Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

As fun and exciting as IT can be, most people don’t really care how something actually works. To them, IT is the means to either one of two ends. If they are the business owner, they want to know how IT can improve productivity at a lower cost. Employees, meanwhile, just want to know how IT might ease their daily burdens in a way that might actually get them home in time for supper.

It doesn’t take much walking around these days to see how IT still has a ways to go to deliver on either of those promises. The simple fact is that paper-based workflow processes, from the doctor’s office to the local school board, are everywhere despite some 40 years of IT advancements.

A recent survey drives this point home. Beyond scanning files to make them easier to store, most businesses today don’t make use of electronic documents in any meaningful way, according to the study, which is based on a poll of 385 members of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) and was underwritten by Parascript, a provider of document capture software.

Some of that has to do with the cumbersome nature of the technologies involved. But these days, it’s a lot more about the simple fact that no one has really taken the time to figure out how to transform a business process for the better by using electronic documents.

In fact, unless there’s some form of government mandate such as what we now see in health care, the biggest inhibitor to change is inertia. It’s the job of the solution provider to overcome that inertia.

Workflow can be defined as all the human intervention required to fill in the spaces between applications. Solution providers would be well-advised to embed themselves inside a prospective customer to really understand how workflow in that organization actually occurs. Once they’ve walked a mile or two in the shoes of that customer, it should be much easier to propose a new IT solution that improves workflow in a way that makes both the business owner and the employees much happier.

Without getting truly inside an organization, most solution providers are sitting around waiting for customers to figure out they need a particular product. As history has shown time and again, that may or may not ever happen.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.