Digital transformation is the acceleration of business activities, processes, and operational models to fully embrace the changes and opportunities of digital technologies. The concept is not new; we’ve been talking about it in one way or another for decades: paperless office, BYOD, user experience, consumerization of IT – all of these were stepping stones along the path to digital transformation.
Today, digital business transformation is driven by technology innovation and user/customer behavior. Technology innovation leads to disruption. But transformation is also about how these technological innovations are adopted and used, and how they improve upon a process, to help the user get work done.
The IT organizations and line-of-business managers charged with making digital decisions must ask:
- Do these innovations bring value to the organization?
- Are these innovations easily adopted, or is the organization struggling to implement change?
- Are we factoring in regulatory compliance, security, and business partner demands?
Digital transformation is not just the domain of the “big guys” anymore. Smaller organizations are often more nimble and can realize huge efficiencies by digitizing processes that have historically been a drag on productivity. Organizations of all sizes and operational budgets are looking at digital transformation strategies as a way to improve a process, and ultimately, better serve their customers.
Going digital to break boundaries: Three Rivers Legal
Three Rivers Legal Services of South Florida is a great example of a small organization that made huge improvements though going digital. Three Rivers is a nonprofit law firm dedicated to delivering quality legal assistance to the poor, abused, disabled and neglected, offering empowerment through preventive legal education.
A large segment of the clients they serve are homeless. As you might imagine, keeping track of paper documents when you have no permanent place to store them is almost impossible. While living on the streets and in shelters, the clients of Three Rivers experience theft, weather damage and incidental losses to vital paperwork. These are documents they need to receive medical care, veterans’ benefits, public assistance, or to apply for jobs – essentially, everything that helps them build a path to independent living.
The firm was storing legal documents and other files belonging to homeless clients on an internal case management system, but it couldn’t be accessed beyond the boundaries of the office. For legal aides in the field working with people at libraries, parks, shelters and Government offices, this was a frustration point that slowed down productivity. And because of the situation many of their clients were in, mailing copies of documents to people with no permanent address wasn’t feasible. The firm realized that they needed a reliable, secure and easy way to access these important documents – and digital was the way to go.
Initially, the firm considered storing client documents through consumer file sync and share tools, but became concerned about the security and privacy issues. Today, the firm uses an enterprise-grade, secure collaboration platform where they can quickly and easily store digital versions of sensitive client documents. The legal team and their clients can access these documents from a smartphone, tablet, or from a computer at a local library.
By going digital, Three Rivers’ clients have a portable but secure solution they can use to share documents with medical professionals, government entities and others. With online access to digital medical records and patient history, the legal aides at Three Rivers can work in real time with the psychiatrists who are serving their clients, collaborating to make better-informed diagnoses and prescribe medications that help clients stabilize to the point where they can get jobs and housing. Collaboration also decreases the chance of psychiatrists prescribing medications that produce bad reactions in their patients that could result in loss of housing or jobs.
This change in process has freed the organization to deliver better quality service, on a faster timetable, to people who really need it. Since making the change, the legal team at Three Rivers has seen the waiting time for their clients go from up to two years to less than one month – all because the clients have secure, anytime access to digital versions of their documents. So far, 25 percent of the firm’s homeless clients have moved out of shelters and off the streets into stable living situations – and once they’ve completed the digitization of the rest of their client documents, they expect this number to increase.
Digital transformation is a challenge – and businesses must ask the right questions and make the right decisions about which technologies they’ll implement, and which processes must change. But as this use case illustrates, even a small firm can make incremental changes that yield significant improvements.
By Daren Glenister