Why digitised data is key to improving business decision making 

Phil Keoghan, CEO at Ricoh UK, looks at the trend of digital data to explains why it must be addressed to gain a competitive edge.

As organisations across the UK continue to collate, manage and harness a growing volume of hard copy information, the big data phenomenon has evolved into bigger data – the digitisation of business critical, hard copy documents for business decision-making.

It is often extremely difficult for business leaders to gain a 360-degree view on all aspects of their business to make the right decisions at the right time when crucial information is lying dormant in physical documents. From deciding upon which prospective customers to pursue to the direction of the company, inaccessible or forgotten data could prove vital in making the right decisions.

Although there is widespread understanding amongst UK business leaders regarding the importance of big data, many are still operating with traditional ways of working while technology led change continues to accelerate. As a result their business document processes are limiting access to business critical data, restricting their ability to be more agile and responsive in the digital era. Recent research by Coleman Parkes commissioned by Ricoh shows that over three quarters of business leaders and decision makers believe they could have learnt from the previous economic downturn to help better manage the impact of the current one if they had better access to historical data.

Spotting significant trends and insights from historical data that remain archived as physical documents can prove a time consuming task. Hard copy data is easily unaccounted for as it can be difficult to find and is often fragmented across filing cabinets, warehouses, basements and even filed unassumingly in employees’ desk drawers. The sudden departure of a silo worker who predominantly handled hard copy documents could prove problematic for the business, as their knowledge of data remains unconnected to other employees that could provide benefit and duplications could occur. In addition to the time spent physically searching for the files, customers could be left waiting while more agile competitors benefit from digitised and easily accessible data.

By digitising hard copy business critical documents and optimising processes, businesses can gain even greater insight into their customer base. Readily accessible data allows businesses to learn more about their customers in a timelier manner, such as their interests and purchasing patterns. This data becomes even easier for designated staff to obtain and act upon as companies move towards full digital transformation by using cloud technology and offering secure mobile access.

Processes such e-invoicing show that the benefits of digitisation go beyond access alone. Lead times and costs can also be reduced. A recent Ricoh report shows that to receive a paper invoice costs the company £15.07 to process each time, versus £5.74 for an electronic version. To issue a paper invoice can cost £9.50 each time, whereas it costs £4.02 to manage the process digitally. Compliance often dictates how certain hard copy data, such as medical records, must be retained. However, just 8 per cent of healthcare leaders feel that human imagination or intuition is needed for the management of patient records, with the automation of administrative tasks able to free-up time and allow medical professionals to focus more on patient care.

By harvesting all critical information, businesses can increase business insight to build competitive edge for the future. The cost savings could be significant, as 70 per cent of business leaders believe that digitising hard copy documents would save between five and 20 per cent of their annual turnover, with half able to achieve a five to 10 per cent return and the other half between 11 to 20 per cent. Organisations prepared to embrace the opportunities of Bigger Data will find themselves more mobile; able to make business critical decisions more quickly than ever before, and crucially, enjoy the financial and operational benefits they bring.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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