The issues of digitization and dematerialization are now more central than ever before. Not only are consumers and citizens aware of these issues, but they have also become fundamental for companies of every type. Everyone, from small, innovative start-ups to giants in every sector, is moving in this direction. Even the public administration has taken is taking, decisive steps to become more digital.
Let’s start from an almost trivial question: why are companies becoming more digital?
The reasons are very simple, and we can summarize them as follows: switching from paper to digital has enormous advantages in terms of cost savings (with both direct and indirect savings) and in terms of efficiency of administrative procedures. But that’s not all.
From these clear, simple, and unquestionable advantages derive a series of other positive consequences, a series of other valuable opportunities that those who care about the health and growth of their business cannot ignore.
We will focus on these “side benefits” and the possible opportunities toward the end of this post. But it is important to underline right from the start how important and essential it is to rely on companies specializing in dematerialization services, to be able to address all aspects and make the most of the potential of this opportunity, with maximum security.
Among these, Doxee has more than 10 years of experience in the field of digital transformation, has always focused its business on a customer-oriented approach as tailored as possible, and also with high attention to all security-related issues. It is no coincidence that it already has numerous collaborations with various public administrations and leading companies, both on the B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Customer) side.
In this post, we will focus specifically on the digitization and dematerialization processes concerning document archiving in the Public Administration. This is a very broad field, which has a decisive impact on almost every type of business, on the administrative and economic system in general, and which has important and delicate repercussions also on the lives of ordinary citizens. First of all, let’s start by defining digitization and dematerialization.
Dematerialization goes beyond simple digitization
It is important to underline this immediately: digitization and dematerialization are two different concepts, with two rather different meanings. These are not only small nuances of meaning; there are also differences at the legal and operational levels.
The processes of digitalization, in fact, refer to the reorganization and efficiency of the processes and services available to companies and the Public Administration, and to their employees, users, citizens, even online, in a fully digital way.
On the other hand, dematerialization goes further. Dematerialization processes support the elimination of paper documents, as digital counterparts assume a complete legal and evidentiary value.
Depending on the document format, this can be done by electronic signature or time reference. With dematerialization, digital documents are associated with data thanks to which they can be searched and discovered within a digital archive, which must be as secure as possible, and according to established standards for security. As a result, companies must ensure the highest levels of cybersecurity, which only companies specialized in this field like Doxee can provide. In Italy, dematerialization processes have begun to take shape since 2005, first investing in the field of public administration.
Dematerialization in the PA – from 2005 to present day
The first step in the process of dematerialization for the Public Administration coincides with Legislative Decree no. 82 of 7 March 2005 (full text available here), which came into force in 2006 and sanctioned the birth of the so-called Digital Administration Code (CAD), a radical revolution in the way public documents are managed. Starting from this Code, all documents with legal relevance can no longer be produced on traditional paper, but, finally, also digitally.
What’s more, the digital solution is widely supported, given the enormous advantages and savings it brings.
In this regard, art. 42 of the CAD (entitled “Dematerialization of Public Administration documents”) states that “Public administrations shall evaluate, in terms of cost/benefit ratio, the retrieval on an electronic medium of documents and paper documents whose preservation is obligatory or appropriate and shall prepare the consequent plans for the replacement of paper archives with electronic ones.”
From what we have written above, it is clear how much the balance of the cost-benefit ratio practically always (and more and more, with the passage of time) hangs in favour of the digital. Since 2006, the CAD has been the subject of 29 updates; the most recent and significant is that of Legislative Decree no. 17 of 13 December 2017 (full text here). We should not underestimate the enormous issue of electronic invoicing, which now concerns more and more companies and individual taxpayers (read about the latest news on electronic invoicing for 2019 in this post).
In short, the process has started in Italy, despite being slow. And not only is there still a long way to go, there are also still many inefficiencies.
For example, in the recent Anitec-Assinform report “Il mercato digitale in Italia” (released in 2018), the level of digitalization of our national economic ecosystem (and therefore also that of the PA) is still far from European standards. But there are also positive signs. In 2017 alone, the digital market in Italy grew by 2.3% and this growth continued, also at 2.3%, in 2018. The positive trend, according to projections, should be confirmed in the coming years with expected growth of 2.8% in 2019 and 3.1% in 2020.
While there are many success stories, these risk remaining isolated in the absence of a broader and more systematic framework. In the final paragraph of this post, we will identify some decisive examples.
The advantages of moving to dematerialization
In summary, with dematerialization, the electronic document replaces the paper document. The digital signature tool replaces the handwritten signature. Traditional mail is replaced by ordinary email, and (more importantly), Certified Electronic Mail (PEC) plays the role that registered mail and fax had in the past.
Finally, and this point is really central, the computer archive replaces the traditional, cumbersome, expensive, and uncomfortable paper archive.
At this point, it is already clear that the comparison on the level of efficiency and economic costs leaves no room for doubt. Digital management wins over analog management on all fronts. In fact, the paper conservation of documents is excessively expensive. Paper occupies space (which in turn often turns into costs for managing this space), and it is subject to wear and tear. For example, it is easy to lose a physical document, and it’s even more difficult for errors and inaccuracies to be discovered. The difficulties of sharing a sheet of paper are great; and even more important if the interest is to share only a part of it, not to mention the long search times and the lack of transparency.
A correct and, we would like to stress this, secure digital management drastically reduces search times, greatly reduces the possibility of errors, makes it easy to share (a document in its entirety or only part of a document), offers unprecedented guarantees of transparency, but also allows you to exploit your document archive at different levels, which was previously unimaginable. Think, for example, of everything that can be triggered through careful analysis of big data, for a better dialog with users, and to put on track effective marketing actions or data-driven customer care.
In short: there are enormous advantages and opportunities that affect everyone, and that can be modulated on the different realities and structures of their business. The key is to rely on companies that have the ability, professionalism, and experience to be able to effectively and elastically manage these processes, which can be large in scale.
Through the Doxee platform, for example, 82 million invoices were handled in the first quarter of 2019 alone. This is a figure that speaks for itself.
Our new infographic features trends and tips to help administrations take advantage of digital to better communicate with citizens. Free download.