing. Keith has contributed dozens of articles and keynote speeches over his 36-year career in print, where he started at Eastman Kodak before retiring to form his consulting company, PathForward, in 1996. PathForward merged with Pharos in 2009. Contact Keith at: email@example.com