5 Quotes From Sun Tzu to Help You Digitize

2019-bl-DocuSign-webinar-page-imageFor centuries, generals have turned to “The Art of War” to make tactical decisions. It might’ve been written over 2,000 years ago, but the military strategies it outlines make it a pinnacle of warfare. More recently, CEOs have turned to its pages for help in running their businesses and dealing with competitors. Today, “The Art of War” can be applied to the War on Paper.

MasterControl declared the War on Paper months ago in an effort to encourage offices to eschew paper in favor of digitization. The good news is we’re winning. However, we also need people to enlist. If you want to join the fight, watch our recent joint webinar with DocuSign. Or, if you’re the literary type, here are some words of wisdom from Sun Tzu to inspire you.

#1: Know yourself and you will win all battles.

Before you rush off into battle, you need to take inventory of your armament. Business armament includes your employees, their expertise, the capabilities of your IT department and the technology you already have. Digitizing inevitably means that your employees will need additional training and additional technology. However, it does not mean that everything and everyone needs to be replaced. A surgical strike will let you focus on the processes that need to be digitized without collateral damage to your employees.

That kind of precision means you need to know your company’s strengths and weakness and which ones need to be addressed first. You’ll need to consider where you want to start, who will be involved from the beginning, and what you hope to achieve by digitizing. Working the War on Paper into your business strategy gives you a better chance of succeeding and makes it easier to get support from execs and employees.

Watch the War on Paper Webinar presented by DocuSign and MasterControl.

Watch the Webinar

#2: Opportunities multiply as they are seized.

The more digital you go, the more opportunities you have to further digitize. For example, let’s say you just want to get your training documents under control so your audits run smoothly. You might start by purchasing an electronic document control system. Once that’s up and running, you realize the same software can be used to improve collaboration by making it electronic. Once employees are collaborating electronically, you realize the same digital system can be used to gather external input. This process continues until digitizing becomes part of your company culture and permeates everything you do.

An additional opportunity from digitizing is that employees have time to do their jobs. They’ll be able to focus on value-added activities, rather than tracking down documentation and chasing down managers to get signatures. This leads to a different group of opportunities as employees have time to innovate, focus on improving quality and complete regulatory requirements to get products out the door faster.

#3: There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

The longer a war takes, the more it costs. The same applies to the War on Paper. Digitization does take time, especially for it to spread through an organization. And fast-tracking implementation isn’t necessarily a good idea if employees can’t keep up. However, the longer you drag out your implementation, the more you stand to lose. True, you’ll experience some benefits with every step of digitization, but you’ll have opportunity costs from everything that hasn’t been digitized.

The key to making sure your warfare isn’t prolonged is to set out with a plan. Don’t just digitize for the sake of digitizing, and look at which processes should be digitized first, who should be involved and how you’ll compensate for the added demands on time. The War on Paper will be won when you’ve digitized to the point that your entire product life cycle is connected. However, there are many skirmishes to be fought before then and planning will help you shorten the time needed to overcome those obstacles.

#4: He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.

If Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that a battle must be preceded by a rousing speech to rally the troops. The War on Paper doesn’t quite require the exact same action, but it does require that you take specific efforts to get your team on board with and excited about the idea of digitizing. This is a major organizational change, which means big changes in how employees perform their jobs on a day-to-day basis.

A big part of getting employees enthused about digitizing involves making sure they know it’ll make their jobs easier — not eliminate those jobs. It’s also important that this be a priority from that start, not an afterthought. It might not seem like getting everyone on board with digitizing merits a lot of attention, but experience shows otherwise. According to a survey from KPMG,1 84% percent of life sciences executives see employee acceptance as the biggest obstacle to digitizing. So, if you want to win this war, make sure employees are on your side.

#5: Great results can be achieved with small forces.

Wars aren’t won in a single battle. Just like your company won’t be a digital enterprise after a single project. Starting small with something that yields quick results is the best move here. It’s tempting to start with something big to prove the importance of digitizing and show the benefits. However, small change is more acceptable and can yield 80 to 100 percent improved productivity of individual processes.2

What does starting small look like? The document control software we mentioned earlier is a perfect example. Making all documents electronic saves time and frustration. Just doing this one small thing reduces errors, simplifies collaboration and approval, and ensures that documents don’t get “lost.” Once your document control system is fully operational, you might be ready to bring in another system, such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer resource management system (CRM). As long as you choose systems from vendors with integration services, your opportunities are virtually endless.


Sun Tzu’s classic has a lot to offer those fighting the War on Paper. However, even more useful information comes from those who have successfully fought and won this war for their companies. If you’re interested in seeing their battle plans, watch the aforementioned webinar now and see how to go on the offensive and finally get paper out of the office.


  1. KPMG. “Digitization in life sciences.” Retrieved from https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2018/01/digitalization-in-life-sciences.pdf
  2. Priest, Dan; Krishnamurthy, Kumar and Blanter, Alex. “The New Automation Is Smart, Fast, and Small.” Retrieved from https://www.strategy-business.com/article/The-New-Automation-Is-Smart-Fast-and-Small?gko=ba9d4

2019-bl-author-sarah-bealeSarah Beale is a content marketing specialist at MasterControl in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in business administration from DeVry University.