Why document and process automation solutions will be at the core of digital strategies in a hybrid workplace
“Hybrid is the way to go,” believes Pravanjan Choudhury, CTO, Capillary Technologies. Founded in Bengaluru and headquartered in Singapore, the SaaS startup provides cloud-based omnichannel customer engagement, e-commerce platform and related services for retailers and brands. Pravanjan shares that the startup had so far been an organisation which was driven by people often collaborating physically in office set-ups even for smaller offices, outside Bengaluru. “This gave us high quality problem solving and great people to connect with,” he says. But, the onset of COVID-19 witnessed the startup putting in additional effort to adapt to being remote-first. “We had to change our processes, over-communicate with employees and customers to get over the challenges,” he shares.
However, with the challenges brought about by the pandemic and the realities of the new normal, the startup is looking at a hybrid workplace model.
“Remote work certainly gives flexibility and we have seen rising productivity when managed well. However, in-office interactions can lead to better creativity and people-connect which are essential for any high growth company. This is where a hybrid workplace fits in,” says Pravanjan.
The future of work is going to be hybrid
Today, conversations with startups, enterprises and businesses reveal an inclination towards a hybrid approach. They say that the work arrangement is not going to be completely remote, but will combine remote work and office time in an attempt to strike a balance between productivity and safety. The hybrid workplace set-up will see employees visiting offices to meet the needs of collaboration or decision making, while they will continue to complete regular work responsibilities from home.
Infact, a February 2021 McKinsey study on the Future of Work indicated that 20 to 25 percent of the workforces in advanced economies could work from home between three and five days a week. This represented four to five times more remote work than before the pandemic. The study analysed the potential of remote work across more than 2,000 tasks used in some 800 occupations in the eight focus countries including India.
Automation at the workplace isn’t a new concept. But, its need hasn’t been more intensely felt as it is today to adapt and thrive to post-COVID business realities. Today, even while the world attempts to return to normalcy, countries and cities continue to go in and out of lockdowns multiple times and social restrictions continue to be a mandate that needs to be adhered to. And, as indicated by the McKinsey study, remote work continues to stay.
Transition to a hybrid workplace
With strong inclination for a hybrid approach, the question that many are trying to answer is what will it take to make the transition smooth. “We have still been figuring out exactly how to do this. One of the ideas has been to give control to the teams to how often and where they meet for work and facilitate them with necessary options,” says Pravanjan.
For PayU, a fintech company with a significant market presence in India, the transition to a hybrid model will need to be directed to ensure that people will not be compelled to make any adjustment, physically or mentally when they are working at home or the office.
“The fundamentals don't change. The strategy should be around how the organisation can automate business processes and activities and not just focus on availability or failover of the infrastructure,” says Neeraj Chauhan, Vice President, PayU.
Office automation solutions
To simply put, transition to the hybrid workplace will require the business to build on the foundation of digital transformation strategies that is in place. The transition will require organisations to address three key challenges, explains Mr. K Bhaskhar, Senior Vice President, Canon India, BIS Division.
“First an organisation will need to convert printed documents into agile digital information. The second requirement for a hybrid work environment will be to invest in a secure cloud-based document management solution, with that employees will be able to access information and collaborate easily from home and in the office. And lastly, an organisation will need to automate manual work processes so that approvals/workflows are streamlined and information flows in a systematic manner to all stakeholders. Office automation supports an organisation in all the above,” he says.
Given that employees will continue to work from multiple locations, cloud-based document management solutions will make it easier to manage all the data and documents in one place and automate tasks such as classification and processing. This in turn helps to improve productivity by making it easier to collaborate across teams. Many document management systems in the market today enable organisations to go paperless by storing all of the data and documents in a single cloud-secured location. They also come with fully customisable permissions combined with advanced search features that will allow authorised stakeholders in the organisation to quickly locate and view the files within their purview regardless of physical location.
PayU’s go green initiative — encouraging employees to minimise the use of paper for day-to-day operations and managements — led to the adoption of paperless digital documentation solutions. This came in handy in the new normal and translated into an advantage beyond the scope of corporate social responsibility, explains Neeraj. He adds that improvement in documentation and information management areas have been important pillars in PayU’s digital strategy. “We constantly analyse and reconnoitre areas such as office automation in addition to compliance, process control, management reporting systems,” he adds.
Bhaskhar points out that organisations irrespective of their sizes, large or small, will have to invest in document and workflow management solutions as they continue to shift to a hybrid working model. Cloud-based document management solutions are also cost efficient, with many solution providers offering special packages for SMBs.
In addition to enabling access to documents anytime, anywhere, Bhaskhar explains that document management solutions also help in streamlining and automating process workflows. Today, cloud process automation solutions come pre-configured for popular business processes such as invoice approval, HR digitisation, contract management and are ready to use in minutes. In addition, for example, solutions such as Therefore enable organisations to create and automate new business processes. This end-to-end SaaS offering from Canon India is accessible from Canon cloud connected devices and is designed to enable organisations to digitally transform and achieve efficiencies through better information and content management, without the need for complex and expensive IT implementations. The solution classifies and indexes sensitive documents following automatic capture and extraction of relevant content in line with specific document processes. It also enhances collaboration thanks to digital approval workflows and fully structured and indexed databases. The benefits extend from strengthening information security and compliance to collaboration and all the data is stored safely on data centres in India.
Today, with the confluence of Data Management Systems and Big Data Analytics, the former will begin to play a more prominent role in deriving faster inferences and trends, thereby playing a key role in the organisation's strategy and innovation initiatives.
“It will also be interesting to see how organisations will leverage office automation solutions in the areas of data and process management by integrating it with the organisation’s ERP and CRM system to drive operational efficiency and customer delight,” shares Bhaskhar.
Accelerated adoption of remote working reimagined work and workspaces in many ways and has paved the way forward for the migration to a hybrid model at scale. And, here it will be compelling to watch how office automation solutions will go from nice-to-have to a must-have.