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I often talk about digital transformation as a way to help businesses preserve documents and streamline processes, but the customer experience is the driving force behind the transformation. And the customer experience goes beyond daily transactions – it extends to their personal life and the ability for the business to make the customer’s life easier in any way they can.

Each day, thousands of people are affected by some form of disaster. This time, disaster hit home for me and my family. Hurricane Harvey slammed Houston hard and it deeply affected my family and friends. From our family restaurant being in the line of destruction to seeing friends and family who needed assistance from local aid organizations, it was an eye-opening experience. I realized just how big of a role digital transformation can have in improving lives and experiences.

Even in the wake of natural disasters, it’s important that people can return to some sense of normalcy quickly. Electronic documents, forms, and processes can enable organizations to help people do just that. And not only help people but help people help people.

How Organizations Can Use Electronic Documents to Aid Efforts

Disaster relief is no small effort. It takes support from aid organizations on the national and local scale and requires thousands of man hours from volunteers as well as astounding amounts of tangible goods and cash. While many organizations are prepared to handle disaster recovery on a large scale, it’s still important that they continually streamline and adjust their processes to increase their support capacity and cut down on response time. Mobile technology, for example, is crucial to those efforts, and my colleague Dan Puterbaugh recently wrote about the important role it plays in a catastrophe.

In addition to mobile preparedness, electronic forms and documents are another, small way that national organizations are simplifying their processes so that they can serve more people faster. The Red Cross is an example of a relief organization using electronic forms and documents to efficiently facilitate their recovery efforts. Among the digital elements they’ve enabled to better serve their communities are electronic volunteer management tools. Electronic volunteer forms enable them to bring in volunteers quickly and without much overhead so that they can serve populations affected by disaster without the impediments of standard paperwork.

But it’s not just large organizations that benefit from electronic documents and digital processes. During the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, one of the local organizations on the ground, the Texas Lighthouse Charity Team, was able to pursue their mission uninterrupted because of digital processes they put in place ahead of time. From taking online donations to establishing a digital network of vendors and volunteers, the team provided life-saving relief, including emergency rescues and food deliveries, to those in need and extended their reach by enabling others to use their network to serve in other ways.

Even organizations that are not normally associated with disaster recovery can help ease the process for those affected. Banks that utilize electronic forms and documents can conduct better outreach to their customers in affected areas and ease the burden of making payments or conducting business while they are recovering. Electronic forms can help people apply for payment deferral, apply for financial support, and many other tasks that help ease the burden of recovery.

Document Preservation – A Small, but Critical Part of Recovery

Businesses are in a uniquely vulnerable position when disaster strikes. On one hand they are concerned with their personal welfare, but on the other they have to focus on continuing or preserving their business operations. Documents play a key role in daily operations for businesses to run and by using electronic document services, they enable operations to continue with minimal delay. They also allow businesses to protect their most important documents from natural elements out of their control, such as flood waters from a hurricane.

However, as I pointed out previously, automating forms and documents isn’t just for large organizations. Small businesses and organizations can leverage their power as well. For example, by creating digital forms for donations and volunteer sign up, local non-profits can make it easier for people wanting to help to give both financially and with their time.

Small businesses are often the most affected by disasters and digital transformation can be a large component of getting their business back up and running. Tasks such as payroll are often overlooked in digital transformation, but if you’re in the middle of disaster recovery and are unable to get out paper checks, your business and your employees will suffer when they need help the most. Automating your business processes, such as payroll, can keep everyone on track when times are hardest.

Electronic Documents Serve Organizations Large and Small

Many organizations are already using these technologies to better serve their clients and benefactors – some on a massive scale. Though electronic documents are a small piece of the puzzle, they can be an important step toward bringing normalcy back to those in need.

The Global Fund, a not-for-profit that mobilizes nearly $4 billion annually to fight the diseases, is speeding up delivery of life-saving medicine and assistance with help from Adobe Sign, an Adobe Document Cloud solution. When budgets and plans need to be executed on quickly, having digital document processes such as concurrent signatures and preserved formatting (via PDF) are critical to delivering aid. Having a digital process also enables the organization to complete recruiting activities in less than a day, which helps to staff the fast-growing areas where they serve.

Digital transformation is one of the key components of enabling organizations and businesses to deliver their services without interruption and allow them to serve a greater number of people in less time. Both characteristics that are crucial during disaster recovery.