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Good to Great: Your Digital Document Experience

How we work and how we engage with documents is changing. Most of our work used to take place in a designated office with deeply ingrained paper document processes that made tasks, especially tasks that involved more than one person, cumbersome and drawn out. Today, our work is mobile and can be carried out anywhere. And we have the same expectation of our work processes—we need to make sure they’re able to move with us.

But having document workflows that meet us where we are is still a work in progress. Businesses and customers alike want their digital experiences to be quick, easy and intuitive, not experiences of complex processes layered on top of another process. As organizations transition to digital processes, it’s important that they maintain well-documented logs as well as provide easy, safe and secure access to documents from anywhere.

What makes a great experience?

Though some organizations have made strides to ensure a mobile, trackable, engaging document process, not all of these organizations and processes are created equal. There are organizations that provide digital document experiences for their employees and customers, but what are they doing that takes the experience from good to truly great?

Best practices for digital document experiences include: 

  • Easy interaction with programs and software that users are already familiar with, such as Google or Microsoft Office suites.
  • Mobile-friendliness. Having documents and processes that can be accessed—and not just accessed but actually used—from anywhere is a critical piece of the digital document puzzle. 
  • Ease of maintaining a documented paper trail as well as appropriate permissioning of document access.
  • Engaging and simplified processes that remove obstacles for users on all sides rather than adding complexity or additional steps.

When businesses successfully create a great experience, the impact on the business as well as their customers is positive. Businesses see an increase in efficiency—it takes fewer people and less time to complete processes—as well as a decrease in costs. Companies also have an opportunity to reduce their environmental impact by cutting down on the amount of physical paper needed to operate.

Customers see increased benefits as well. Not only are they able to complete their interactions faster, but they have greater transparency throughout the process and are engaged in a way that is not possible with traditional paper processes. 

A phased approach

A clear and exceptional example of a great digital document experience is how far we’ve come with doing a seemingly mundane but frustrating task—filing our taxes. Though it’s nice to think that we can simply walk into any industry, provide them with a strategy for a full digital document experience transition and have it be everything we’d hoped for, it’s not practical. With many organizations, businesses and industries, you’re more likely to get a positive response to a more phased approach. Not only does this allow all stakeholders to slowly acclimate to the changes, it also provides longer runway for budgets.

As anyone who files their taxes is aware, the process is very paper-heavy. There’s a seemingly endless amount of forms and tabulations that take place throughout the process, which can be time-consuming and repetitive. To begin to alleviate some of those pain points, the IRS started by introducing fillable forms that could be filled out on a computer and then printed off and sent in. Though this provided time and energy savings for the end-user, it was only a start.

The subsequent iteration of the fillable forms was the obvious next step: If I can complete the form on my computer, I should be able to submit it on my computer, too. And that’s exactly what the next step of the process was. Several tax-related businesses and the IRS allowed online form submission. Though online submission is still a time-consuming and tedious task, it removes the need to take the additional steps of printing and mailing the forms.

Filing forms online is a good digital experience for customers who are used to a paper process, but how could developers continue to iterate on the process to create a great experience? The answer was with gamification and engagement. Companies (i.e., Intuit) and organizations (city and state governments) took the online filing experience to the next level by removing the traditional form interface completely and turning the tedious task of filling out tax forms into a fun game-like experience. 

By moving users through an online experience with engaging questions, interactive help functionality and real-time refund tracking, these groups are now able to take a process that people put off to one that can even seem fun at times. This is the essence of a great digital document experience.

And even better? Creating an engaging, simplified experience leads to increased efficiency for the IRS and reduced headaches for taxpayers. 

The next steps

It’s one thing to know what it takes to make a great digital experience for your stakeholders, yet quite another to implement it with your existing systems. The best way to understand your next steps is to see a great digital experience in action and then work backward to create your own strategy for implementing these ideas into your own processes.

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