Metadata, by its definition, tells more about other data. It gives common “keys” to finding information based on what it is, rather than where it is located.
With metadata, information can be categorized in a common, efficient way, so that everyone has access to it. Metadata, while already providing a lot of benefits for the organization, is still only one step on the path towards improved profitability.
To efficiently manage all organizational data, you need a method of finding, identifying, managing and processing information regardless of its location. You need connectors to access data in other repositories and intelligent tools to find and manage the information you need.
Webopedia explains intelligent information management as a set of processes and underlying technology solutions that enable organizations to understand, organize and manage all sorts of datatypes.
Intelligent information management comes from a metadata-driven approach to document management combined with the ability to manage information across systems and repositories without the need for migration. Additionally, AI is part of the package to help automate the related processes.
Information management is key to achieving both more profitability and compliance with laws and regulations. Intelligent information management provides transparency to workflows and helps you adhere to compliance requirements more easily.
In today’s business climate, things are moving faster than ever. Organizations are now tasked with managing and protecting more information, and speed and efficiency have taken over as two of the top priorities that enable organizations to keep up with the pace of business.
However, many businesses still rely on the legacy approaches to managing that influx of information, such as the multistep process of mailing, waiting and responding before a contract can be finalized. Organizations today should instead consider solutions that enable them to increase productivity, improve efficiency and deliver significant business impact. One way in which organizations can achieve these goals is by incorporating automation into their existing workflows.
Workflow automation automates everyday work tasks according to predetermined business rules to increase consistency, improve efficiency and achieve faster throughput. It helps make real-world processes simpler to follow and more repeatable. Workflow automation rarely makes a process fully automated, but the streamlining and elimination of mechanical steps, and the guidance it provides, can have a meaningful impact on the bottom line.
For example, here are a few of the benefits that can be expected from workflow automation:
Automating specific tasks around client information can help reduce some of the mundane, time-consuming tasks that often lead to unnecessary cycles. Through workflow automation, employees are instead guided through the process automatically, so they don’t have to physically remember what comes next or spend countless minutes searching for that long-lost document.
When an employee starts a new client project, for example, workflow automation can automatically provide the background context, as well as pre-fill templates for project deliverables. Similarly, when the deliverables are being finalized, workflow automation can ensure all the required reviews and approvals are completed before sharing the final outcome.
Feeling Of Safety With workflow automation, existing processes can be set up to be intuitively followed so that work is done on time and information is proactively delivered to the right destination. The correct workflows, security controls, records management and approvals are applied to information automatically, helping to ensure that employees no longer need to be fearful of making mistakes.
Strong Compliance Standards
Managing information is a critical part of achieving compliance, especially in highly regulated industries.
Workflow automation can automatically ensure policies are enforced, documents are secured and files are created, stored, used and retained in ways that comply with regulatory requirements. Workflow automation can help make sure projects move through all required steps appropriately and all rules are followed to meet compliance requirements, which can help ensure only the right people have access to sensitive information.
Improved Audit Trail
Workflow automation can also enable organizations to track information version history and immediately view an audit trail. Every step is documented automatically with a date and time stamp. Organizations gain instant audit trail visibility across all documents to ease control oversight and show evidence of compliance.
The traceable records provided by automated workflows provide proof that a required process is being followed, such as access only being granted to specific individuals, which is valuable to meet stringent external audit requirements. For example, an ISO-compliant company that has implemented workflows in a quality management system (QMS) can prove that they are processing corrective and preventative actions properly.
How To Get Started With Workflow Automation
As companies continue to add additional tools to their technology stack—from ERP (enterprise resource planning) to CRM (customer relationship management) and HR (human resources) systems—it’s important to ensure efforts aren’t being duplicated across multiple systems. Workflow automation can help be the practical tool that glues everything together.
To begin your workflow automation journey, it’s important to remember it’s OK to start small and grow. Begin with a process that won’t be overly complex to automate and use that as a means for validating the solution, easing change management and learning how to best implement automation in your organization.
Think of a process that isn’t mission critical, so if there are problems or delays with the implementation, the effects are minimal. A process that is limited in scope with respect to the organization (i.e., a department-specific process, rather than companywide) is often a good starting point. Starting with a process limited in scope can also enable more efficient testing and iterating within a smaller group to gain the most actionable feedback.
Once automating noncritical processes have been mastered, it’s easier to build on that by automating additional and more complex solutions. Starting small enables you to better understand and define your goals for implementing an automated solution so that you can ensure the automation is improving processes over time and providing the desired value.
When incorporating workflow automation, the biggest hurdle is typically the fact that people are so used to manually approving and moving information, that they’ve turned this into a key part of their job versus truly understanding it’s simply busy work. Having the discussions with employees to help them understand how workflow automation can help them focus on higher value work, instead of spending endless cycles on unnecessary manual labor, is a key part of a successful workflow automation strategy. Humans remain the biggest hindrance of success if they don’t understand the potential value from the onset.
With the massive increase in the amount of data that organizations generate, process and collect from myriad data sources, workflow automation can enable businesses to keep pace with constantly changing environments. By starting small and communicating the benefits with employees upfront, workflow automation can increase efficiency, productivity and compliance efforts—but only if approached in a well-planned manner.
For years, experts have been saying that telecommuting—otherwise known as working from home—would be the “wave of the future.” However, few predicted the wave would rapidly crash into the real world so quickly to become the “new normal.”
A recent study showed about 20% of people said they worked from home prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. As of late 2021, 71% of workers were reportedly working from home. Another 54% said they would prefer to continue to work remotely after the pandemic recedes to an endemic. For most companies, this paradigm shift represents a challenge in terms of building a new tech infrastructure that evenly facilitates at least three modes of work—in-office, hybrid, and remote.
Of key importance is the role of information management platforms that leverage a new-normal sense of collaboration and communication—especially in companies with workers spread across far-flung nations and time zones. Steve Jobs once said, “Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.” But, to do “great things,” an organization requires “greater” communication and collaboration tools.
Facing the “anywhere/anytime” challenge
As American workers continue to spread out into remote teams, the importance and value of project collaboration can’t be overstated. Knowledge workers must be able to work together anywhere, anytime, and from virtually any device. A 2021 Gartner study estimated nearly 80% of workers used collaboration tools—an increase of more than 40% since Q1, 2020.
Along with this shift came new and daunting challenges. For example, workers reported being unable to access key documents due to a lack of collaborative, accessible document management systems. Not only were workers scattered, so were their documents and data. Or worse, workers were using the wrong versions of documents that could often be lost in a swamp of email attachments.
Addressing collaboration frustration
So, how do forward-facing companies address these challenges and get the best out of their remote and in-office workers? The answer begins with a superior information management platform.
Workers must be empowered to share information easily and securely, as well as to work together more productively. They can’t do that if crucial information is still trapped in data silos or sitting on a hard drive in an office somewhere.
The good news? Document management solutions like M-Files face and defeats new-normal challenges for remote workers. No matter where or what your team focuses their resources and time, all crucial data is stored in one centralized repository, so everyone has access to exactly what they need. The result? Improved communication with clients and each other.
Keeping clients in the know
The digital-first experience has long presented an opportunity for organizations to create more personalized client experiences. For example, if a client needs a document, your team must have a streamlined system in place to make retrieval simple and secure. Solutions like M-Files mitigate issues in these areas by making content available internally and externally—but only to those who need access. Advances like these are ultimately why collaboration has continued to rise over the previous two years, despite the massive disruption brought on by COVID-19. When you give people the resources they need to perform at their best, they will.
“Cloud, collaboration, and connectivity: How can seamless communication be delivered?“, M-Files CEO Antti Nivala took on some of the toughest issues facing businesses in our time of digital transformation.
For many, the new ways of working are freeing, but there are unanswered questions: How do businesses communicate seamlessly in a work-from-anywhere world? What does a good office environment look like in the cloud era? How can you empower your employees when they’re working in drastically different time zones?
According to Antti, getting employees on the same page is about more than just sending them a laptop. “Even in places where the technological gaps have been filled, there needs to be a cultural change,” he said. “Now that many people, especially those at knowledge work companies are independently working at a time and place of their choosing, we have to make information available in a self-serve, on-demand way.”
Collaboration off the clock
The best workplace for your business may not be a physical place at all. You may not even work at the same time. “When we free people from the limits or restrictions of a place, they also begin making choices of when they work. Synchronous ways of communication and collaboration don’t necessarily work anymore,” Antti said. “We have to accept new ways of asynchronous collaboration and work together differently than when we were all gathering together in a meeting room.”
One way that companies can get more done in an “always-on” world is by unlocking information and empowering their employees to access it when they need it.
“Maybe it’s a cultural thing that companies, managers, and leaders tend to keep information to themselves,” Antti said. “Unless there is a very specific confidentiality reason why it shouldn’t be, I’m an advocate of the thinking that most of the information should be available and accessible, from a technical and access rights point of view to pretty much every employee in the company.”
Another way to optimize processes and make your business more dynamic is to provide access to learning possibilities. “For us as leaders, it’s about enabling and empowering employees to be successful.” According to Antti, “our role is to provide ways for them to develop their skills.”
During the panel, Antti explained that existing platforms like LinkedIn Learning offer a lot of value to your employees’ skill set. However, you know your business best. Beyond creating comprehensive onboarding processes and information libraries, companies should offer their team members in-house learning and self-development courses that can be taken when and where they want.
“If you can provide extensive learning and self-development opportunities, I think you are doing a great job in enabling your employees to not only do what you hired them to do but to elevate themselves to the next level.”
Over the last decade, virtually all industries have been altered and improved by the growth of artificial intelligence. However, one area that has changed radically, but many might not think of, has been the document management ecosystem.
Information-rich tasks have benefited from AI enormously, particularly in terms of knowledge management, business process management, security, and compliance. All these applications allow employees to work smarter, not harder ? freeing up their valuable time so they can focus on big ideas and long-term goals.
Every day, businesses create and process massive amounts of information – contained within it is the insight they need to better understand their market, better understand their customers, and create more effective products and services. By making sure that key personnel has access to the right data at the right time, AI assistance can mean the difference between success and failure.
An award-winning, AI-driven platform like M-Files is designed to give organizations of all sizes the ability to become more efficient without forcing employees to rely on siloed, manual tasks. It can help people spend less time finding the information they need so that they can spend more time acting on it.
Encouraging collaboration and strengthening security
When data is siloed off and essentially trapped in one department, it’s not able to get into the hands of ALL the people who need it. It’s essentially locked off by whoever created it, inaccessible to those others who may benefit from it as well. This is especially true with things like reports, or information pertaining to specific clients. Something that is valuable to the marketing department may be important to sales, too – but the latter may not know it exists.
“If you don’t know what kind of information you have, the only way to mitigate all risk and ensure that it’s kept safe is to lock it all down,” says Jayson deVries, Senior Product Manager at M-Files.
“Of course, that’s not conducive to knowledge sharing within an organization,” he adds. “So, AI can help you understand which information needs special for data protection treatments, and which can be shared with applicable groups.”
Unlike other information management solutions on the market, AI is embedded at the core of M-Files and pervasive throughout the entire platform, including external repositories. M-Files’ native AI capabilities enable improved visibility, security, and processing of information. With a self-learning mechanism incorporated across AI components, M-Files removes the burden from users, as learning happens behind the scenes with no extensive, upfront manual-dataset training.
What if you could do something good for the planet and make your workday easier? It sounds crazy in our digital era, but the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper annually. In the last 20 years, the usage of paper products in the US reached 208 million tons (up from 92 million) ? a growth of 126%.
It’d be one thing if all that paper served an important purpose, but according to one recent study, it’s estimated that about 45% of all paper documents that are printed in offices end up in the garbage by the end of the day. The same study estimates that companies spend more than $120 billion per year — every year — on printed forms. Luckily, there’s a more ecological and economical choice.
By digitizing your paper-centric documentation processes, and automating them, you can unlock powerful efficiency and productivity. M-Files partners with services that help analyze and scan your company’s physical documents, so you can securely digitize your data. Once it’s entered in M-Files, everyone on your team can instantly access the most up-to-date version of a document and share it in milliseconds. No printers, fax machines, or copiers are needed.
Green looks good on you
Deploying a document management solution as part of your business’ green policy won’t just eliminate large amounts of wasted paper, it can also spruce up your image. It shows customers and partners that your company is striving to be more environmentally conscious while potentially creating a more satisfying workplace for employees.
According to a study by Neilsen, corporate sustainability is important to a majority of people ? 85% of millennials and 79% of Gen X say it is “extremely or very important that companies implement programs to improve the environment.”
Many consumers around the world are adjusting their shopping habits to align with their values. For earth-conscious consumers, your business’ ecological actions truly matter.
Going paperless saves time
Organizations with an overarching system in place to handle all their information electronically not only reduce their impact on the environment but also operate at a vastly superior level of efficiency compared to those that still rely on paper files and folders. Given the large expense and inconvenience of paper documents, maintaining them in an electronic document management system leads to a substantial increase in efficiency and a decrease in operational costs.