THE PANDEMIC AND RESULTING BUSINESS CHALLENGES
Organizations are now obliged to operate under the “new normal” and as the world continues its battle with Covid-19, businesses are shifting their focus in addressing the challenge of being able to continue operations and serve its customers while protecting its employees.
Experts have various opinions on how long this new normal would last, but one thing is certain – we are in this for the long run.
Today, business owners are faced with the following questions:
- What can be done now to address the present challenges?
- What should be done as a permanent solution if and when the next pandemic happens? and
- How fast can we implement the above, and can we afford it?
ENABLING WORK FROM ANYWHERE
One key strategy in enabling an organization’s business continuity is the ability to allow its employees to work at any place – from anywhere, remote locations etc. using laptops, tablets and mobile devices along with web conferencing technologies allowing collaborations among employees, company officers and clients to provide continuous businesses and support.
However, one critical and important component is often overlooked – Business-critical information are usually found in physical documents which are kept in the office for safekeeping.
Likewise, the related transactions, such as contract evaluations, order and invoice processing, registrations, business report analysis, customer data, and the like are all done by passing these physical documents around for review, processing and approval.
Now, more than ever, businesses will need to take a serious look into a business direction which is usually set aside and taken with less priority – DIGITIZATION. Only after an organization digitizes their paper-based documents will they be able to fully operate efficiently and productively while employees WFA, without compromising the security and confidentiality of data thru management-set restrictions
THE DIGITAL OFFICE – THE FIRST STEP
Digitizing paper-based documents, and the succeeding process using digital entries is the initial step towards achieving WFA and business continuity. A digital office environment is more than just the internet, laptops and a web conferencing system. To enable full office digitization, the following digital systems need to be in place:
- Document Management System (DMS) – This software will be the central digital repository of information found in physical documents. A DMS allows the employees to store, search, manage and secure documents and the information these contain. An important DMS feature is the ability to capture data and information from uploaded documents. These captured information are then later used in digital transaction processing and reports.
- Business Process Management (BPM) Solution – Rather than processing transactions by routing physical documents, a BPM Software allows the organization to design the business workflow (example: approving an invoice) and go through with the transaction digitally and automatically.
- Digital Scanners and Multi-Function Devices (MFD) – Devices that converts paper-based documents into digital such as desktop scanners, digital copiers or multi-functional devices, tablets, e-forms etc.
The success of setting up a digital office environment relies on the implementation strategy based on how the business operates, the choice of vendors who will provide the right software and components, the resulting technical and service support, and the commitment of the management to the implementation of the whole system.
Here are the various deployment types of the above digital systems which businesses can explore:
For some businesses who prefer that no data should go outside of their physical office premises, an on-premise deployment is recommended. For this set-up, the business has full control over the entire system, including the server and its components. Though installed in the physical office, the systems can be configured to be accessed remotely from the employee’s home or elsewhere.
Businesses usually go for this approach if they have sufficient IT facilities (server room, local network, etc.) and technical support capabilities (system and network administrators and IT personnel).
On a business continuity perspective, this deployment type is the most ideal. The digital systems are hosted in a cloud environment, or virtual servers. There are no server hardware and software installed in the office premises (except for of course a scanner or multi-function device). The digital systems are accessed online, enabling you to work on your “digital office” wherever, and whenever there is internet connection.
This is the most cost efficient, by subscribing only the number of users your deemed necessary. There are no servers and software to deploy or maintain, and this has higher cyber security that other systems.
For some organizations, a combination of both cloud and on-premise deployments work best. This deployment type is especially useful in businesses which have a main office and several remote offices, including an employee’s home which may not be able to remain online at all times (eg. poor connectivity, inconsistent bandwidth, etc.). A hybrid deployment allows a remote office to work “offline” and when online, the remote systems can synchronize with the main office system.
WHAT ARE THE IMMEDIATE STEPS?
Given the present challenge and the available options above, the recommendations below will enable businesses to set-up a basic digital office system which can be enabled quickly, to address the current needs, and also as preparation for the business’ long term readiness. (Improvements can be done in stages to various level of sophistications according to the company’s demand and requirements):
- Identify which of your documents are “business-critical”. Usually, businesses revolve around contracts, agreements, employee records and financial records (purchase orders and invoices). Plan and prepare with these documents in mind.
- Invest in a DMS and select the best deployment type fit to your operations and budget. For a quick implementation, cloud is usually provisioned in less time – typically 3 days. Cloud solutions also ensure availability which includes backups and mirrored (replica) environments. If cloud is not an option right now, you may want to explore an on-premise solution which can be implemented just as quickly. A “software appliance” variant of these digital solutions will be the next best alternative. A software appliance is a basic server hardware which has all the necessary software pre-installed and pre-configured already and ready for use with a few implementation steps. It offers the same ready- to-use feature as the cloud solutions on an on-premise set-up. Budget requirement is also significantly less than typical on-premise deployments where software licenses, server hardware and implementation services are procured separately. If budget permits, going straight to an enterprise on-premise system ensures long-term use and benefits. Deployment and set-up time usually takes 2 weeks.
- Invest in a digital scanner, Multi-function devices (scanner / copier / printer) are the recommended option because these equipment are designed for high volume and are very durable. These devices also offer direct integration to a DMS.
- Decide on a “digital cut-off” date, which means starting this date, all incoming documents should be digitized at the point of receipt and uploaded to your DMS. Don’t worry about digitizing the back-files yet unless these documents are absolutely necessary for your business to operate. Otherwise, scanning back files can be done after the digital cut-off date.
- Select which data inside your documents are used in business transactions. Your DMS has to provide various options to capture these information from the documents, either manually or automatically.
- Decide if a BPM (Business Process Automation) solution is needed, usually this comes after most necessary documents has been digitized and the company is moving towards a partial or full automation. This will enable your employees to not only access information remotely, but also to process the data as part of operations while working from home. Examples are contract processing, invoice processing, employee on-boarding, etc. A BPM solution may be implemented later, depending on how critical the digital process is.
WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM STEPS?
Once your business has implemented a basic digital office, it will be worth considering to take digitization a step further and aim to digitize all of the organization’s processes. An advanced implementation will take some time, typically 3 to 6 months, depending on the complexity of your processes which need to be digitized. This timeframe will be enough to prepare in case a next pandemic occurs.
- BPM solutions can be used to automate all processes. It is best to evaluate the most crucial business processes and develop a digital workflow for each.
- If the business already utilizes other software technologies such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software which handles the financial aspect and operational resources of an organization, integration between these digital technologies, including DMS and BPM should be considered.
- Consider forecasting for storage and transaction (or user) volume. This will ensure that the system will be ready for long term use.
COST OF IMPLEMENTATION
There are various engagement models which can be aligned with your organization’s budget, aligned with each deployment type. Below are some figures which are all based on Docukit’s own line of digital products. Please note that these are approximate pricing only.
1. Docukit On-Premise
Investments on on-premise digital systems are treated as capital expense (CAPEX). The software licenses and server hardware are purchased once, with a certain support/warranty period. Typically, post-implementation support is renewed on a yearly basis with an annual fee.
Docukit offers 3 types of on-premise deployments:
(a) Docukit Prime Appliance (basic software + small server bundle) starts at PHP 118,000.00
(b) Docukit Ultima Appliance (advanced software + small server + scalable storage + back-up system bundle) starts at PHP 261,300.00 and
(c) Docukit Enterprise (advanced DMS software, no server) starts at PHP 372,880.00.
If the Docukit on-premise system is to be made accessible thru internet, it would need direct internet connectivity, static IP address, domain registrations, security), support personnel (system admins) and electricity. Back-up systems are also a must!
Among these on-premise options, Docukit Prime and Docukit Ultima are the most practical, portable and affordable ready-to-use DMS solutions which can be implemented quickly.
2. Docukit Cloud
This implementation is usually an operational expense (OPEX) and no CAPEX is involved. Cloud solutions are subscription-based and are billed monthly or yearly. Included in the subscription fee is the use of the software along with technical support.
For purposes of indicative costing, a typical subscription starts at PHP 5,000.00 one-time set up fee, and PHP 15,000.00 monthly fee for 15 users (minimum users required for private cloud). Private cloud implementation is where the entire system’s resources (software and virtual servers) are exclusive and dedicated to your organization only.
Also consider adding an average 50 Mbps fiber internet service subscription from a telco provider.
3. Custom BPM Applications – moving towards Business Process Automation
Investment cost for more advanced implementations vary depending on the scope and complexity of the project. This is usually billed based on a combination of software licenses, hardware and service manhours to be rendered by the implementor.
The business world has always been challenged to adapt to changes. Now, businesses are forced to change the way they operate. Various options are made available to help businesses adjust quickly, allowing them to implement fast, short-term and low investment solutions, while at the same time preparing for a full and long-term digitization implementation. Digitization used to be considered as a means to boost efficiency and productivity. Now, it has become a necessity.
Docukit provides all of the above digital solution options, including implementation and consultancy to help your business transform and adapt to the changes in today’s business environment.
If you want to assess further your company’s ability to Work-From-Anywhere, the following questionnaire will guide you.
WORK FROM ANYWHERE (WFA) QUESTIONNAIRE