Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Answer is a Number: Assesing the Value of Cloud Solutions

Organisations know that they are losing money on un-adopted technology. Getting ‘shelfware’ off the books is often viewed as a minor victory, but what of the value that could, and should have been delivered by this unused technology?
Unlike traditional software licensing models, many Cloud solutions have pricing structures based on usage. Value, therefore, is delivered as a function of the number of successful transactions. Clearly, if no transaction occurs, no value is delivered, but even when solutions are adopted and users are transacting successfully, we often don’t know how to assess their value beyond ‘ease of use’.
The upshot is that when an organisation goes through a period of cost cutting, the op-ex, subscription-based pricing models of Cloud solutions means that they are often first in the firing line. If we’re not correctly evaluating the potential of those solutions to deliver quantifiable value, we have no idea if we’re trimming off the excess or cutting into muscle.
Electronic Signatures and Digital Transaction Management make an interesting case-in-point. Most transactions save paper, ink and postage, so there are significant per-transaction savings even before human-related costs are factored in. When you include economies relating to overheads such as track and chase, archiving, retrieval and audit, these savings can become extremely compelling indeed. In order to assess cost savings, however, you need metrics: how much time saved is per senior resource and what is the cost associated with that time? What are we spending on storing of paper contracts in a fire-proof facility? The list goes on.
Remember, these costs might well be distributed across multiple cost-centres. It is therefore important to assess the value brought to the organisation as a whole, rather than to a single business unit. Expressing that value in way that makes sense to a cost-sensitive CFO is essential. Value expressed in time saved is one thing, value expressed in dollars and cents is another.
Lack of adoption of a solution tends to be a business problem rather than a technology problem. Once you have quantified a solution’s potential value, you’ll need to create a vision for change to close the gap between that value, and the value your organisation is actually getting.
The next time you identify un-adopted software in your organisation, as yourself “what value am I missing out on by not fully adopting?” And remember: the answer is a number.
Kevin Boyle is an eSignature and Digital Transaction Management specialist with DocuSign. Connect on LinkedIn, follow on Twitter.

Monday, August 18, 2014

From Candle to Lightbulb: Making Technology Disruptive

Those in charge of Digital Transformation programs should remember that the light-bulb was not invented by trying to improve the candle. Digital Transformation should involve re-thinking how business is done, rather than simply using new technology to replicate old processes.
Recently, it seems that every innovator is describing their new technology as disruptive. This isn’t surprising; only by disrupting the status quo can real progress be made.
eSignature and Digital Transaction Management are disruptive technologies in the true sense of the term in that they are displacing existing, paper processes. The reality, though, is that disruption is just another word for change, and change needs to be managed.
Those of us in implementation know that the same technology used in different contexts can realise wildly different levels of success. One large, multinational consulting organisation, for example, noticing the amount of time employees were spending on social media, spent millions deploying a Facebook-style ‘internal social networking’ website on their intranet. Nobody uses it, because nobody sees any reason to.
Human nature is resistant to change. Individuals tend not to want to modify their behaviour unless there is a very good reason to do so.
IT buyers must realise that it is no longer enough to procure and deploy technology with the potential to be disruptive. They must create a vision for change, manage progress towards that vision and make that technology be disruptive.
Cloud solutions can be deployed quickly and  offer a greatly reduced Time to Value without the need for investment in IT infrastructure. Whether a technology is Cloud-based or not, however, its ability to drive genuine, game-changing disruption depends on people.
Disruptive, transformative progress requires individuals who can diagnose business problems, establish how technology will help solve these problems, and make sure that those solutions are adopted.
To design transformative solutions, you need an appreciation of the ‘art of the possible’ that only goes with specialist, technical knowledge of the platform. To drive adoption, you need an understanding of the business and the ability to mandate how individuals change their way of working.
Success depends having individuals with this combination of business and technical skills available when you need them. Without these elements, you end up with technology that doesn’t deliver as much value as it should and you end up just improving the candle when what you really need is a light-bulb.

Kevin Boyle is an eSignature and Digital Transaction Management specialist with DocuSign. Follow on Twitter.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Making it happen – Five Steps to Ensure your eSignature Project is Successful

Trying to make meaningful changes to the way in which people work usually results in resistance. Whatever the type or source, you will need to overcome this resistance in order to achieve success with your eSignature and Digital Transaction Management projects.

Whether the push-back is explicit (“our legal department will never will never accept this…”) or implicit (“I don't really want to change the way I work, so I won't”), here are five pointers on how to ensure adoption and achieve value:

1. Get buy-in from your legal team
I have long since ceased to be surprised when, long after an organisation has done their due diligence and the lawyers have given the go-ahead for an eSignature project, a stakeholder assures me that there’s no way that legal/risk/compliance will let it happen. It's good that senior people consider legal implications when doing business; unfortunately (but understandably) their grasp of the issues often falls short of that of their specialist colleagues.

Involve your legal team from the beginning; once they're satisfied, ensure that their opinion is communicated to the relevant stakeholders.
Moreover, help your legal team understand what life would be like for them if the risks implicit in executing contracts on paper went away; a Chief Legal Officer can make a powerful Executive Sponsor.
Engaging Professional Services is an effective way of closing the gap between the potential value of your investment and the value that you’re actually realising. Find a vendor with the relevant expertise and make use of it; don’t try to re-invent the wheel.

2. Identify the people who can make the project happen.
Getting buy-in from someone who has enough clout to mandate that people change their processes for the better is essential. With Cloud applications, Executive Sponsors are often on the business side rather than the IT side. If your exec board wants to see greater compliance, reduce cost or have contracts completed quicker, use metrics such as cost savings, turn-around-time and volume to show them exactly how you’ll help them achieve their objectives.

3. Get the security stuff out of the way
Security people, like lawyers, speak their own language. The only way to reassure a security specialist is to let another security specialist do it for you. Get your security team to talk directly to the vendor as soon as possible.

4. Nominate a champion
Once you’ve got the go-ahead, nominate someone to be responsible for driving your Digital Transformation forward. Making their performance ratings dependent on achieving measurable results often helps…

5. Professional Services can help ensure adoption
Cloud deployments differ from many traditional IT projects in that in the Cloud, value is delivered in multiples of one transaction. The more transactions, the greater the value realised.

The technology itself is only one element that governs adoption; how well the application is integrated into the users’ way of working and how you build your DTM program to deploy more use cases are all important factors.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Assumed watertight - Taking the Guesswork out of Contract Execution with eSignature

If you regularly work with contracts, the chances are you routinely do business on the basis of assumptions. There is a better way.

There is an interesting story of how David Geffen, the multimillionaire driving force behind Geffen Records and DreamWorks, got his first break. He was given a job at William Morris, a showbiz agency, on the basis of being a recent graduate of UCLA. The company duly wrote to the university to confirm that the applicant was a bona fide graduate. This left Geffen with a problem: he wasn’t. Undeterred, Geffen used his position in the company’s mailroom to intercept the letter from the university and alter it. The company got their confirmation, and a few years later Geffen was managing Crosby, Stills and Nash.

When executing paper documents, we make assumptions that any signatures are authentic and that the document is unaltered. We make these assumptions because we have to: most of the time, we’re not in a position to witness the signature of the document, nor do we have specimen signatures for comparison.

In the majority of cases, no authentication of the signatures (or, indeed of the integrity of the document) is ever carried out until something goes wrong in the process, often when someone says “that’s not what I signed” or “that’s not my signature.” When that happens, of course, the damage has already been done.

Electronic signatures allow you to secure your document and authenticate signatories before they sign. It is therefore possible to initiate and complete your transactions without leaving the digital world. 

Transacting in the Cloud, of course, requires you to entrust sensitive data to another organisation. Ten years ago, this might have seemed unthinkable, but particularly with the success of, there has been a realisation that a secure vendor infrastructure combined with sound internal security policies can make the Cloud the preferred option.

Standards such as ISO 27001 and SSAE 16 allow like-for-like comparison of vendors and show that all are not created equal. Your choice should be based not only on your own organisation’s security requirements but on the vendor’s ability to allow for authentication methods that are suitable for the type of transaction and help streamline the process rather than hinder it.

Thousands of businesses have come to the conclusion that not only are they not introducing risk by transacting in the Cloud, they are, in fact, reducing it.

Now, organisations have to answer a different set of questions:  “what competitive advantages can digital transactions bring to my business?” and “in the face of increasing competition, can I afford not to do this?”

A Recidivist Insider

For well over ten years, I have been a recidivist insider.

During this time I have had the privilege of being invited to work within dozens of businesses, accompanying them on their journeys towards realising value from their Cloud projects. From overcoming initial reservations to creating business cases and making projects happen, I’ve tagged along for the ride.

Since 2010 I have been involved with all things transaction-based, and for some time led a cloud company whose product handled the deposit of paper cheques (or checks!) for US financial institutions. When I arrived on the scene people thought the idea was so risky as to be unworkable. Four years later, almost every US financial institution offers the facility.

eSignature (within the broader context of Digital Transaction Management) has mirrored Remote Deposit Capture in that it has accelerated from a standing start to the point where it has become inevitable. The big difference is that eSignature is a global phenomenon.

In early 2013 I joined DocuSign, where I support the implementation of eSignature and Digital Transaction Management programs across EMEA.

At each stage in my journey through the Cloud, the fundamental requirement has remained the same: “help me to transact business digitally in a way that makes sense to me, keep my data secure and provide a reliable service”.

I can’t claim to be vendor-neutral, but I do intend that this blog should address some common issues that will be faced by organisations regardless of vendor.

I want to help non-technical stakeholders to understand the concepts that will help them envision what their business would look like in a paperless world, and understand how to begin the transition to a fully digital workplace.

The bleeding edge has long since passed. Cloud, eSignature and Digital Transaction technology has been tried and tested. I’m here to tell you how others have made it work for them, and how you can make it work for your organisation.