How Organizations Can Be More Sustainable in Their Workflows

By Sam Thorpe, Chief Product Officer, Nitro Software

The pandemic forced many organizations to digitize operations out of necessity. While a good number of those organizations continue their digitalization efforts, others have shifted back to a hybrid model of both digital and paper processes. This comes as the global consumption of paper and paperboard is skyrocketing – expected to reach 476 million tons by 2032. In addition, about 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S.

Data shows 65% of people are more likely to work for a sustainable organization, but it goes beyond saving paper. Companies need to function sustainably, and one way they can do this is through digitalization of all daily processes. Quantifying progress and success in sustainability is also important. 

Companies can apply a digitalization strategy that not only is sustainable but also drives productivity, efficiency and customer experience. By implementing an easy-to-use digital solution with all-in-one PDF tools and secure, legally binding eSigning, companies can digitize their document workflows in one platform. And the good news for organizations – the path to digitizing paper-based processes can be a straightforward one that starts with pitching the benefits to leadership and continues through reporting on ROI and environmental impact.

Reasons to digitize paper processes

Before you pitch your digitalization strategy to leadership, it’s important to understand how this change will benefit your organization so you can confidently gain support. Let’s look at a few benefits – including environmental, cost, time and image.

As mentioned, global paper product consumption continues to skyrocket – that’s a lot of paper and a big carbon footprint. Instead, companies can make a positive contribution to the environment by digitizing their processes using PDF and eSignatures. Eliminating or reducing paper usage directly contributes to helping with climate change, carbon emissions, air and water pollution, and deforestation. 

While your leadership team may understand digitalization is good for the environment, you can also help them understand the cost and time savings for your organization. By digitizing processes such as document creation, editing, collaboration and eSignatures, companies can save a great deal of money:

  • Buying, storing and generating less paper
  • Lower printer ink and maintenance costs
  • Productivity and labor savings with digital workflows and eSigning

The final reason to share with your leadership is how this move to digitalization can greatly improve your brand reputation with employees, customers, partners and investors. Companies that invest in the care of the environment show they care about the world. For customers, employees and board members, companies can show in a tangible way they are doing something to make an impact. When a growing number of consumers say they want to support environmentally conscious brands, the sustainability story is incredibly valuable to your key stakeholders.

Steps to implement a digitalization strategy

Identify stakeholders

Speaking of stakeholders, the first step to implementing a digitalization strategy is to establish expectations of all stakeholders involved. From implementation to ongoing optimization, this strategy will impact nearly everyone in your organization – from leadership to employees and external stakeholders such as shareholders and customers. These external stakeholders are important because they care about your outcomes and will help you celebrate your wins.

Present to management

Once you identify the stakeholders, the next step is to present your plan to management. You want strong buy-in from your leadership team so they will give you the resources to accomplish your sustainability goals – and other employees will share the excitement if they feel it from the top of your organization. When presenting your plan to leadership, make sure to focus on the reasons for digitalization, the path to digitalization and the ROI from implementing the change. Set yourself up for success by choosing goals that will benefit your sustainability efforts but are also easily measurable. You’ll want to measure results to prove impact to stakeholders.

Foster a winning culture

The next step is to foster a sustainable culture from the inside out. You don’t just want your efforts projected to stakeholders – you want them reflected by employee actions. Every stakeholder involved in the employee and customer experience benefits from sustainability through digitalization. And everyone is required to drive that change. 

You can make this easier on yourself by finding your own team of internal champions and having them help you socialize the efforts and get the word out. Everyone has issues and topics they are passionate about, including your colleagues. You can encourage an overall culture of digitalization through:

  • Frequent training on enterprise technology and software, especially for new processes
  • A strong change management strategy and gradual approach to full digitization; don’t expect 100% compliance right away
  • An option for anonymous feedback about the digitalization efforts

Choose the right solution

A key part of implementing your digitalization strategy is choosing the right solution for your organization. Here are some ideas for getting that done.

Requirements

  • Easy-to-use digital solution and/or platform
  • All-in-one PDF tools (create, edit, convert and merge documents)
  • Secure, legally binding eSigning 
  • Compliance with your specific eSign laws
  • Built-in usage analytics and sustainability insights

Evaluation criteria

  • Licensing model (including cost per person and cost per signature)
  • Amount of time and training required to implement
  • Solution features and capabilities
  • Ability to provide the tool to everyone in the organization affordably
  • Integrations and APIs available
  • Types of insights available to leadership
  • Minimum spend required for dedicated customer support

What to look for in a vendor

  • A trustworthy and transparent sales process
  • Scalable solutions that can adapt to your needs
  • Change management and ongoing support
  • A resource library with self-help user training and guidance
  • Flexible and/or customizable pricing (not a one-size-fits-all approach)

Measure and share results

Now it’s time to measure and quantify your sustainability impact through analytics and a report on ROI. Let’s take a look at some of the measurements that can help show the impact of your digitalization efforts:

  • Paper saved by eSigning
  • Time saved by eSigning
  • Productivity score
  • Environmental impact
    • Trees saved
    • BTUs of energy saved
    • Pounds of CO2 emission prevented
    • Species saved from extinction

These steps are meant to provide high-level guidance for all organizations. It may be necessary to adjust based on your specific business needs, models or goals. Remember that change isn’t always easy or smooth. If you create a solid, specific plan to gain buy-in, you’ll have a better chance of success using digitalization to improve sustainability.

About the Author:

As Chief Product Officer, Sam Thorpe oversees product innovation, security and user experience at Nitro Software. Prior to his current role, Sam served as the CPO at Flow Kana, where he was responsible for formulating the company’s technology and data strategy to accelerate the responsiveness of all supply chain tiers. Prior to Flow Kana, Sam was the Director of Product Strategy at Nitro Software, where he led strategy, customer research and innovation toward synthesizing and unifying Nitro’s global product strategy. Earlier in his career, Sam built and led innovative, high-performance product organizations in start-up environments, including two different enterprise real estate systems that were acquired in succession by Fortune 500 companies. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a Business minor from Humboldt State University.

About Nitro:

Nitro is a global SaaS leader in PDF software, document management and electronic signatures. Nitro’s Productivity Platform includes powerful PDF tools, digital workflows, highly secure eSigning and identity verification capabilities. Its industry-leading analytics product measures ROI and quantifies sustainability efforts, all supported by a best-in-class customer success and change management support team.  With more than 3 million licensed users and 13,000+ business customers across 157 countries, Nitro serves 67% of the Fortune 500. For more information, visit: https://www.gonitro.com/

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