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A Simple Place to Start if You’re Lagging on Digital Transformation

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By Mukesh Bector

Digital transformation: we’ve all heard the phrase a thousand times. It’s a buzz word that’s been around for a couple of decades. Yet it can mean different things depending on the organisation that needs to change.

Digitalisation in a company selling insurance will be wildly different to one manufacturing and marketing soft drinks. And across the public sector, digital transformation will be distinct depending on the service being delivered. Health and patient record management will differ from the administration of justice or the delivery of education.  

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This means it can be a vague term, leading to wildly diverse levels of digital maturity across sectors and regions. While the concept might seem like a well-worn theme to some people, it’s taken a global pandemic to encourage others.

According to the European Investment Bank, nearly half [46%] of EU firms became more digital during the COVID-19 crisis[i]. In the Middle East, the UAE stands out as a digitally evolving nation. Yet these regions are behind the US, Singapore and Hong Kong, with some African nations lagging badly[ii]. But it’s not because there’s a lack of will.

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This has been reflected in new research into the topic conducted by Epson, in one of the biggest surveys of its kind posing questions to over 5,000 IT decision makers, users and influencers across 33 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

According to this research 89% respondents from Kenya say digitalisation will, in general, be a priority over the next three years, and overall, 94% feel it is important to increase the level of digitalisation within their organisation.

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But like many others, knowing where to start can be tough. In fact, achieving more digitalisation is a challenge for nearly 72% of the respondents.

Yet there’s one thing that unites every single journey towards a digital operation. And that’s the process of converting analogue information into something a digital system can use. In other words, to digitally transform, you must first digitalise.

This often requires shifting from a paper-based system to one where information – whether that’s patient records, rent payments, customer profiles or invoicing details – is stored and managed electronically.

The Doorway to Digitalisation

This is where the humble scanner comes in. It’s the doorway to digitalisation. The gatekeeper that launches most organisations onto their digital transformation path and keeps them heading in the right direction as they continue to feed information into a system.

Combined with software such as optical character recognition [OCR] that can ‘read’ a document and capture the information on it, organisations can enable the digital ‘eyes’ of a digital enterprise. Add to this robotic process automation [RPA] and artificial intelligence [AI], and the information can be extracted, manipulated and made use of in any way a business or service provider might choose.

The research found out that 89% Kenyans believe demand for digitalisation is causing a greater need for new scanning technology. A further 89% agreed that they need to invest in more scanning technology to meet their digitalisation goals. 90% of them recognise a key benefit of moving to scanned, digitised records is a reduced risk of data loss.

Taking the First Steps

All this begs the question of how an organisation can begin or further its digital transformation, and where do scanners fit in? Firstly, it’s important to understand why it needs to transform, how that will be achieved and what the outcome will be.

Once clear, leaders need to evaluate their digital maturity. What systems are already digital and what skills are already within the business? This will allow leaders to consider how to get the right buy-in from all levels of the organisation.

While a full transformation should be a gradual and ongoing process, one of the earliest and single most important changes a leader can make is to invest in scanning.

So, if you’re lagging and want to get a digital boost, now is the time to act.

The author is Epson Regional Head, East and West Africa.

[i] European Investment Bank, The 2021/2022 digitalisation in Europe report: The pandemic has made the digital transformation an integral part of European society.

[ii] Harvard Business Review, Which Economies Showed the Most Digital Progress in 2020?

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