Despite the pandemic, this year’s conference went on as scheduled, albeit in a virtual format.
This June, instead of hundreds gathering under the palm trees of Florida to sip wine in the sunshine, DocuWorld participants tuned in from their home offices and living rooms around the world for a slate of videoconferences led by DocuWare executives Michael Berger, Max Ertl, and Stefan Schmidt. Though it was less than ideal to miss out on all the face-to-face networking opportunities of a traditional conference, moving things online allowed for greater participation, with more than 1,000 attendees from 25 countries.
The primary focus of the first videoconference session was to announce the shift in strategy for DocuWare Version 7.3. As President Max Ertl pointed out, cloud is the most durable IT model, and it is an area where investments can yield a huge ROI for companies. Paper usage was declining, and remote work was increasing even before the Covid-19 epidemic, so this newest version of DocuWare has been envisioned to support that growth with a focus on continuous delivery.
“We intend to have much, much shorter release cycles, like months, weeks, and even hours for fixing bugs,” added Michael Berger, DocuWare president.
Changing Work Styles
Many of the planned changes are based on predictions DocuWare has made about future office work styles. In many ways, the pandemic merely sped up the timeline of changes to work culture that were already on the horizon for white-collar industries. Naturally, work-from-home policies are expected to change, with many workplaces shifting to permanent partial or even universal remote work.
DocuWare expects this distributed model to encourage more companies to transition to paperless workflows as the downsides of paper become less about the environmental and financial costs and more about the literal business liability of trapping information on hard copies instead of making them accessible in the cloud. Workplace communication will become not only more digital, but more structured and organized, making it easier for remote workers to locate information on their own from their remote workplaces. Pulling no punches, Berger and Ertl’s presentation went so far as to bluntly say, “paper is a dead end.”
This transition won’t be a dramatic change for DocuWare users. According to a survey of DocuWorld 2020 attendees, 37% said they were “already almost fully invested in the cloud with data and software,” while another 31% said they were “planning additional investments right now.” Only 9% said they would wait to invest further in the cloud “until after the crisis is over.”
Aware that, with 95% of client companies utilizing remote workers, cloud services are now more mission-critical than ever before, DocuWare announced additional investments it is making, including new data centers, optimizing for increased performance under load, and “security, security, security.” The on-premises implementations will ship on a half-yearly basis now, and DocuWare intends to optimize messaging and transparency, so any problems can be dealt with quickly and effectively with minimal impact on productivity.
Berger seemed especially proud to show off the “nice and good things” DocuWare added to Viewer, Forms, and SmartConnect, including preconfigured solutions for invoice processing and employee management. The new goal for “best practice” workflow is to reduce the implementation of new sales of DocuWare to two to five days for new organizations using standard processes, and the sales cycle for clients to as little as two weeks, with sales enabled over the phone.
DocuWare is also adding support for new languages, making enhancements to Intelligent Indexing and integration capabilities, investing more in mobile development, and launching a new Workflow Designer that will help companies set up new processes quickly with a minimal learning curve.
Ertl said he sees the partner channel as DocuWare’s primary sales channel, since partners are “closer to the customers, and understand their needs.” This is an era of business where companies may change their strategies quickly and need to implement them quickly, so partners will have to adapt by increasing their know-how of cloud, security, and remote workforce tools, emphasized Ertl. These days more DocuWare partners are only selling cloud versions of DocuWare, often with preconfigured solutions, and more customers are looking to migrate their workflow from on-premises to the cloud.
Times of change are always opportunities for significant growth. DocuWare saw a 48% increase in customer growth and a 68% increase in cloud documents, indicating that existing customers are shifting more of their business to the cloud. To keep up with these shifts, DocuWare hired 56 people last year and created new job roles such as customer experience specialists. The company’s research indicates that customer experience, in terms of the clarity, usability, and reliability of DocuWare, is even more important than adding new features, so this new role will help customers have positive experiences with the product and onboard new features more easily.
The pandemic did reduce the volume of work performed by DocuWare customers overall, with 20% fewer operations and 15% fewer active people in March, but by the time of the conference in June, those numbers had begun to rise. Usage metrics indicate email is still the primary tool for cloud workflows, with 61% of DocuWare users taking advantage of Outlook integration, although mobile client use has grown to 33% and can be expected to continue rising.
Improving efficiency and automating processes to reduce reliance on high headcounts seems to be the top priority for DocuWare clients, with 49% of survey respondents saying they hope DocuWare will invest the most in “artificial intelligence in process automation”, with “process analytics and dashboards” coming in a close second at 46%, underlining DocuWare’s commitment to increasing clarity and reducing IT troubleshooting headaches for end users.
DocuWare’s attitude about the future is one of cautious optimism. They pointed out that, as they have been in business for 33 years, they and the industries they serve have already adapted to the Y2K bug and the 2007 financial crash, so the Covid-19 pandemic is simply another challenge that can encourage creativity, efficiency, and investment in better business practices. Berger emphasized that they have a strong sales channel, strong Ricoh support, and the market opportunity is still 60% open. “Despite everything we’re still having an okay 2020, and next year will be even better.”
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