Guest post by Andy Jones, vice president, Workflow Automation, Large Enterprise Operations, Xerox

The latest findings from Xerox’s Digitization at Work report, reveal that less than 50 percent of IT decision-makers currently use processes that are mostly or fully digitized. We know more digital processes create a leaner, agile organization, not to mention financial and time savings. So why are so many of us still unable to part with the millions of pieces of paper which are printed across the globe each year, despite the fact that the majority of this paper will be used once, then thrown or filed away?

Speaking with 600 IT decision-makers, we discovered a clear discrepancy between the current landscape and future aspirations. Many foresee a workplace that is not only digital, but automated. And, we found 85 percent would readily identify workplace processes that are candidates for automation technologies, finance and customer care being the prime candidates.

Interesting ambitions, but these seem a long way off when you consider that 37 percent of those surveyed work for an organization which does not yet have a social media strategy in place, while 40 percent have not implemented solutions for mobile working.

If 2015 was the year in which digital automation gained traction across a wide range of processes, 2016 promises to be the year in which these changes start to bear fruit. What improvements can we expect to see over the next 12 months?

1. Get a visual on paper workflows
One of the biggest surprises of the report was finding that so many organizations (55 percent) are missing the upfront analysis of how paper processes are currently running. With such assessment tools in place, we’ll see more companies take advantage of the central configuration and monitoring of digitized workflows in coming months, much like how network operations centers currently function.

2. Analyze what’s going on
Processes are becoming smarter and advanced analytical tools will drive genuinely useful data about who is accessing what document, and when. Businesses should continue to evaluate to ensure they have the right tools in place for the right processes on a regular basis.

3. Share updates
Going forward, we expect to see more organizations take advantage of the real-time status updates that are delivered, using them for greater work tracking across various processes and ultimately, to change the functioning of that service altogether. For example, electronic records with ‘intelligent paper recognition’ are saving time, money and space for Luton & Dunstable University Hospital and leading to better patient care.

4. Scale out
In the digital age, there are many such automation tools that businesses can scale quickly to take on additional work. At present, 45 percent of those surveyed work for an organization which does not currently use intelligent automation technologies. Inevitably, we’ll see more businesses use software which can mimic humans by manipulating data, triggering responses and processing transactions.

5. Teamwork
With greater levels of analysis and assessment now possible, businesses will be closer to making the full transition into digitized processes. Handoffs between human employees and automation technology in a given workflow will become increasingly seamless.

Businesses must now take the steps above to move beyond small, isolated pockets of automation and identify new opportunities to implement more comprehensive strategies and tools that have the potential to truly impact the entire business. With so much potential for positive change, more businesses will make the jump into fully digitized processes in order to reap the benefits.