According to the forecast of International Data Corporation (IDC), in 2022 organizations will spend $1.97 trillion on the technologies and services that enable the digital transformation of their business processes and products. The centerpiece of digital transformation, the digital workplace will also attract substantial investment: its market is to grow from $13.4 billion in 2018 to $35.7 billion by 2023, says Research and Markets.

The digital workplace itself is a broad concept that embraces everything from devices and solutions implemented in an organization to the way employees perform their everyday working duties. If you focus on the tech level of the digital workplace, you will find that it can’t exist without document management solutions. 2018 State of the Digital Workplace says that for organizations with 500–2,000 employees, document management (DM) is the most important digital workplace technology. In enterprises with 50K+ employees on board, document management is rated the second or third in importance, right after knowledge management, corporate intranets, and collaboration tools.

It isn’t surprising that organizations give so much credit to document management because DM solutions help them address critical digital transformation challenges. In this article, we will take the example of one of the most popular solutions for enterprise document management–SharePoint, and explain how it helps organizations in their digital change.

How does SharePoint document management foster digital transformation?

As an enterprise-wide process, document management automation allows cultivating the digital habit in all employees at once, while contributing to the digital transformation of the core organizational processes. When organizations go for SharePoint consulting in order to implement SharePoint-based document management, they have all chances to go far beyond mere document digitization. Above all, they can use the platform as the key driver of the organizational digital evolution, while addressing at least five common pitfalls of digital transformation.

1. Breaking document silos

Decentralized content storage represents a great challenge for organizations that strive for creating a unified digital environment. If paper documents continue circulating in enterprises and employees keep using their personal document repositories and file sharing services, no one is guaranteed against possible confusion. What’s worse, it is impossible to make document management processes transparent or build up a coherent content field where all employees rely on a single source of truth.

With a centralized SharePoint document management system (DMS), organizations can ensure a single classified repository for all business-critical content. Depending on employees’ roles and established business processes, a document can be available either to all employees or to a limited group. Users don’t have to register in third-party systems or search for secure file sharing and storage apps because they can manage the entirety of their documents in SharePoint. With the capability to host up to 30 million items per library, the platform can become home for truly large document storages.

It’s also a suitable solution for those companies that deal with diverse or rare document formats, which usually pushes employees to use specific third-party software. SharePoint supports up to 250 different file formats, so there is no more need in any additional stand-alone applications to enable employees to work on their AutoCAD drafts, .odt files, Photoshop-based surveys, or zipped documents.

2. Eliminating document chaos

The Igloo’s infographic ‘The State of Digital Workplace 2018’ shows that 32% of employees avoid sharing a document with a colleague because it is difficult to find, while 23% of users say that it takes them 5–10 minutes to find the latest version of the needed document.

These stats prove that even those companies that have already switched to digital documents can experience messy document management. Why? Because digital transformation is not only about turning documents into digital form but also about bringing in a centralized solution to minimize possible chaos.

SharePoint addresses potential issues with the document jumble in several ways:

• The system of folders and libraries allows users to organize well-structured document repositories where documents can be saved according to their formats, topics, or projects.
• Document versioning helps SharePoint users to preserve the document history. It represents multiple versions of a document and enables users to go back to any previous version of a document if needed.
• Document cloning alerts prevent users from uploading a similar document, thus avoiding their duplication.
• Document metadata contains all the info about a document, including its creation/modification date, author, size, topic, etc. Every company can decide on how detailed metadata should be.
• Document search enables users to find a needed document across all available document repositories on all SharePoint sites.

3. Erasing document collaboration barriers

Ensuring barrier-free enterprise-wide collaboration is another great objective to achieve. As long as employees use different solutions and there is no clear strategy on document-based collaboration, organizations cannot expect their employees to have effective teamwork.

By using SharePoint for document management, companies can eliminate the existing boundaries that impede collaboration flow.

• Enabling coworking capabilities. An organization that implements a SharePoint DMS can offer a unified repository for all the corporate documents, as well as enable employees to work on them with their peers. Users can work with the same document through co-authoring features both online and offline, share it, leave comments, and ask for feedback from their peers.
• Diversifying collaboration formats. Apart from working simultaneously on the document, employees also get different tools for further collaboration on a document. They can discuss it on SharePoint-based discussion boards, or switch to team and communication sites. If the company runs a comprehensive Office 365 subscription, then employees have even more collaboration options, including Microsoft Teams, Yammer, and Office 365 groups.
• Ensuring remote collaboration. Remote work capabilities stay obligatory for successful digital transformation. As a feature-rich collaboration solution, SharePoint enables employees to stay tuned to document collaboration remotely regardless of the device they use or their physical location.

4. Preventing scattered and stalled document workflows

When digital transformation enters a company, it always meets discordant workflows that are impossible to unify without a dedicated system. Luckily, SharePoint comes with a pre-built set of workflows that let organizations arrange well-controlled document-centric processes. Out-of-the-box Approval, Collect Feedback, and Collect Signature workflows enable employees to involve their peers without the need to meet them in person.

Depending on the organizational needs, document workflows can be customized to cover specific business requirements and sophisticated document paths. It not only brings more transparency to the overall document flow in an organization but also minimizes employees’ effort spent on document cycles. Beyond that, it reduces the risk of mistakes during the document workflow itself as well as allows identifying document bottlenecks and resolving them quickly.

5. Nurturing the digital culture

SharePoint is a tried-and-tested system that has existed on the market for almost 20 years. Thanks to its long history, the platform is now well adapted to different enterprise environments and various collaboration scenarios at organizations of all sizes. Under smart governance, the platform can change employees’ working style by making them get used to managing everything in a digital environment.
Starting with document management automation, companies can then expand the SharePoint-based digital transformation to other enterprise processes and staff’s activities. It will also help train the employees’ new mindset and the working style.

Your digital transformation strategy is king

With all the bright capabilities of driving digital transformation through SharePoint document management, we still have to face the truth: SharePoint alone can’t lead you to success in a blink of an eye. Even with a well-tuned SharePoint document management system, there is a big chance that employees will stick to the decentralized way of document management and old collaboration habits. To prevent that, a company needs to implement a unified document management strategy built around a dedicated solution. Corporate policies also should standardize the document management process and define the optimal ways for employees to create, store, and share corporate documents.

Information about the author

Sandra Lupanova is a Technology Observer at Iflexion, a custom software development company headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Being an expert in team and enterprise collaboration technologies, Sandra guides companies towards effective employee engagement and productivity practices. She has a unique perspective on talent management strategies and offers hands-on tips on improving enterprise-to-employee relationships. Sandra is also keen on data visualization, art, and design.

About the author 

Sandra Lupanava