The Digital Document Race – On Your Mark, Set, Go!

A few days ago, a friend and I had a lively discussion about what sets top athletes apart from the rest of the pack. Eventually, our chat turned to Olympic athletes. Reflecting back on the 2016 summer Olympics, a number of factors enabled the top athletes to win.
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Skill – natural ability honed from training, practice, and experience.
 
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Preparation – physical and mental preparation. Who can forget Michael Phelps’ game face when his rival taunted him prior to the 200 meter butterfly?
 
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Timing – their skills, preparation and support timed to peak for a specific event in Rio.
 
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Programmatic support – from their team, to their trainers, to their Olympic committees providing funding and support, the top athletes had the entire organization behind them.
 
Competition is a key element for businesses and these same success factors – skill, preparation, programmatic support and timing – play a critical role in business outcomes. For companies that produce critical customer documents such as bills and statements, a race is underway now – a race to leverage digital technology to optimize the business opportunity for these documents. Continuing on our Olympic theme, if 80% digital adoption is a gold medal, 50%-70% is a silver medal and 30%-50% bronze, what medal are you pursuing? What is your plan to achieve that in 2017? To help you decide, let’s take a closer look at the value drivers for digital documents.

For companies that choose to be second – lost opportunity awaits in the form of delays in digital engagement and customer experience improvements. Whether return-on investment is calculated in improved net promoter scores, reduced operating expense or increased brand equity, delaying digital efforts has impacts that affect your company. Of these, operating expense is the easiest to evaluate since it lends itself to financial modeling. Let’s dive in.
Operating Expense Model
Assume a company with 5M customers, a 0.5% monthly bump as a result of efforts to drive digital document adoption, and a $0.50 monthly savings per digital document conversion. The opportunity cost of waiting one year is $975K. Extend the period to two years and it’s a whopping $3.75M. Run the numbers using your company’s data. Do you see opportunity?
Technology
Looking beyond cost savings, digital capabilities are rapidly expanding, and value awaits as technologies and applications emerge. Digital marketing comes first to mind with its multimedia and interactive possibilities. Embedded links in digital documents provide the ability to leverage your company’s digital marketing investment with your bills and statements.

Channels
New channels for digital documents represent an area of both excitement and risk. Whether it’s a new digital file cabinet service or a new app for personalized cloud use, new channels will continue to emerge and your customers will expect you to allow access to their favorite digital destinations.

Applications
Accessibility applications benefit from digital technology. New applications continue to improve the lives of people with impaired vision or reading disabilities such as dyslexia. Not only are accessible solutions socially responsible, a competitive advantage in this area could drive increases in the customer base. Per the 2010 U.S. Census, 8.1M Americans have some form of difficulty seeing, and the Dyslexia Research Institute reports that ten to fifteen percent of Americans have some degree of dyslexia. And as technology provides better solutions, compliance to legislation may become a hotter topic.

Hopefully, you see the value in running the digital race. Should you go at it alone with do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions? If so, how will you keep up with new channels, new apps, and new technology? The good news is second-generation distribution solutions are currently available. These solution providers offer to relieve you from much of the heavy lifting and one-off development that a DIY approach often requires. With one integration, second generation solutions provide access to multiple channels and a path to new channels. They relieve you from having to continually go back to your IT department for enhancements to stay current with new digital capabilities. And like the race for digital documents, there’s a race for your business. Now is a great time to find promotional offers as second-generation providers seek to quickly expand their customer bases.

Ultimately, leaders must look at their particular circumstances and do what makes sense. It’s my hope that I’ve helped build the case that the digital document race is worth running and winning. Others may choose to wait. If you do this, do so wisely. Be prepared to defend your reasons and expect that at some point, a new technology will become available with strong appeal. Then, you may have to enter the race anyway with your competition far ahead of you.

Keanon Swan
Innovation evangelist, print and mail expert, digital communication transformation consultant

Keanon Swan is Principal Advisor at Cygne Advisors. Keanon is a recognized expert in innovation in print and digital communications and a strong advocate for environmental sustainability. He spent 20 years as general manager, IT Care and Billing Services print and digital programs at Sprint. If you would like to contact Keanon, he can be reached at keanon@cygneadvisors.com.



In today’s highly competitive markets, the pervasive use of smartphones drives changes in customer communications, particularly for Gen Y-ers and Gen X-ers. These consumers embrace digital technology much more than prior generations. For many, smartphones are woven into their daily activities – social networking, entertainment, shopping, you name it. 

As consumers’ acceptance of mobile technology widens and deepens, use of applications for personal financial management also grows. Digital statements and invoices may be leveraged to enhance a customer’s experience. 

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