Interview with Benedikt Dischinger of DocuWare
Business data is being accessed in an ever-wider variety of ways, from a range of devices, with implications for accessibility, security, and compliance. How can companies address this, while at the same time ensuring that their employees, in particular their finance departments, can work effectively and efficiently? Benedikt Dischinger of DocuWare is well placed to explain.
Good day to you, Mr Dischinger! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us today. Firstly, can you introduce us to DocuWare and its services?
What a pleasure to be interviewed by the World Financial Review. Here’s a brief overview of what we do. DocuWare provides document management and workflow automation solutions to businesses across multiple industries in over 100 countries. DocuWare is currently used by 15,000 customers, over 7,000 of whom use the cloud-based version.
Today, there is a lot of emphasis on intelligent automation, machine learning, augmented analytics, natural language processing, and the adoption of cloud. Can you talk about the new opportunities and challenges in keeping up with the contemporary business requirements for accessibility, agility, and deeper analytical insights?
Particularly since the pandemic and remote workforces, where all employees must have secure and compliant access to data both in the office and at home, digitalisation and the adoption of intelligent technologies across all industries and within core departments like finance are crucial for both a business and its customers.
As a finance professional, ensuring that you are choosing a solution that meets short- and long-term business needs ensures faster user adoption and buy-in from your team.
Intelligent automation means businesses across the board can streamline accounting and administrative processes. Business leaders quickly start to see the benefits when digital documents and automated workflows allow accounting processes to continue without manual intervention. When companies implement these types of solutions and begin their digitalisation journey, they can work smarter, reduce waste, and deliver better, faster results for their customers, while creating that flexible work environment that today’s employees expect.
What are the five critical areas for improvement that can help finance organisations stand at the forefront of digital transformation?
A skilled workforce. I believe that technical skills are the new path to knowledge-worker productivity. With office automation software, core, repetitive tasks can be expedited. A skilled employee can create new automated workflows and productivity can continue to improve.
Integration. The solution you adopt needs to have the ability to integrate with current applications. Integration between applications is more than just exchanging data. Ease of use is equally important. If employees cannot switch fluidly and share data between the DMS and the accounting software they use, productivity suffers, morale decreases, and the error rate increases.
Information security. We all understand that information has never been more valuable nor more vulnerable, so investing in secure technology to manage information should be a number-one priority. Every system, from ERP to analytics tools, to the capture and document management solution, must adhere to the strictest protocols to support the likes of redundant data storage, tight access rights, data separation, and end-to-end encryption.
Audit documentation. If you have a paper-based system, an audit is hugely time-consuming and stressful. If your paper files are incomplete or disorganised, your audit will take more time than it should. Digitally transforming your finance department means that your team can quickly access documents needed by auditors and be able to see who accessed what accounting documents – and when. For example, to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, companies need a highly detailed audit trail that’s only achievable with a DMS.
Secure cloud solutions. Every business needs to make the shift from on-premises technology to secure and agile cloud services. Without exception, cloud services must be part of a strategic technology roadmap.
The transformational impact of automation is without question. DocuWare is well placed to lead such innovative change. Can you talk about what sectors are the most advanced in adopting automation? In your view, who will realise the benefits of automation in the short term?
We have seen that any-sized business in any industry sector can benefit from a digital transformation. The industries that have been quickest to adopt DocuWare are the science/technology, manufacturing, construction, and healthcare sectors. The highest adoption rate of DocuWare is in finance/accounting departments, followed closely by HR and sales. We are well placed to lead this change, in part because our cloud solution is highly scalable, customers can add on as their needs increase, and we also provide preconfigured cloud solutions, such as DocuWare for Invoice Processing. Customers opting for something like this do not need in-house IT experts to implement it and can therefore be up and running in three days.
How do you view automation as a key driver for finance teams? Which of your processes have benefited the most from automation?
Finance teams are used to being asked to quickly deliver key figures that show the company’s market position, monthly revenues, etc. This is much more doable if the core processes of accounts payable and accounts receivable are automated and securely and quickly executed. Automation has freed our finance team up, so that they can address other important issues and requests.
As mentioned earlier, the departments that are quickest to adopt our solution are finance/accounting, HR, and sales, and this is because their processes that are traditionally paper-heavy, such as invoice processing or employee onboarding, have so much to gain from being automated.
Can you talk about the typical roadmap the companies will go through if they wish to adopt intelligent automation? How do they know where to start?
If you know what you want and need a fast fix, I always like to suggest DocuWare’s Pre-configured Solutions for Invoice Processing. It is cloud-based, so can be implemented in a matter of days, needs no/low IT support, and is easy for employees to learn.
But if you are starting from the beginning, we advise a four-step process. First, plan and design. Define the required document types and workflows, create a storyboard diagram of the system, and then design workflows. Next, configure and implement. A business should decide whether a separate test system is needed, whether to access a cloud solution or install on-premises software, and then configure this solution. Third, it’s down to testing and fine-tuning. Implement and conduct preliminary tests of workflows, test again, and then fine-tune the solution for follow-up testing. Test again if you need to! Finally, document and train. Administrator and power-user training, as well as documentation and user training, are key. Then, you’re ready to go live.
For future CFOs reading this, if you take the finance function as an example, what’s the transformational impact of automation? Can you provide some examples of DocuWare clients that are benefiting from this now?
The transformational impact automation can have in the finance function – which I have seen first-hand – is in three main areas:
- Productivity and collaboration. By digitising paper records, information can be easily and securely exchanged and retrieved, no matter the time or place. Additionally, it’s beneficial to support financial health by automating accounts payable and receivable and integrating with client billing and other systems to maximise the value of existing technology.
- Security and compliance. Finance teams can restrict unauthorised viewing of confidential documents and develop guidelines to protect client privacy, as well as prove compliance with the likes of HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, and GDPR, and counter cyber-threats with state-of-the-art encryption of data, documents, and online communication.
- IT and future-readiness. By adopting automation, finance teams can implement a user-friendly solution that adjusts to the needs of multiple departments without adding work for the IT team. In addition to this, it helps safeguard against hacking, malware, and other illegal acts that target technology infrastructure.
We have a whole list of happy customers on our website and I’d encourage any CFO thinking about automation to check them out and read the case studies.
The role of a CFO is arguably the toughest gig in modern business, maybe now more than ever. Do you have any advice for future leaders?
Finance leaders are now finding themselves shifting from managing money to defining a strategy for a company and seeking productivity improvements that increase growth potential. CFOs should look to invest in secure, cost-effective, information-centric technology that automates processes to free up time for employees to focus instead on innovation and making a profit.
Any technology implemented must be evaluated keeping in mind the challenges and opportunities that accompany them and how they will require your team’s time and attention to meaningfully leverage them for strategic gain. Say we look back to our five critical areas for improvement. Many of these issues are familiar, but require fresh approaches. However, all of them require the right technology and the right planning to solve. That is why I think my main piece of advice is to partner with a technology provider who can be your guiding light and help you along your digitalisation journey.