IT Leaders have a rare opportunity to create resilient business workflows in 2021

By Chandra Sinnathamby

Posted on 10-08-2020

As COVID-19 spread around the world in early 2020, most of my professional conversations were about business continuity. Nobody was completely prepared for the scale of the disruption and maintaining day-to-day operations, while getting a read on the unfolding situation, was the top priority for business leaders.

Now, several months into the pandemic, the topic of my conversations has shifted. APAC leaders have begun to accept disruption as a constant, and resilience has become a trending topic.

So what makes a business resilient? In times of uncertainty, effective leaders look for reliable ways to protect and unite their people, take stock of the situation and discover new ways of working. For me, COVID-19 has unearthed one key observation in this regard: Our teams and workflows are far more adaptable to new, digital ways of working than we may have thought.

Any CIO will tell you that the biggest barrier to digital transformation is always adoption. However, at Adobe, we’ve found leaders are seizing the momentum afforded by this period of accelerated change to make digitised business workflows the norm. Within Adobe’s Document Cloud solution we’ve seen a 200 percent increase in Adobe Sign usage since the beginning of 2020. Acrobat Reader installations are up 43 percent year-on-year, and web-based PDF services are up 40 per cent quarter-on-quarter.

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This move to digital document workflows will help keep organisations resilient in the short, medium and long term. Let me share some examples as to how.

Unlock business process efficiencies

In one local APAC market, research from Roy Morgan shows 32 percent of Australians have been working from home since the pandemic shut down large parts of the economy in March 2020. Unsurprisingly, the highest percentage of remote workers come from white-collar industries, particularly fields such as communication (47 percent), public administration and defense (51 percent), and finance and insurance (58 percent).

In Australia, working remotely in these industries was steadily rising long before the pandemic, but it is far from the norm for other APAC countries. For example, in countries such as India, the shift to the home office has been a major disruption in terms of logistics alone.

To take equipment such as laptops home, employees are typically required to sign agreements or permission forms to help manage inventory, security and responsible-use policies. For smaller, more nimble businesses, this isn’t too big of an undertaking. However, for bigger organisations, it can quickly become a significant pain point, one often exacerbated by cumbersome, paper-based processes.

At Adobe, we’ve been working with global professional services firm Genpact to streamline this permissions process throughout its India division. Using Adobe Sign and Document Cloud’s web-based PDF services, Genpact has been able both to distribute these agreements quickly and get them signed electronically across its workforce of over 90,000 employees.

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These digitised workflows have been critical for business continuity throughout COVID-19. Now that Genpact has implemented them successfully, it can apply them to other document-reliant processes, such as recruitment, to increase efficiency and make its business more resilient moving forward.

The cost of business-as-usual, paper-based processes

For CIOs, digital document solutions have rarely sat as high on the priority list as upgrading cyber-security solutions or moving an on-premises application to the cloud. Within many organisations, paper-based processes can be somewhat entrenched: there’s an observable, historical attitude of, “It’s not hurting me right now, I’m not going to fix that.”

The business impact of COVID-19 has altered that discourse, exposing the costly flaws of paper-based solutions and accelerating an important shift to digitised document workflows.

With economies in decline and unemployment rising, many APAC governments have introduced financial stimulus packages for businesses and their employees. One such package, introduced in Australia, is the JobKeeper program. It’s designed to help businesses affected by COVID-19 cover the costs of wages, so more employees can retain their jobs and continue earning an income.

More than 110,000 businesses signed up for the JobKeeper program within days of it being announced. With people’s livelihoods on the line, an enormous volume of applications needed to be processed in a very short time, and the human error inherent in paper-based systems could have serious implications for businesses and employees.

Similarly, organisations within the healthcare sector are also relying on digital document solutions to increase efficiency and speed to market for medication throughout the pandemic.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict compliance guidelines in place for medication testing and development. Whenever a medical professional signs off on a part of the testing process, they need to be identified clearly and authenticated at every stage. Throughout the pandemic, Adobe has been working with the Taiwanese branch of global pharmaceutical company Scandinavian Health Limited (SHL Group) to facilitate this process in a trusted, secure and efficient way via Adobe Sign.

For organisations, these external workflows are strongly linked to revenue generation. Whether it’s sales contracts, partner or supplier agreements or quotes, fully digitised end-to-end document solutions can help you secure and expediate revenue generation and provide a solid advantage in a volatile market.

Fostering simpler, faster collaboration

Responding quickly to change is a key characteristic of resilient leadership, and one that’s been particularly pronounced during the pandemic. For many businesses, this period has been an exercise in survival. And for their leaders, digital transformation is no longer a question of “should I or shouldn’t I?”, but “how quickly can I and what should I do first?”

Take the restaurant industry for instance. It’s been one of the most adversely impacted by the pandemic, with many forced to develop take-away options instead of sit-down service to stay afloat. This pivot needed to happen almost overnight, so restaurant owners looked to app-based delivery partners to help with the onboarding and e-commerce logistics.

Market volatility will continue to happen for the rest of 2020 and beyond. This is why now is such a crucial time for IT leaders to build business workflows that can adapt to remote working, save costs and support team collaboration in any working situation.

Digital document processes have shifted from best practice to business necessity for APAC brands in 2020. Read the latest report from Forrester Consulting and Adobe_._

Topics: Trends & Research, Future of Work, Productivity, Document Cloud, APAC

Products: Document Cloud, Acrobat, Sign,