Business is a word that never changes – it will always be defined as the collection of industries, companies, and people that provide goods and services to others. However, the world around business can and does change, the most striking example of which is the use of digital technology, which has grown from a tiny percentage of businesses only two decades ago, to a staggering majority in the present day. Digital transaction management (DTM), defined as the use of digital technology to conduct business transactions, has become particularly important, both to businesses and customers alike. A recent study by Forrester Consulting explains the need for DTM, its use in the current business world, and its predictions for future expansion, as well as what businesses can do to make use of this technology.

The reason that DTM is so important has to do with the increased value that customers place on technology in their everyday lives, including purchasing decisions. According to the Forrester study, 74% of the U.S. online adult population will own smartphones by 2017, a figure that emphasizes exactly how integrated such technology is in the life of the average American. As a result, customers make more use of the business-related benefits that digital technology provides, including comparing brands and prices online and utilizing online shopping tools. This growing trend has lessened the impact that more traditional aspects of business, including brand identity and distribution strength, have on a company’s success.

Along with its increased importance for consumers, DTM is also highly sought-after by businesses. The Forrester study found that 93% of IT companies and 76% of LOB companies thought that creating a fully digital DTM experience for their customers was “Important” or “Very Important”. This is due to several reasons, the greatest of which is the increased efficiency that DTM offers. Running a business through analog transactions involves the expenditure of time, effort, money, and supplies, through the use of paperwork, printers, fax machines, scanners, and other implements. Transitioning to fully digital transactions eliminates the waste and ensures a faster experience, which is why 83% of IT and LOB businesses expressed an urgent need for DTM services when surveyed by Forrester.

Increasing efficiency isn’t the only motivation for implementing DTM – decreasing inefficiency is just as strong of a motivator. The Forrester study found that 50% of all process and systems issues were due to human error and errors in the analog process, which means that eliminating analog transactions would significantly decrease this number. Furthermore, 44% of businesses reported errors due to cumbersome paper-oriented tasks, and 37% said that there was a lack of security in printed documents. As a result of all of these inefficiencies, industry leaders estimated that they were losing a median of 11% to 15% of deals due to poor transaction management. Digitizing their transactions can make businesses much more secure, which means that they can retain customers who would otherwise leave due to security concerns. Furthermore, if businesses can avoid the inefficiency that comes with analog processes, they can improve the customer experience, and thus retain their customer base and avoid losing profits.

With all of these benefits, it seems only logical that all businesses would want to digitize their transactions. However, the Forrester study found that 45% of businesses cited a lack of skills necessary to implement DTM, and 39% indicated the high costs associated with the transition, when asked what their greatest barriers were when transitioning to digital. However, these barriers can and should be overcome due to the benefits described above.

When transitioning to digital, most businesses start out with digitizing operational and post-sales transactions, later moving on to pre-sales transactions and corporate functions. That’s because the main inefficiencies arise in operational processes, and implementing DTM in these areas will bring the most benefits to businesses. To do this, it is not necessary to consider functional roles; the Forrester study found that DTM was considered very important among all functions, including IT, finance, HR, and sales. Instead, look to all roles and departments, and digitize depending on what the problems are in your business – wherever you see the greatest inefficiency, or the greatest room for digital technology, is an area in which you can implement DTM.

Overall, the Forrester study had several recommendations for businesses looking to digitize their transactions. It is crucial to begin now, or as soon as possible, because the pace of change in the digital world means that every day your business does not utilize DTM fully is a day that you are losing customers, and a day that you could fall further behind as technology advances. Businesses should also have a clear idea of their plan for DTM, including specific management and achievable goals. Finally, it is important to make use of emerging digital trends, which will set a business on the road to efficient use of DTM.

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