Managed IT

Digital Document Workflow Explained

Subpar digital document workflow can cause huge issues for a modern SMB. Find out why these problems arise and how to solve them here!

Blog Post

11 minutes

Oct 15, 2021

Digital document workflow definition: The meaning of document management and digitization is chiefly referring to the methods and processes used to establish document workflows within a business that rely exclusively on digital means. This will typically incorporate cloud technology and automation to improve efficiency in document-related processes.

Digital document workflow has been an aspiration of SMBs for a number of years now.

The reasons for this have become more apparent as organizations start seeing the benefits of digitally transforming their work processes.

There is currently a laundry list of digital solutions and technologies that CIOs are attempting to incorporate into their strategies in order to take advantage of the competitive benefits that come from digitization.

Three-quarters of SMBs agree that digital technology was changing the business landscape and 48% are looking for additional ways to add transformative measures to their scope of business

Simplifying Digital Transformation at Your Small Business, Entrepreneur

Transforming workflows is an important digital trend which has taken a unique precedence in North America.

Related Case Study: New Document Management Procedure Helps Insurance Company Reorganize AP and Claims

Businesses in the region consume almost double the amount paper of their European counterparts.

While digitally transforming workflows isn’t just about replacing paper-based processes, there’s little doubt that the time and money spent on outdated work processes is a key driving factor for businesses.

Today, we’re going to be taking a look at what your business can get out of a quality digital document workflow and the kinds of gains to be expected.

Document Management and Digitization Meaning

Document management and digitization meaning: Document management and digitization refers to the same processes that make up a digital document workflow.

Document management and digitization can be thought of as the solution used by organizations to capture, track, and store documents—whether they’re PDFs or paper files.

When we talk about digital document workflows, we can think about document management and digitization as being the main component in doing so.

The Problems of Poor Digital Document Workflow 

Employees spending too long accessing information

As always when it comes to digital transformation, the key issue at hand is productivity.

Whether it’s manufacturing or hospitality, businesses of every industry are utilizing digital transformation strategies in order to streamline their business operations and improve their productivity.

Employees spend an average of 1.8 hours every single day searching and gathering data—that’s 9 hours per week that could have otherwise been spent doing something more valuable.

When you consider how much data there is in businesses today, improving the means through which it can be handled and shared is crucial. To put this into perspective, 90% of all data in the world was generated in the last two years.

And so, there’s an ever-increasing amount of information that employees are constantly having to sift through. In an organization that has yet to make use of digital solutions, this means a lot of time wasted by workers looking for what they need.

Information not readily available to employees

Furthering these issues is that in many SMBs, employees struggle to access data that’s not immediately available to them with proper document workflow.

This can be for a variety of reasons, but most commonly this is because departments across a company have different data management systems—typically legacy systems that are cut-off from the rest of the company.

This means it can be effectively impossible for someone in one department to retrieve data from another because they lack access.

Data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, 6 times as likely to retain customers, and 19 times as likely to be profitable as a result

Breaking Down Data Silos: Unify Your Business Data, Impact

This is called a data silo and they are a major contributor of inefficiency in businesses.

This is an issue when it comes to productivity, and estimates indicate that IT departments spend 80% of their time working on issues directly or indirectly caused by data silos.

Related Customer Experience: Software Robots Bring Advanced Productivity to Manufacturing Office

Dissatisfaction from constantly performing menial tasks

A study found that 22% of an employee’s time is spent on repetitive tasks. Over the course of a year, you can imagine how much money is wasted by workers spending time on manual tasks that can now be automated

10 Ways Manual Tasks Are Costing Your Business, KOFAX

Routine, manual tasks are common among businesses which have yet to implement digital transformation for their document workflows.

These tasks will typically revolve around data entry or routine data handling.

For example, you might find a worker in HR manually inputting employee benefits data, or you may be manually inputting all of your customer invoices and receipts.

These are instances in which companies have grown used to accepting these menial tasks as simply part of their business operations.

Related Guide: Business Processes Automation (BPA): What It Is and How to Implement It

The truth, however, is that these are often totally avoidable because of digital document workflow.

The net end result is that employees are frustrated because their digital document workflows (or lack thereof) aren’t helping their productivity.

They’re effectively doing a job that could be digitized, in which case they would be allowed the opportunity to focus their energy on something that needs a human touch, like customer inquiries.

Substandard digital document workflows cost your business money and your employees time. 

The Causes of Poor Digital Document Workflow

Data silos

Data silos are groups of data that have effectively been cut off from the rest of the business because they exist in disconnected digital locations.

This can be intentional, but is almost always unintentional, often as a result of different departments switching systems over a long period of time.

The end result of this is that company data is unstructured and difficult to utilize—crucially important for a modern SMB.

87% of organizations have low analytics and business intelligence maturity, meaning data isn’t being utilized

Gartner Data Shows 87 Percent of Organizations Have Low BI and Analytics Maturity, Gartner.

Digital transformation lives and dies by the seamless flow of information, and that’s what needs to be addressed if a business is falling behind in its ability to manage its document workflows.

Related Post: Breaking Down Data Silos: Unify Your Business Data

Any company that tolerates data silos is hampering their own productivity.

Here are just a few examples of the data silo issues that arise from poor digital document workflow:

  • Data analysis: Silos mean information is stored in different places, often as inconsistent file formats. This makes analysis for business decisions a lot harder.
  • Access: Permissions and access problems are common with silos. The end result is that employees can’t get the data they need fast enough, slowing down work processes significantly.
  • Unnecessary work: Limited visibility across a business often means different teams end up doing the same work in tandem, when shared access and the removal of silos would save time and energy.

Poor communication

Subpar communication within an organization and a lacking digital document workflow go hand-in-hand.

Related Post: Why Cross-Department Communication Is Essential to Your DX

When digital document workflows are underutilized, you can typically find that not only does data get siloed, but culture does, too.

Departments within the business begin to work independently, with their own data and processes.

Time and again, we at Impact have seen how important it is for digital transformation to have a strong culture to ensure success, both with our clients and ourselves.

By neglecting your document workflows, it’s very easy to fall into a trap where culture is inconsistent and divisions act with too much autonomy.

Time-consuming paper work processes

We spoke about how employees are often hampered by having to perform menial, manual tasks.

These are often to do with manual data entry jobs, but paper processes are another common offender.

Much like tedious data entry costing you labor, paper is also a double whammy.

With companies that predominantly operate with paper-based processes, staff have to spend valuable time handling physical documents.

This is in addition to the large sums spent on the paper itself.

An average office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of paper a year

Why Paper-Based Workflows Systems are Costing Your Clinic Thousands, GravityFlow

Companies like these often operate at the expense of a great digital document workflow, which saves time and money.

background of a clock with stats on top

How Much Does Poor Document Workflow Cost?

As we’ve noted with some of the issues above that come about because of poor document management, many of them are what can be described as “hidden” costs, many of which go largely unnoticed by businesses because they have a tendency to accept them as a constant.

The best example of this is paper consumption, with an average employee’s printing habits costing companies $725 per year.

Related Infographic: How Much Is Paper Costing Your Business?

When you consider that paper use grows by an average of 22% per year, paper costs double roughly every 3.3 years.

For most businesses, this kind of expenditure is becoming less and less feasible, particularly when there are readily available digital alternatives that can drastically reduce the costs of paper consumption alone.

When you also consider the effects that poor document workflow has on labor costs—namely that employees spend far more time than they should locating and accessing the documents they need—then the argument for a digitized document management system becomes that much more clear.

Document Workflow: Printing Cost Stats You Should Know

Keep in mind these printing stats when you’re considering whether you need to implement technology for your document management.

Printing is a common drain on a company’s resources, made worse by the fact that a significant proportion—almost a fifth—of printing material goes unread and unused by employees.

  • 90% of companies do not track their printing costs
  • Companies that use guesswork to identify their printing costs on average underestimate by 40%
  • IT departments spend an average of 15% of their time fixing print-related issues
  • Over the last 20 years, paper consumption in the US has gone from 92 million tons to 208 million tons
  • 17% of printed documents go unread


The Solution to Poor Digital Document Workflow


The use of robotic process automation is surging among businesses of all types.

For example, Deloitte reported that nearly two-thirds of organizations are investing in RPA in order to respond to outdated processes exposed by the pandemic.

The reasons for this are perfectly clear: utilizing automation saves a lot of wasted time and resources.

Here are some of the tasks that RPA can be used for:

  • Data extraction: Large amounts of data can be trawled to find what you need with ease
  • Data management: Data aggregation and curation
  • Operational activities: Logistics and operational support
  • Procure-to-pay: Invoice processing and reporting
  • Inventory and supply chain: Categorization and management

In short, companies that utilize automation to even a small degree can see drastic improvements in their digital document workflows.

hand touching a track pad, stats about which industries are investing the most in rpa

The cloud

Unifying your company data on the cloud is a vital step in the digital strategies of many organizations.

Last year the worldwide public cloud service market was $182 billion, by 2022 it will be worth $331 billion

10 Cloud Adoption Stats IT Decision Makers Need to Know for 2020, Impact Networking

Using the cloud to streamline your digital document workflows and improve access across your business is a relatively simple and effective way of upgrading processes.

Historical concerns about the security of cloud-based servers have been shuttered in recent years.

This is mostly because of the vast improvement that data centers have seen.

Tier IV data centers, in particular, are as safe or even safer than on-premise servers.

Advantages of Documentation Digitization Workflows

As we’ve noted in this blog post, there are a number of issues that arise from having poor digital document processing for information and data.

Rectifying these issues first begins with understanding that document creation is a key business function, and how that document creation is handled—in terms of capture, storage, and workflow—is crucial to realizing the benefits and advantages of digital documentation.

Here are a couple of those advantages:

Reducing reliance on hardcopy documents

We don’t ignore the fact that it can be a big change for a company to ditch paper-based processes.

For many, however, it is a necessary change to embrace digital document workflows to some degree.

Utilizing an enterprise content management system (ECM) can significantly boost the productivity of your workflows.

This will save you time and materials over physical paper-based equivalents.

It will also give you far greater visibility and control over documents and data that pass through your company, allowing you to dictate your workflow rather than the other way around.

Time Better Spent

With less time spent searching, storing, and handling data and information, employees are able to make better use of their time when document flow automation and quality document management procedures are in place.

This provides benefits for the company and the employee—staff waste less of their time while the employer isn’t paying staff to spend inordinate amounts of time looking for documents they now have instant access to.

Preparing for Compliance

Like it or not, compliance is a serious area of consideration for businesses today.

With laws like CCPA, SHIELD, and industry-specific laws like HIPAA, it’s fast becoming imperative for organizations to organize the information they hold in a way that’s easy for them to remain in compliance with the emerging raft of regulations coming into law.

For businesses that hold significant information on customers, particularly sensitive or identifying data, getting a document digitization workflow in place that securely stores information in an effective manner is a smart investment.


  • Poor digital document workflows lead to efficiency and dissatisfaction
  • These are caused by siloed data, poor communication, and time-consuming paper processes
  • Automation, the cloud, and reducing reliance on paper within your organization can significantly improve your operational processes and efficiencies.

Subscribe to our blog to receive more insights into business technology and stay up to date with marketing, cybersecurity, and other tech news and trends (don’t worry, we won’t pester you).


Managed ITStreamline ProcessesAutomationRobotic Process AutomationDocument Management


Impact Insights

Sign up for The Edge newsletter to receive our latest insights, articles, and videos delivered straight to your inbox.

More From Impact

View all Insights