What is Going to be the future of Documents?

Remember when closing an agreement meant that your team had to go through each page of a paper contract with a client, have them initial or sign by hand, then scan and email it back and forth? Thanks to the emergence of e-signature software, those days are gone.

E-signatures are already having a direct impact on the productivity of companies in a variety of ways. In fact, back in 2013, Ombud Research surveyed United Healthcare and found adopting a paperless e-signature process saved the company more than $1 million in administration costs. The provider-contract turnaround was also significantly reduced, going from an average of 32.5 days to only 2.

Others are seeing benefits, too. Salesforce declared in its annual 2014 report an average savings of $20 per document after implementing electronic signing.

As more businesses realize the benefits of document automation technology, adoption rates will grow, furthering development. Business leaders who don’t adopt this technology soon will be left behind with an outdated process that impedes growth.

To keep up, here’s what’s ahead in document automation:

1. E-signatures will become fully commoditized.

Since the passing of the Electronic Signatures In Global And National Commerce (ESIGN) Act in 2000, signing all agreements on paper is no longer necessary. Electronic signatures for e-commerce agreements are legally binding and protected by the same rights as ink on paper. E-signatures are already increasing in popularity because of their convenience, and in a few years, they will be widely accepted as a transactional commodity.

As adoption grows, the demands for functionality in e-sign tools will grow, too. Signing will move beyond even some of today’s e-signature software features, like uploading a saved image of your personal signature or converting your typed name to script. Eventually, signing won’t require any typing. You’ll be able to sign with a voice command.

2. The use of enterprise automation platforms will expand.

Research from Raab Associates predicted revenue from B2B marketing automation would grow 60 percent last year, reaching $1.2 billion. The adoption of enterprise automation platforms will continue to increase as more companies experience the benefits: faster sales cycles and streamlined collaboration.

In fact, 58 percent of top-performing companies — or those where marketing contributes more than half of the sales pipeline — have already adopted marketing automation, according to a 2014 Forrester report. As marketing automation grows, businesses will be able to process more documents quickly, enabling growth.

B2B growth affects the document landscape, too. Sales is most innovative and efficient when it comes to adopting new technology. In fact, high-performing sales teams are the first to embrace new tech tools to streamline the sales process, with 44 percent using offer management tools, according to Salesforce’s 2015 State of Sales Report.

The rate at which sales grows will serve as a predictor of overall growth.

3. Document assembly will be entirely cloud-based.

Today, most sales documents are created and stored locally, either in PDFs or word processing programs. Creating and storing content in the cloud is a relatively new practice for many companies, but with the increased need to be always connected we’ll see a shift to cloud-based content, which can be accessed from any computer or mobile device.

Cloud-based office suites like Google Docs will be standard, almost entirely replacing word processing software. Compatibility will no longer be an issue, as it was with different versions of word processing documents, which will completely alter the day-to-day experience of people who work with documents. The ability to share and edit documents instantly will support tight deadlines and increase expectations for productivity.

4. Integrations will make projects seamless.

Bringing together data from separate systems that don’t otherwise talk to one another results in one complete view of the entire process. Several CRM integrations have already been developed among various document creation and storage platforms to import and keep track of customer data seamlessly.

Open API will continue to provide a vehicle for people to access and share data regardless of where or how it is stored. Extra steps of printing, signing, and scanning will be completely eliminated.

5. Processing and payment will be instant.

With the increased demand for integrations, there will be no need to upload documents into any system for approvals, payment processing, and storage; cloud-based app integrations will take care of that. Not only will it enable instant credit card transactions, but management approval will be simplified through automated requests managers can view and approve anywhere via mobile device.

Payments will be processed instantly within the document itself through integration with tools like Square andPayPal. Eventually, with the rise of virtual currencies like Bitcoin, smart documents will be able to accept payments, completely cutting out the middleman.

Once documents are processed, they’ll be automatically saved and uploaded right into the integrated cloud storage system of your choice. With a few keywords in the search bar, anyone from the team will be able to pull transaction and approval records immediately.

Even if you’re already using a document automation platform, think about areas of opportunity you could be missing. Many of the features that will be the norm in a couple of years are already available; they’re just not yet widely used. Look at how making some simple changes now might give your organization a head start on better sales efficiency.

What are some other changes you expect to see coming from document automation and e-signature software in the next few years?


Creating a Company Culture Where Ideas are Encouraged

Illuminated light bulb in a row of dim ones concept for creativity, innovation and solution
By Ron Thomas – SAP

The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued. — Sir Ken Robinson

I came across this powerful quote the other day and it stopped me in my tracks.

It brought me back to a time-honoured session that I would always roll my eyes at — the brainstorming sessions that no one wanted to be a part of. It’s when everyone is sitting around the table with their minds running at warp speed trying to come up with a great “idea.”

Are you ignoring ideas?

Yet, this leader knew that this was the way that we are going to innovate. But he ignored the vast majority of ideas because they did not come from his most favoured people in the room.

There was a commercial years ago that played out this scenario.

You had a room full of people, all looking bored. There was one “slacker” in the group who came up with an idea. However, it was as if he was not even in the room.

Dead silence. No one listened, and they basically ignored him.

The staid organization

But when the most chosen one spoke out with the same insight, verbatim, it was as if the river parted. The prodigal son had spoken. The leader went on and on about how brilliant that idea was. Meanwhile, everyone’s gaze went to the overlooked young “slacker,” and they all just shrugged their shoulders.

In real-life company culture, however, everyone can have ideas and they should be as valued, whether you are on the lowest rung of the ladder or up near the top (see my tips on five things you should do to help your career growth). This new generation of worker has numerous ideas about the workplace that organisations should pay heed to.

As I give speeches to college campuses across the Middle East (I’m based in Dubai), I am amazed by what I hear in the Q&A sessions and the overall level of discussion. I always end by saying I can’t wait for them to infiltrate all these staid organisation because they will bring change. They will liven up any “BS” session.

The big question: Will they be heard?

However, there is no need for these sessions if you keep your ears to the ground. One of the roles I always enjoyed at my former companies was to walk around the floor every morning at 10 am and again at around 3 in the afternoon. Each day I would stop by someone’s desk to see what they were working on. This created a bond, and if they did not see me, they would seek me out.

I had advance knowledge of many issues, and I got a ton of ideas about what we could do to improve the workplace. Was it called brainstorming? Absolutely not.

“MBWA” is not new

MBWA — managing by walking around — is the greatest brainstorming model ever invented.

I once read about a company that required all of its workers to spend one day in the call center. Whether you were the big-shot VP or the help desk person, everyone spent time in the pit.

Another unique trait of this company was that the driver who picked up people at the airport for interviews was part of the decision-making process. His opinion was sought as to whether the person coming in for an interview treated him with respect during their drive: Was it all about them, or did they offer conversation and ask questions? In other words, did they connect to people regardless of their title?

Your takeaway

Communicate openly with your team, both direct reports and co-workers. That means recognising them for the good work they do. Create this atmosphere and you will improve their engagement with you as a manager.

Top 5 Digitalization Topics Metal Leaders are Talking About

Last week, Tenaris, a leading steel manufacturer to the energy industry, Bergamo.jpghosted the 10thannual SAP Executive Advisory Council for Metals at its Dalmine mill in Italy, which included the top companies in the industry.  IT executives fromTenaris, ArcelorMittal, ThyssenKrupp, Gerdau, NLMK, Outokumpu, Salzgitter, voestalpine, OMK, and Novelisjoined SAP experts and leaders from the Mill Products and Mining industry business unit (IBU) for 2 days of in-depth discussions about the processes and technologies that will support and drive successful and sustainable metals companies of the future.

The industry council congregated in Bergamo, Italy, as noted in the New York Times last week: “Frank Lloyd Wright once said that this two-story city, with its panoramic mountain view and fairy tale architecture left him, ‘stunned and astonished.’” (Living the High Life in an ‘Undiscovered’ Italian City).

There was a certain juxtaposition going on.  On one side we had a medieval backdrop where the town bell still rings 100 times every night promptly at 22:00, as it has for hundreds of years, to alert wandering villagers that the town walls would be closing.  And on the other side we had comprehensive discussions about the newest digital advances that continue to revolutionize metals companies – and help them make and deliver products faster, better, and safer.

Below are highlights of 5 of the most interesting topics discussed.

1. E-commerce and the increase in customer expectations

It seems the trend that has been catapulting across retail, consumer products, automotive, and many other industries is also impacting the metals industry.  Many companies are putting forth renewed efforts to bring digitization both to the internal and external sales processes to support customer expectations.  They are implementing the newest best practices, Big Data strategies, and analytics to drive proactive, profitable customer interactions.  They are aiming to achieve this by collaborating across departments and channels and combining data from sales, service, manufacturing, supply chain, and even claims. They want to empower their salespeople to engage customers with real-time information about products, pricing, order status via any channel they want.  And they want to deliver on customers’ expectations to be able to get the information they need any time, anywhere – without needing to even talk to them. This self-service option looks like it is not only satisfying customer expectations but it is also cutting down on the time metal companies need to spend answering basic order, pricing, and delivery questions.

2. Embed experts into the customer’s process – automotive, construction, oil and gas

Extending from the last point about spending more time to focus on the custome, many metals executives talked about the importance of embedding key metals experts at their customer to participate in the research and development process.  The main benefit is that they are able to give – and get – feedback directly to the production manager.

Similar to how SAP engages its customers in co-development, metals companies are putting an even greater focus on understanding their customers’ business.  This has the additional benefit of reducing any quality issues as they get direct feedback from the production line without requiring escalations.

One example discussed was working with civil engineering and bridge building.  It is useful to have steel experts involved when discussing what materials to use.  Many still believe steel has more risks than materials such as concrete, and having an expert on site can serve to educate designers and builders on the newest advances and the benefits of steel as a lighter and more elastic material. Engaging in these discussions at the design phase is the best way to influence perceptions and decisions.

3. Is Amazon the next big competitor in metals?

Ok, this might be a stretch, but IT executives are hyper-aware of competition coming from various angles. Whether it is from an online retailer, a mining company, or a construction company, there is increasing pressure on metals companies to focus even more on the customer.

How are they planning to keep their lead?  Metals companies are moving from a product focus to a customer focus, from mass production to customized products and services, from a product orientation to a product+service orientation, and from in-house controlled value changes to open ecosystems and value networks.

4. Predictive maintenance and predictive quality

One current hot topic the IT executives talked about involves combining and analyzing sensor data to track specific characteristics as products are being manufactured.  In addition to preventing downtime by predicting maintenance requirements, the detailed sensor feedback can allow for real-time adjustments to control resulting product quality and ensure consistency.

5. It is still about delivering the perfect order

Most metals companies are continuously working on achieving the ultimate goal, which is to deliver “the perfect order” – meaning to deliver the goods on time, as expected, at the lowest possible cost and highest possible safety and margin.  Of course, we know this is one of the most complicated goals a metals company has.  Companies are spending a lot of time and effort with ERP, supply chain, and transportation management solutions to continue to reach this goal.  In addition, IoT, RFID, and sensors are increasingly playing a new role.  These have been in use for years and the use cases and benefits continue to intrigue metals companies.

The SAP executive advisory council and the relationships, discussions, and insights it provides are crucial to continue to develop the processes and solutions to help the metals industry thrive.  SAP truly values, respects, and protects the special relationship we have with our customers, and we think this is a cornerstone for continued joint success.


Innovation In Healthcare: Who Cares?

The world has seen major innovations in health services over the past several years. These advances are enabling reimagined business models that deliver better services and care. The resulting transformation spans across not only healthcare, but also research, law, public services, and insurance sectors. This begs the question: Who benefits from the innovation and who cares? 

The common goal driving healthcare innovation is the delivery of the best care for the most affordable price. To this end, researchers and doctors have devised new techniques based on genomics that deliver precision care. For instance, gene tests can now help breast cancer patients avoid chemotherapy.

Another example is how pharmaceuticals companies are now coming up with personalized drugs for patients. According to data published by the Personalized Medicine Coalition, 42% of all compounds and 73% of oncology compounds in the pipeline have the potential to be personalized medicines.

Meanwhile, policymakers are working with key stakeholders across industry sectors to protect the interests of consumers and especially the underserved. Throughout the industry, everyone involved shares the purpose of improving health at affordable costs for all – and many are reaping the benefits.

Re-imagining business models

Consumers are now much better informed on the choices available to them, including ones on healthcare. In the United States, the Affordable Care Act offers consumers the opportunity to review health insurance from a wide variety of providers and make the best choice for their needs and budget.

To educate consumers on ways to improve their health, insurers are adopting new business models that include a major focus on healthy lifestyle choices. Employers are recognizing that healthy and engaged employees are good for business and they are working closely with the insurers to offer a broad, holistic portfolio of health services to employees.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer employers a Worksite Health Scorecard. This helps companies assess if they have science-based health promotion and protection interventions at their worksites to prevent heart disease, stroke, and other related conditions.

Healthcare providers are re-imaging their business models too so they can cater to the informed consumer. For example, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are often acting as the first point of care for patients as they address routine needs that may not require the attention of a doctor. These kinds of services expand the availability of health services while keeping costs down as highlighted in this summary on the effective utilization of APRNs.

Everyone recognizes that healthy choices lead to improved health and that prevention is better than cure.

Actionable insights for better care

Innovations in healthcare continue to unfold everyday at an accelerated pace. For instance, leading research institutions are leveraging Big Data to glean insights from patient data and associated outcomes to deliver precision care.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology can identify patterns in care based on cancer patient profiles. Their researchers can rapidly analyze millions of patient profiles using sophisticated software so doctors can offer precision care to cancer patients with matching profiles. The National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) leverages data from enormous amounts of patient profiles to better identify and treat tumors.

Recently, the healthcare industry introduced a new set of diagnostic codes in the United States. The update is based on the latest version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) tool. There are now 70,000 diagnostic codes for physicians (up from 14,000) and 72,000 diagnostic codes for hospitals (up from 4,000). This new coding system will provide much more granularity for tracking the care delivered to patients and deliver more meaningful insights based on actual patient outcomes. This will further empower consumers, doctors, and care providers to make informed decisions and improve health.

Improving lives

These are major strides in improved health services that benefit the entire community. I am optimistic about the journey ahead – yet there is more work ahead.

The vision and purpose of SAP is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. SAP is already playing a key role in healthcare innovation and will continue to do so. SAP enables healthcare providers to transform their business models with technology that is at the epicenter of progress and innovation. To learn more about how our vision and purpose enables better health around the world, visit here.