We humans are a creative bunch. Ever since the dawn of time, we’ve been creating and tweaking our tools to make them work just a bit better. We can’t help it—we’re innovators. All the way back to when the first caveman showed his friend a cool, new way to start a fire faster. We like to improve things and it seems to be hard-wired into our DNA.
Ideas for technological innovations and labor-saving devices have been bubbling up since... forever. That’s nothing new. What is new is the speed at which the changes are coming. And nowhere is this speed of change more relevant and unrelenting than in the world of business.
It took us about 5,000 years to go from hieroglyphics to the printing press. It took another 400 years to get to the manual typewriter. But from there, the speed of transformation really begins to hit warp speed. It took 50 years to go from manual typewriters to electric typewriters. Then just 40 years to jump from typewriters to word processors. From there, it was a quick two decades to email. And what an enormous shift that was in the way people communicated! Do you remember the thrill of hearing “You’ve got mail!” when you first signed on to AOL?
Suddenly, we were all computer users. And we began to see things through different eyes. The type-written forms we had always used now seemed quaint and old-fashioned. Did the forms change? No, our expectations and standards did. In much the same way that a shift happened and one day our cell phones magically became wallets, cameras, sleep trackers, and flashlights.
Think of all the innovations in the modern office we can’t imagine working without—a copy machine, a fax machine, email, Microsoft Word, Excel, Google Docs, WebEx, the Internet, a Keurig, (of course). All these innovations radically transformed the way information flowed through a corporation. And now, we are at the cusp of yet another milestone moment.
In the late 1980s, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software was developed to help businesses better manage customer relationships, and all the data involved with them.
CRMs could store a ton of data, and companies soon understood how powerful that info could be if used correctly. The next powerful innovation was the ability to auto-populate with data from your CRM and other data sources simultaneously. Modern CRM platforms like HubSpot and Salesforce allowed businesses to manage their sales pipeline, log sales activity, and store contact data all in one place.
It wasn’t that long ago that our business forms were handwritten or pre-printed and filled in with a pen or a typewriter. Remember using actual carbon paper to make copies? Ink all over our hands from handling slimy black carbons? Positively stone age!
Next, the process evolved to where business people could copy and paste from a master template and create a fantastically boring, generic-looking document. Now we’ve graduated to empowering businesses to design their own personalized templates.
Sounds good, right? Well, yes and no. This ability led to salespeople often having to create customized documents such as contracts, quotes, and proposals. Often this might mean opening a file, editing it, and then exporting it as a PDF.
Creating these documents was slow, painstaking work. Usually, you needed a professional with specialized skills to make any changes, and the process was ripe with possibilities for introducing accidental changes to important data.
In the 2000s, tech companies like Windward Studios revolutionized the way companies handled their documents and reporting by introducing document automation software. For the first time in history, document automation became available to everyone, allowing organizations to focus on the really important stuff: customers, career, and business success.
Not only is innovation a human trait, so is resistance to innovation. But don’t drag your feet and fall behind! Today’s businesses need to retire the old ways of doing things and embrace the future and see the possibilities with your new eyes.