Digital Transformation: The Experience is King

A survey among supply chain leaders reveals that two-thirds of staff struggle to find the information they need to do their job. Alarmingly, 73% waste up to eight hours each week just trying to find data—leading to delays (46%), errors (28%), and bad customer experience (24%).

It’s easy to see that documents remain an overwhelming challenge for the industry and something that I anticipate will be addressed this year with a boom in document automation. Research shows more than 70% of company bosses in the supply chain plan to update their intelligent document processing.

But what are the other major changes ahead for the industry? In reviewing and analyzing the latest trends on digital transformation, I identified three top priorities for the coming year.

1. The experience is king. It’s always said that the customer comes first, but how about employees or suppliers? We know that good customer service is crucial to staying ahead of the competition. In 2022, however, the emphasis on a great experience will be a priority across the board, which also includes staff and partners. Smart companies are now more demanding of technology to transform the experience—the key metric for success.

Unfortunately, being able to measure the experience proves difficult. When leaders were asked how they measure customer experience, more than 55% said they base it on staff feedback, which means their business intelligence tools can’t do it.

Organizations within the supply chain should be able to monitor, evaluate, and predict exactly how the customer journey is flowing and intercede when needed. This means every variation and bottleneck in processes and the documents fueling them—no matter the channel through which they entered the company or whether they were born digital or paper—directly impacts the experience.

When employees admit they can spend up to eight hours looking for information they need to do their job, it means they waste an entire day each week. This obviously has an impact on customer service. Knowing what causes this game of hide-and-seek in business documents and delivering to staff drag-and-drop technology tools that can understand content and context within documents are major factors to improving the customer experience.

Remember, the main reason that digital transformation falls short is because of bad experiences—sending employees, partners, and customers elsewhere.

2. Huge investments in document processing technology. The supply chain relies heavily on documents—from bills of lading to declaration forms, invoices to dock receipts, and more. As I referenced earlier, 70% of leaders in the supply chain say they plan to invest in technology to upgrade document processing. Analysts expect a 36.8% growth in the use of intelligent document processing (IDP) in the industry in 2022. Companies want to see a more seamless way of dealing with documents while reducing errors and speeding workflow.

That means taking the next step in document automation. Despite many organizations having invested heavily in digitizing paper, it is still not fully automated, and they are not taking full advantage of new technology.

For example, research commissioned by ABBYY shows that one-third of organizations in the supply chain are still doing many things manually—such as printing out electronic PDFs and then typing the data back into their software applications. The goal of digital transformation is to take away those troublesome, time-consuming, and error-prone manual steps and benefit from straight-through processing.

A Japanese global logistics company we work with used IDP to improve its current data capture solution for paying invoices and streamlining customs clearance. The switch reduced shipping delays and cut invoice processing times from 40 minutes to four minutes per document.

By upgrading legacy software like optical character recognition (OCR) with a more modern, no-code approach, companies can truly benefit from digital transformation. IDP uses technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning to better understand, read, and analyze every piece of information on a document so it can make a decision on what to do with it—without a human having to get involved. Better still, it can learn from new documents and user interactions to make improvements along the way.

All sorts of documents can be processed touchless, such as purchase orders, invoices, trade bills, waybills, declarations, dock receipts, packing lists, labor logs and supplier or employee onboarding forms. And this type of friction-free document processing can definitely improve the experience for staff and customers. It’s a win-win.

3. A shift in sourcing methods and upskilling staff with tech. Many people blamed the disruptions in the supply chain over the past two years solely on the pandemic. However, some of the most newsworthy problems, such as the Suez Canal blockage, were not related to COVID-19 and resulted in massive delays and negative impact to employers, partners, and employees.

Manufacturers and logistics providers quickly realized they needed to be more resilient and adaptable, and identified sourcing as a challenging issue. But the complex process of sourcing and onboarding new suppliers again lies with documents and processes. Negotiating agreements and setting up letters of credit and contracts all need scrutiny, better accuracy, and to be done at breakneck speed in times of crisis.

There is also the growing issue of labor shortages. While we saw staffing issues due to illness and quarantine, the post-pandemic Great Resignation is seeing the skills problem exasperated.

Those who are still working need to be upskilled to deal with the ongoing changes in technology. As intelligent automation replaces menial labor tasks, employees need more training on software applications.

Many technologies involve low-code/no-code platforms, which means the automation process is being put into the hands of employees. Staff will be responsible for initiating digital changes by using off-the-shelf solutions that combine advanced capabilities like machine learning and natural language processing along with traditional OCR.

This democratization of AI allows employees to digitally transform all sorts of document processes, such as a bill of lading, airway bill, cargo insurance certificate, invoice, delivery note, or packing list. What used to take months will now be done in days. In fact, analysts believe that by 2024, 75% of enterprises will have four or more low code/no code development tools that will increase productivity and improve operational efficiency.

2022 will shine a definitive spotlight on the experience as a metric for success in the transport and logistics sector. In shaping that goal, we will see unprecedented growth in new technologies like IDP, along with low code/no code applications that will be behind the upskilling of hundreds of employees.

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