The events of the last year have demonstrated how digital tools and processes can help organizations operate no matter what the challenge. Yet one of the easiest and most well-established forms of digitization — the shift to digital documents and workflows — has been a missed opportunity for many businesses. A recent study for Adobe by IDC found that only 1% of organizations had digitized and automated all their paper-based processes, and that 32% of the documents used by these companies every day were still on paper. So what is standing in the way?

While there are many factors in play, the major barriers are straightforward. What’s more, for every one there’s a counterargument, driving home why businesses should make the shift.

1. Digitization is a smart investment

Some organizations believe digitization to be expensive, both upfront and in terms of long-term management and support. The reality is that the costs and manpower saved in no longer managing paper-based documents, not to mention printing, scanning, emailing, and posting them, are more significant. Streamlined workflows can improve productivity and profitability, with opportunities to minimize the delays involved in getting documents read and signed, and making the whole process more convenient and flexible for all concerned. Digital workflows also open up new streams of data, that can be analyzed and mined for business insights. The cumulative result? The IDC study found that organizations further ahead on digitization were, as a group, 45% ahead on revenues of those lagging behind.

2. It doesn’t need to be difficult

There’s a belief that digitization will be challenging and onerous, requiring dedicated staff. In fact, digital workflows are designed to be easier to work with and manage, making use of automation to streamline tasks and remove dull, repetitive work. Solutions like Adobe Acrobat Sign also integrate closely with Microsoft Teams, so that document workflows go hand in hand with other digital processes that many organizations have already adopted. With Acrobat Sign and Teams, you can even have live signing via video link, complete with face-to-face conversations with experts to ensure that parties feel comfortable with what they’re signing. Far from making these processes more obtuse, digitization can make them not just more cost and time-efficient, but more personal and collaborative.

3. Digital workflows can be more reliable

Many organizations still see paper as solid and reliable, while digital processes go wrong. If anything, the opposite is true. Even under normal, pre-pandemic conditions, paper documents were often inaccessible and could get lost or misfiled. Flood or fire also place business-critical documents at risk. Digital documents are easier to back up, archive, and safeguard, and can be accessible even in a crisis, where the office or centralized support services aren’t available. Automatic routing and tracking features give you visibility into the document’s progress and who has and hasn’t signed off. There’s no chance of it getting forgotten or lost. A recent report by Forrester on digital document workflows found that 72% of respondents agreed that digital workflows supported business continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

4. Digitization enhances security and compliance

Businesses know that existing paper-based processes aren’t ideal, but feel they know and understand them. They know how to store and secure paper documents, and how to manage them for compliance. Digital document workflows improve security and compliance by incorporating encryption, password protection, and comprehensive tracking. What’s more, with Adobe Acrobat Sign, you can use e-signatures based on an email address and a unique link, or enhanced e-signatures where the signer has to verify their identity before signing. Additionally, digital signatures carry the same legal weight as a paper-based signature, using a digital ID issued by a Trusted Service Provider.

5. Digitization is good for every size of business

One argument that crops up about workflow digitization is that what makes sense for big corporations doesn’t apply to smaller businesses. In fact, the costs and complexity of existing paper-based workflows exist at companies of all sizes. While the benefits of digitizing workflows in terms of accessibility, data gathering, business continuity, productivity, and cost reduction apply just as much. In everything from COVID-19 waivers to contract signatures, digital workflows can make the process up to 28x faster. Whether you’re a small but growing team or a larger enterprise, there’s a sound business rationale for changing.

To find out more about Adobe Acrobat Sign and how e-signatures could change your business, click here.