How to kick start digital transformation

How to kick start digital transformation
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About the author

Ron Hirson is the Chief Product Officer at DocuSign.

You might have seen or heard the term digital transformation for some time now, but it is so much more than a buzzword. When done correctly it drives productivity, improves the customer experience, strengthens security, and makes your business better in just about every way.

Setting criteria

In fact, 80% of organisations say they are more profitable after digital transformation. But again, the key here is to do it right … because 35% of digital transformation efforts fail due to a lack of clear strategy.

So let’s look at what it really takes to kick start digital transformation. As with any journey, the first step is defining where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there. And when it comes to digital transformation, it’s useful to think about it according to the criteria my CITO colleague Kirsten Wolberg uses here at DocuSign—and that is: how is the project customer-centric, is it paperless, is it automated end-to-end, and is it available across multiple platforms?

If you can answer those four criteria clearly, the next step is to identify which parts of your business will benefit the most from transformation, and to start removing the barriers. And from research that we commissioned recently, we’ve seen that agreements are one of the areas most ripe for transformation.

The trouble with paper

Whether they are contracts, offer letters, purchase orders or the hundreds of other agreements that form the foundation of doing business, many companies still rely on a combination of cumbersome manual processes like printing, scanning and emailing to manage them. In fact, recent research from Forrester points that that almost half of all businesses are still relying on paper-based systems to handle their ‘systems of agreement’. 

This has a meaningful impact on day to day operations. Our research shows that in the past year, 46% of respondents have had the start of projects delayed, 45% have delivered poor customer experiences, 42% have had delays in recognising revenue, and 39% have had unnecessary printing, mailing, and faxing costs. Even if a company has transformed one part of the system—implementing e-signature technology to replace the wet signature, for example—the other manual processes before and after that signature can still cause issues. 

Digital examples

The law firm Freshfields is a good example. Mergers and acquisition transactions represent a huge part of Freshfields’ business, and contract signing is the most visible part of that process. Yet historically, every time a deal was made, Freshfields would have to print out over 100 pieces of paper documentation, be in the same room as the client to sign them, and then scan individual agreements into their system before manually filing them. 

Today, Freshfields has implemented e-signature and documents are sent to its clients digitally. This means that Freshfields can track the lifecycle of those agreements all the way through the workflow process, before they are automatically stored in the cloud. By digitising its system of agreement, Freshfields has replaced a costly and inefficient process with one that makes business faster, simpler and greener.

Fast growing fintech unicorn OakNorth is another great example. By implementing a CLM (Contract Lifecycle Management) solution with eSignature, which it has integrated into its core CRM, OakNorth has made the preparation of agreements easy, automated approvals and significantly reduced the entire contracting cycle. 

When you consider every loan OakNorth provides requires a legal contract, digitally transforming the end-to-end contract process delivers enormous value to the business, driving up efficiency, and providing deep visibility into agreements, which are centrally stored and made searchable to help with compliance.

Benefits of transformation

The broader impact of this digital transformation trend speaks for itself. A Forrester Consulting total economic impact assessment published in October 2018 found that the modern system of agreement has a payback of 117%. This means that if a company had spent £150,000 on licensing and implementation costs, they would receive benefits worth more than £325,000 over the next three years.

Digital transformation is not about changing one system or process, it’s about overhauling entire systems to ensure they work well together. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. By using technology that is built using those fundamental principles (customer-centric, paperless, automated end-to-end and available across platforms) businesses can knock down those remaining barriers and reap the benefits of true digital transformation.


Ron Hirson is the Chief Product Officer at DocuSign.

Ron Hirson

Ron is an entrepreneurial executive and investor with two decades of business and product management experience and over 40 issued patents to his name. Ron currently leads Product and Customer Experience at DocuSign where he is responsible for product strategy, roadmap and development.

He was most recently EIR at Khosla Ventures and Mayfield Fund, and prior to being an EIR was co-founder, President at BOKU, where his responsibilities included creating and managing the BOKU product/service, go-to-market plan, marketing, public relations, business development and corporate development. He served as BOKU's spokesperson and has been interviewed/quoted or a guest on Bloomberg, Forbes, Fox News, NYT, TechCrunch, Reuters, WSJ, etc. Previously, he served as Vice President of Product Management at AT&T Interactive, and was responsible for the company’s new and existing advertising products and features that generated $1B in revenue annually. Prior to the acquisition of Ingenio by AT&T, Ron served as Vice President of Product Management where he lead the product management team for Ingenio. He began his career as a management consultant with Price Waterhouse where he designed, implemented and customized software for clients such as: Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios, and SAFECO. During the “dotcom” days, he was CEO and co-founder of The Digs Network, Inc., which was acquired by Ron is an inventor on over 40 issued patents and 140 filed patents.