Fighting climate change has undoubtedly become, and rightly so, one of the major drivers of people’s behavior in recent years. At the same time, the importance of sustainability to business has grown too. Whilst companies have to a large extent realized their responsibility on sustainability, the ability to find ways to become ever more environmentally healthy remains a challenge.
Many companies have or are initiating their environmental policies, aligned with an increasing amount of similar requirements from their trading partners, which places demands upon their own internal processes. Thus, sustainability has become a clear factor on B2B sales, not only B2C, As people are placing more and more importance on these topics in their personal lives, green values have become an important factor. Employee demands for sustainability change are becoming selection criteria when applying for a new job. This places far more emphasis on a prospective employer to show a progressive approach to these demands if they are to persuade new talent to join.
Challenges for sustainability in Information Management
The role of Information Management is often not the most obvious when it comes to a sustainable way of working. The most notable effect of modern IT systems is clearly their ability to support collaboration over vast distances, i.e., as an enabler of remote work and avoiding unnecessary travel to business meetings. The COVID-19 epidemic has quite naturally sped up the transformation towards remote work, so communications over remote meetings with Teams, Zoom, etc., have pretty much become the norm.
Even though modern remote meeting systems enable communications over remote connections, they are not very good for non-formal communications that we tend to do while in the office or meeting clients or partners on site. The lack of such non-formal communication places even more importance in information management processes, including tools for employees to easily carry out their responsibilities.
Traditionally, managing the company’s business critical documents has been especially reliant on the non-formal communications taking place in the workplace and physical meetings. Finding the correct documents or previous work has been done by asking around in the office. A lot of documentation is simply replicated, with approval processes largely completed by signing paper copies in the office. Thus, better means for document & content management are certainly one challenge that companies need to address, allowing operations with reduced overheads.
Besides providing means for remote work, there are other factors in Information Management systems that affect the total CO2 footprint of a company. As these systems consume substantial amounts of energy, optimizing their usage of computing resources and digital storage would result in a more sustainable workplace. Unfortunately, such issues were largely overlooked when companies initially set up their information management systems and, therefore, offer considerable room for sustainability enhancement.
Sustainability challenges have gained more attention lately. For example, Capgemini has recently produced a report and an article about “Sustainable IT” that outlines very similar conclusions as mentioned here: Sustainable IT Leads to Significant Benefits But Is Still Not a Focus for Most Organizations.
How to make content management an asset for sustainability
State-of-the-art information management usually relies upon Enterprise Content Management (ECM), i.e., managing a company’s documents and the information related to them. The question is: How can a company become more sustainable by improving the way they are using and managing their documentation?
Reflecting the challenges outlined above, the benefits of an ECM system for a company from the sustainability viewpoint can be summarized by the following three points:
- A common system for accessing documents and supporting digitized processes. This approach enables effective collaboration on the documents, typically involving review & approval processes, even when working remotely. Thus, an ECM system can act as an important enabler for remote work, avoiding travel to meet clients and partners whilst enhancing customer service.
- Avoiding document copies. Document version management in ECM systems and the ability to use document links instead of email attachments, reduce storage requirements, thus saving energy required for maintaining multiple document repositories. In practice, this means that the companies can reduce the amount of network drives & other repositories by utilizing modern ECM systems.
- Cloud environments enable computing resources to be securely shared. A cloud-based solution is a collaborative resource distributed among many users / clients, thus using processing power much more efficiently than systems relying on the processors in each users’ PCs or company servers. In this manner, using cloud-based ECM solutions can drastically reduce the overall computing power needed for document management.
Improving a company’s sustainability can be seen as a ripple effect: changes that by themselves seem small but combined together make a real difference. Applying modern ECM technology to enable intelligent information management is an important part of striving towards more environmentally healthy way of working.
In this age of 24/7 Client focus, it is easy for Practice Management to lose sight of the fundamentally important job of looking for internal systematic operating process bottlenecks.
In many cases hidden away in the business, there are functions that remain supported primarily by a mixture of seemingly permanent ‘temporary Shadow Systems” such as spreadsheets and shared drives, all supported by manually driven processes.
Quite often, due to budget prioritization, resource focus or simply not allocating “your own business review time”, opportunities to introduce robust, low-risk digital solutions to help improve productivity and bottom-line profitability are missed.
Typical questions that need to be asked include:
- Can we ensure our compliance and governance processes are adhered to?
- Are our data sources secure and controlled?
- Are we maximising the value of our data?
- Do our processes work seamlessly across the Practice and externally to our Clients?
- Can we guarantee that GDPR request can be answered?
- Am I sure that my KPI’s are based upon fact?
- How can we work smarter?
Many organizations do not have an accurate accounting of their own IT estate. How many and what types of servers? How many and what types of applications? How well utilized is the IT estate? Are there redundancies in application licenses and maintenance? How much of the estate is at the end of service life (EOSL)? Can the estate be consolidated based on newer infrastructure?
Regular analysis of the costs and performance of your legacy applications identifies the gaps, performance degradation, outages, and service interruptions that inevitably arise. The resulting analytics highlight areas that need to be modernized to improve the performance, availability, and support of your systems.
Importantly, the benefits of process optimization have a wider reach than just the business processes. The operational knowledge and experience needed to manage and oversee people-dependent processes tend to be concentrated in the heads of a few key individuals. This results in greater risk to the business.
Ironically, fewer people with complete knowledge of key processes, also complicate succession planning, making transitions prone to disruptions, relationships with partners strained, and general discontent within the organization.
Ultimately, a more structured, stress-free working environment that enables your teams to function effectively, enhances well-being, and can contribute to staff retention, will enhance productivity, increase customer satisfaction and contribute to greater profitability.
At M-Files, our goal is to provide knowledge workers with the connected content and intelligent automation they need to empower a smarter way to work. However, we wouldn’t be who we are today without our amazing customers. Our customers are our guiding “why” — and as of today*, we are proud to share that because of them, we have achieved a 4.4 out of 5-star rating in the Content Services category on Gartner Peer Insights, which documents customer experience through verified ratings and peer reviews from enterprise IT professionals.
The satisfaction of our customers has, and always will be, our number one priority. We’re humbled that as of August 1, 2021, 88% of Gartner Peer Insights respondents would recommend M-Files as a Content Services Platform, based on 78 reviews over the past twelve months. We believe achieving such a reputable Gartner Peer Insights rating showcases our on-going commitment to providing customers with new, innovative ways to manage, secure and collaborate around content.
The reviews speak for themselves, and we couldn’t be more humbled our customers think so highly of us:
- “It is a mastermind software to have when it comes to managing data. I have used M-Files for a long time and I am completely satisfied with the breadth of functionalities it offers.” – Consultant, Services [read full review]
- “One of the best document management system available in market. Easy to store and manage large files in this application. Collaboration made easy with this application.” – Senior Analyst, Services [read full review]
- “M-Files is one of the best content management software which lets users to create, manage and store the data. The product is very easy to use and implement.” – Analyst, Services [read full review]
- “M-Files is a document management software where users can firstly and quickly manage and organize electronic documents. The user interface is very good and the user can perform the multi-task at one time directly from the central dashboard.” – Software Engineer, Services [read full review]
We strive to provide a modern approach to information management that increases the productivity of knowledge workers, ensures a seamless digital experience, strengthens collaboration, enables business continuity, and reduces business risk. Over this past year, it has been our greatest pleasure helping organizations navigate, control, and manage overwhelming amounts of data brought on by digital transformation and the pandemic. We are humbled our customers see the value in our metadata-driven approach and look forward to helping our customers continue to see greater productivity and ROIs across their organizations.
*August 1, 2021, based on 78 reviews
 Gartner Peer Insights reviews constitute the subjective opinions of individual end users based on their own experiences and do not represent the views of Gartner or its affiliates.
Over the past few years, content services have fallen into one of two different categories: transactional or collaborative. Transactional content, as the name suggests, directly relates to the case management content that businesses are working with on a daily basis. Collaborative content, on the other hand, has to do with all of those project-related documents that people are tracking to actively do their jobs.
In the past, both of these would have been handled by way of an enterprise content management system, otherwise known as an ECM for short. Unfortunately, this had led people to attempt to divide up their workflows based on which technologies help to solve their content problems. In reality, things would be much more productive if efforts were divided up based on the content type they were working with.
To that end, there are three main content types that any modern enterprise needs to be aware of: collaborative content, archival content and transactional content.
The Building Blocks of Collaborative Content
As stated, the first main type of content that most enterprises work with has to do with collaborative content. That is, the type of content that exists in the types of systems that people use to more efficiently work with one another on projects. Examples of these systems include but are not limited to ones like Slack, Teams and even “old school” email collaboration.
The purpose of these systems is clear: they’re supposed to optimize the way people work together.
The issue is that especially in the fast-paced modern era we’re currently living through, collaborative content is the type that is most likely to get “lost” over time. People are collaborating on so many different documents across so many systems that organizations don’t really have a sense of what they have – let alone where it happens to be.
Their collaborative content is growing faster than they realize and, coupled with a lack of efficient storage and effective categorization, means that most businesses are soon left with a large stockpile of content and no real way to make sense of it all.
Archival (Read: Old) Content
This segues directly into the next most common type of content: archival content. This refers to those documents or other materials that may not have a pressing short-term need, but that businesses still don’t want to just get rid of.
Usually, archival content is either that which has been retired from an ECM solution or that which has been gleaned from file shares, collaborative solutions and other areas where people just get overloaded with content.
To successfully manage an archival system, people need to be able to identify and categorize content, all so that they can determine when it is best to permanently dispose of it. Automatic metadata classification tools are essential to that end, as they not only help sort high quality data from its low quality counterparts, but they can also help remove duplicate content and solve other challenges.
The Era of Transactional Content
Finally, we arrive at the idea of transactional content: that is, content services that are built to support all of these different content systems. Solutions like M-Files bring the best of CRM, ERP and even custom case management systems together, all in a way that breaks down data silos and makes sure that businesses have complete visibility over their enterprise at all times.
The main benefit here is that employees can work within just a single system and have access to all of the critical data they need, regardless of where that data is housed. Not only do you still maintain the benefit of allowing people to better work together, but they can do so remotely from literally any device on Earth with an active Internet connection. Here, data is stored externally from the moment of its creation – meaning that anytime, anywhere access to key insights and other important documents is all but a forgone conclusion.
In the end, it’s important to understand your options when picking the right content services and solutions to meet the ever-changing needs of your business. When executed properly, most employees shouldn’t be interacting with content services directly. They shouldn’t have to use seven different systems just to get work done on a single file.
They should have access to a single point that gives them everything they need to interact with their content and conduct business, all while staying in sync with the rest of the enterprise as well. That’s why solutions like M-Files are so essential: they go a long way towards guaranteeing precisely that.
Thanks to the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, more and more businesses find themselves in urgent need of a digital transformation to stay afloat. This includes both organizations who were previously interested in the idea but who didn’t think it would happen quite so quickly, along with those who never really gave it much thought at all.
Regardless, your IT department will play a crucial role in determining whether your own transformation is the success you need it to be or the failure you fear it might become. More specifically, there are six core IT department roles that will be instrumental in guiding your organization’s digital transformation.
By far, one of the most important contributors to the success of your digital transformation comes down to the cloud specialists you choose to surround yourself with.
Remember that these professionals are tasked with doing more than just managing the migration of information and services from one platform to another. They also need to be on hand to quickly troubleshoot any issues, to help team members navigate the cloud environment, and to help mitigate risk for your rapidly transforming organization. This is especially true during the COVID-19 era, where industries are constantly evolving in new and unexpected ways and businesses have to evolve just as quickly to stay ahead in increasingly uncertain times.
Another invaluable role during your digital transformation will be that of the system integrators. These IT professionals will need to customize the employee experience before, during, and after the digital transformation itself, carefully selecting the best combination of hardware, software, networking, and storage products to support your people and the important work they’re doing on a daily basis.
In a best-case scenario, systems integrators will be able to create a highly specialized experience that not only meets your business’ needs as they exist today, but that also makes sure your technology is finally aligned with your long-term business goals — which is a big part of what your digital transformation is supposed to accomplish, to begin with.
Any digital transformation always brings with it a certain degree of risk in terms of cybersecurity, which is why another one of the most important IT department roles that can mean the difference between success and failure will ultimately come down to your information security team.
As more and more information and activity happen within a cloud-based, “anytime/anywhere” infrastructure, security must become and remain a top priority no matter what. Information security specialists can not only help come up with a cybersecurity strategy that makes the most sense given your environment, but they can also monitor for any suspicious activity to help stop small problems today before they have a chance to become potentially catastrophic ones tomorrow.
Hidden inside the massive volumes of data that your business is creating on a daily basis is a treasure trove of insight that would have otherwise gone undiscovered. This is especially true during a digital transformation when you need access to current and high-value information to make the most informed decisions possible every day.
Data analysts help enormously to that end by retrieving, gathering, and analyzing data — all of which allows you to take a more organic data-driven approach to what you’re doing. Not only can they spot important patterns and better understand how certain activities impact your business, but they can also make smarter recommendations on how to improve your operations to help you reach your long-term goals more efficiently than ever.
The User Experience (UX)
User experience designers also have a crucial role to play in your digital transformation by capitalizing on opportunities to improve not only the accessibility of your system but its usability and interaction potential as well. In a larger sense, they’re tasked with providing all of your users with the best possible experience that they can — all so that your employees can spend less time trying to figure out how to get their technology to work and instead focus on putting that technology to work for them.
This is once again particularly important during COVID-19, given the fact that your online experience is essentially the only experience that you’re able to offer your employees for the foreseeable future. Therefore, user experience designers are critical to not only help make sure that your digital transformation goes off without a hitch but to do so in a way that also makes sure that your employees have access to everything they need to do their jobs every day.
Finally, we arrive at information management specialists, otherwise known as the hardworking men and women who are tasked with making sure that data is flowing freely across your organization at all times.
Especially when you’re talking about something as important as digital transformation, you cannot afford to deal with data silos at any point. If you’re not sure where information is or even what is important and what isn’t, it’s difficult to make sure that everything transitions from one system to another as securely and as smoothly as possible. Information management specialists can leverage solutions like M-Files to bring all of your data together, regardless of where it might be stored. An information management platform like M-Files will create a single data repository for all of your important files, regardless of whether they’re stored in the cloud, on personal drives, on network shares, or on something else entirely.
In the end, any digital transformation will always be a time-consuming and somewhat stressful process, but that is especially true during the COVID-19 era when more people are working remotely than ever. But by making sure that these six core IT department roles are filled before, during, and after the transition, you’ll have put your business in an excellent position to enjoy all of the benefits of this process with a few of the potential downsides as possible.
According to Nitro, workers spend an average of 50% of their time creating and preparing documents. Yet, document issues account for more than 21% of daily productivity loss.
Businesses depend on information — documents, files, data, content… everything. It is the lifeblood of just about every organization. The past few years have seen a reckoning for companies in how they capture, store, structure, and disseminate information within the organization. The explosion of information across the enterprise has made it an IT issue that cannot be ignored.
The reason is simple… unstructured data is generated at an alarming rate and it’s burrowed away in siloed applications — think email, chat logs, network drives, CRM. This combined with the huge rise of remote work in 2020 has put intelligent information management solutions like M-Files in the spotlight. The way these solutions combat the problem is revolutionary, featuring transformative capabilities like AI-enabled tagging and collation of content across otherwise disconnected repositories.
To put it into proper perspective, let’s examine the obstacles to efficient information management and the six trends you can expect in 2021.
Pervasive (but Not New) Challenges in Information Management for 2021
Companies are consistently battling several information management challenges, elucidating the need to combat them with a frontline intelligent information management system. Top of the list of challenges are:
- A flood of unstructured data — all information not contained in tidy databases, the information contained in documents, PowerPoints, email attachments, email messages, chat logs
- Difficulty in organizing and classifying data, especially in a traditional hierarchy of file folders and subfolders
- Content scattered across the entire information landscape in siloed systems and applications, like a wasteland of misfit documents
Hopefully, some of the trends mentioned below will help ameliorate some of these challenges.
Improving Information Findability with Federated Search
Over 60% of information workers needed to access at least four systems, according to CMSWire. Federated search describes a search technology that can scan several sources for information at the same time. By default, federated search capabilities are baked into the M-Files solution. M-Files doesn’t care where your documents are. Searches can be completed across all company information silos to return results, regardless of where the files live. That’s the power of focusing on content over location — decoupling the content from its repository.
AI-Enabled Information Management Functions
Artificial intelligence is ever-present in many technologies we use, and information management is another technology that has a prominent place now for AI. It’s especially useful in a few ways: AI can comb through large amounts of data, for personally identifiable information as an example, and AI can suggest metadata tags to help classify data.
M-Files has spent extensive resources to stay on the bleeding edge of AI in information management. M-Files offers several intelligence services that will help you automate your office work.
- M-Files Smart Classifier: Automatically suggests a Class for an object, such as “Template”, “Agreement”, or “Offer”
- M-Files Information Extractor: Automatically scans through the content of a document to suggest relevant metadata
- M-Files Image Analysis: Automatically examines the image to suggest captions, categories, tags, and facial analysis results as metadata suggestions
The Rise of Anywhere, Anytime Access to Information
The year 2020 will go down in the history books. The whole world was shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic and for businesses, this meant deploying a large remote workforce to ensure business continuity. It put into stark contrast those that were ready with digital transformation and those that were behind the curve.
Knowledge workers needed remote access to company information and files. They needed the same experience from home as they would at the office. By far, the number one most vital part of any successful remote, flexible work strategy has to do with a true information platform at the center. At its core, an information management system is precisely what it sounds like — a solution designed to facilitate not only the storage of critical data but also the organization and retrieval of that same information.
M-Files provides remote access to information from anywhere in the world and from any device. Now, employees can work from anywhere — the hotel, their home, an airport, a client location… anywhere.
Much like remote work and remote access, flexible and diverse tools that enable hassle-free collaboration will be an indispensable part of a company’s tool stack. As traditional working models shift to a collaboration-centric model, intelligent information management tools like M-Files are needed to enable that shift.
But we’ve moved past just enabling collaboration into an era of optimizing it. From sharing documents to tracking tasks to co-authoring, these technologies ease the burden of collaborating, even in a remote work environment.
Connecting Disparate Information Silos
Employees shouldn’t have to toggle between applications, programs, and tools to find the information they need. M-Files and the Intelligent Metadata Layer deliver a simple, unified user experience for modern information management. You can browse data in all connected systems and repositories, whether in the cloud or on-premises with the same user interface — something that other ECM solutions don’t offer.
Friendly and Attractive User-Interface
Now that information management solutions have reached a certain level of maturity, part of the focus has shifted to creating a sleek user experience. Users have become spoiled by Netflix, Amazon, Google, and others and they now expect dynamite user interfaces in business, just as they have in their personal lives.
In 2021, M-Files has put the focus on the UI and the experience — highlighted first by M-Files’ new and improved web interface. It’s a trend that will pervade information management solutions of all types and sizes — lest they be bested by competitors that will put the proper resources into intelligent UI design.
As you gear up to take advantage of these emerging trends, you might be interested in exploring the M-Files intelligent information management solution. M-Files goes beyond traditional ECM — automate manual workflows and allow employees to work more productively, and M-Files is equipped with out-of-the-box, built-in AI to help classify and find information. Ultimately, M-Files helps organizations find and manage business-critical documents and information from any device, no matter where it’s stored — preparing your organization for anything 2021 might throw at you.