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.
One of the most important things that business leaders need to realize is that outdated technology – especially a document management solution – isn’t just frustrating. It can literally be costing organizations money in more ways than one. In this article, we’ll discuss four benefits of a document management system.
The sheer volume of information that your average enterprise is creating on a daily basis is enormous — to the point where simply keeping track of it all can be an uphill battle. Without the right type of document management structure in place, your employees quickly become overwhelmed by your data, rather than using it to help move your business forward.
Luckily, the right document management system like M-Files can help relieve these issues in businesses in nearly every industry. In fact, a document management system will bring with it a number of distinct benefits and opportunities, all of which are worth a closer look.
The 4 Benefits of a Document Management System
Empowering Compliance Capabilities
Depending on the industry you’re operating in, it’s likely that your business has its fair share of compliance requirements to deal with. One of the major things that a lot of people don’t understand (until it’s far too late) is that if your technology isn’t compliant with regulations like ISO 9001 or ISO 13485, your business isn’t either.
Thankfully, this is one of the chief benefits that a document management system like M-Files brings to the table: they allow you to demonstrate regulatory compliance in an effective way, all while improving visibility into and control over your own information at the exact same time.
M-Files allows you to finally understand how data and business processes flow across your enterprise, allowing you to finally conduct a risk-based approach to quality processes. Plus, approval history and audit trails mean that documents are always highly traceable in a way that meets your security expectations, too.
Superior Document Security
Speaking of document security, a document management system excels to that end by offering a single repository to offer better protection to the critical information you’re creating on a daily basis. When your essential business information is stored across personal and enterprise cloud drives, local storage, network shares and in other spread-out locations, it’s difficult to simply know what is where let alone to protect it all.
By bringing everything together into a single source of information and knowledge, however, you make that information immediately less accessible to hackers and other malicious types of third parties.
Robust Search Facilities
Another issue with having your data so spread out ultimately involves how difficult it can be to find what you’re looking for. This is especially problematic given the sheer volume of documents that make their way through a business every day. If it takes your employees on average ten minutes to find the document that they’re looking for just so that they can START their work, that’s ten minutes that they weren’t doing anything meaningful to drive revenue for your organization. Multiply that opportunity cost by the total number of employees you have and the total number of documents they may need each day and you can begin to get an idea of just how severe this problem can be.
With a proper document management system, however, all of this goes away. It doesn’t matter WHERE something is stored at that point because so long as your employees know WHAT they’re looking for they’ll be able to find it. Likewise, with version control and similar features, you can always make sure that your people are retrieving the correct version of a document at all times.
Enhanced Collaboration Anytime, Anywhere
Finally, we arrive at the ways in which a document management system doesn’t just support internal collaboration but enhances it. The important work that your employees are doing for your clients isn’t created in a vacuum. Oftentimes successful projects are the result of the hard work of countless people, all working in tandem with one another to contribute something more effective than they could as individuals.
But when information is still trapped in data silos, it’s nearly impossible for this to happen because those documents aren’t getting into the hands of the people who need them. Without proper version control, collaboration becomes a disjointed and frustrating process. Three different people may need to review a document before it can be passed onto a client, but how can you be certain that they’re reviewing the same version of that document? If a change is made that eventually comes into question, how do you know who made it? How can you get all key stakeholders on the same page, let alone always moving in the same direction?
A high-quality document management system like M-Files eliminates these issues by providing a single source of information that all parties can access securely anywhere at any time. It doesn’t matter if your workforce will be operating out of home offices for the foreseeable future — they can all access the same versions of documents at the same time and contribute to the job that needs to be done.
This doesn’t just eliminate wasted resources — it promotes far better productivity and delivers more value to your customers as well.
If information is the foundation of your business, it’s safe to say that you need to make the effective management of that information one of your ongoing top priorities. That, in essence, is what a document management system is designed to do: it creates an opportunity to stop worrying about things like compliance, security, lost productivity and poor collaboration, all so that you can focus the maximum amount of your attention on running the most successful business that you can.
Does it take way too long for your organization to adopt an ECM system?
You are not alone. Many organizations face humongous implementation projects with the added complication of data migration before they can actually realize real benefits from their ECM investment.
Any software solution only brings value if end users embrace it and adapt it to their daily routines. And the users will be happy to adapt only when the solution is easy to learn and use.
Ease of adoption is the gift we continue to give our users. M-Files has received exceptional ratings for usability as it is; for example, Nucleus Research named M-Files a Leader both in Better Functionality and Greater Usability.
Now, we have taken the next step.
M-Files has recently introduced a new Web Client. A client that brings a consumer-like easy user experience to everyday ECM users.
(Actually, we call it Intelligent Information Management rather than ECM, because of all the unique capabilities that span content across different systems, archives, and applications, ending the nightmares of migration projects.)
When developing the new Web Client, the user experience took center stage — specifically, how it supports daily work. With better support for daily work, use and adoption are easier, quicker, and more intuitive — and can thus provide for more efficiency for the business.
So, what exactly is changing?
All-in-One View. First of all, intuitive user flows adapt to the user’s needs and behavior. The three panels with all the relevant functions give users a quick overview of all relevant information about their documents at once. This means less time browsing through different tabs. ???????
Fast and Accurate Search. Second, the improved Search functionality with more search options and an intuitive search experience helps your workforce find what they need faster, more accurately, and even more easily than before.
The whole user experience on the web client is helping users to adopt it quickly in their daily information management operations — like creating, editing, and archiving documents, tagging documents with metadata, or sharing documents with colleagues.
And if this improved usability for your end-users is not enough, the new Web Client is easy for administrators as well…
The Web Client works across multiple platforms — all you need are user credentials. The Web Client is always up to date, without the need to install anything, making administrators’ work easier.
Does this sound too good to be true? It isn’t.
You can achieve both superior functionality AND superior usability, all in one package. It might never be the only user interface for your super users — that’s what the Desktop Client is for — but the new Web Client will certainly help the organization at large to adapt to new ways of working quickly and easily.
Over the years, document management systems have evolved to the point where they’ve become a major contributing factor to the productivity of your organization… or they can be, under the best possible circumstances.
So how do you lean into the strengths that make these solutions so powerful, taking advantage of those “best circumstances” at every opportunity? By making seven little changes to your approach that add up to a big, big difference before you know it.
Create a Culture that Embraces New Software
By far, the most important thing you can do to make a big difference with regards to your document management system involves embracing new software when the situation calls for it. But don’t just drop a new solution into your employee’s laps. Start slow, schedule training sessions to make sure people actually know how to use it (something that will certainly increase adoption) and make yourself available to answer any questions or to address any concerns that your employees might have. Change management is key here and how your organization achieves it will be a key to adoption of your document management system.
You should also make sure that you’re making collaboration a central focal point of all your document management efforts. It will have an almost immediate impact on content creation, for example, as the quality of the work your employees will be able to deliver will always be better if they can freely partner with one another during the process.
Likewise, employees should understand their role in helping to organize files, label documents correctly, delete duplicate files and more. All of this goes a long way towards turning your document management system into something that drives results.
Enable Better Communication
If you had to make a list of all the elements that are the cornerstone of any successful project, communication would undoubtedly be right at the top. One of the major reasons why projects fall apart usually has to do with a breakdown in communication — which is why your document management system is about to become invaluable to that end.
By making your document management system your central point for communication, you’re removing the need for people to interact with multiple applications just to get things done. Plus, you’ll be eliminating yet another potential data silo for information to get lost in — which is why this is one step you should take sooner rather than later.
One Community Administrator to Rule Them All
This is one of those little best practices that far too many organizations overlook — having a project leader (otherwise known as a community administrator) to oversee your document management system moving forward.
For the best results, try to find someone who already has an idea of how to operate every aspect of the system. Not only will this help you continue to make sense of things, but it also gives your employees someone they can always turn to if they have any questions or concerns.
The Power of Versioning
Versioning is a terrific change to implement to your document management system because it allows people to make as many changes as they’d like to a file, all without overwriting the original content contained inside it.
At that point, you can always refer back to an older version of a document if you need to — something that is particularly important while editing. Plus, you’ll be able to see who changed a file, why and when — all of which can be helpful in the long term.
The Importance of Access Rights
Another important best practice you’ll want to implement involves defining access rights for every file and document in your system. Keep in mind that not every employee is going to need access to every last kilobyte of data in order to properly do their jobs.
Not only will access rights help avoid confusion by making sure that nobody can access or even edit a document if they don’t expressly need to, but you’ll also go a long way towards safeguarding those documents as well.
Tagging, Tagging, Tagging
Finally, one of the most important changes that you can implement to your document management system involves leaning into the importance of metadata and tagging — something that makes finding the critical data you’re looking for far, far easier than ever before.
At a minimum, you should eliminate all guesswork from the equation by training your employees how to tag files and other documents the right way at the moment of their creation. Not only can this save a significant amount of time, but it can also increase productivity as well.
As you can see, improving your document management system is less the product of anyone’s major move and is more about a series of smaller ones. But these small tweaks all add up to something far more powerful than they could be on their own — which is a very exciting position for you to be in.
It’s safe to say that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for all of us — especially for organizations that were in the process of undergoing their own digital transformations as the lockdowns started in March 2020. The need to use technology to support a fast-paced and agile workplace was always paramount — but somehow, it’s become even more so in an era where most of your employees are going to be working from home for the foreseeable future.
But at the same time, a silver lining is on the horizon. A COVID-19 vaccine rollout has already begun in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Soon, if everything goes according to plan, those lockdowns will be lifted and we’ll all slowly but surely start to return to normal. What that new normal looks like is anyone’s guess.
But the situation demands the question: what, then, becomes of your digital transformation efforts?
Now more than ever before, it’s crucial to make sure that the time and money you’re investing in your digital transformation strategy are focused on the right areas. Getting to that point isn’t necessarily difficult, but it will require you to keep a few key things in mind.
It’s All in the Plan
Especially given all the changes that have happened to the way we do business thanks to the ongoing pandemic, the best way to make sure you’re spending your time (and money) in the right places on digital transformation involves making sure that you have a plan at the heart of it all to begin with.
Yes, you want to be able to enjoy benefits like saving time, digitizing critical information, and opening up access to both documents and processes to anyone, anytime, anywhere. But to really make sure your strategy makes sense given your long-term goals; you need to go into as much detail as possible about what those goals actually are.
For example, are you trying to meaningfully improve the customer experience (or the perception those customers have) of your business? Is your number one priority to improve employee efficiency by automating a lot of time-consuming and menial processes. Do you want to implement some type of new system that will empower greater sales than prior to COVID?
For the best results, pick one or even two key objectives and build your plan (and your budget) around those needs. You can always return to the plan and make strategic adjustments later if things change.
If There Was Any Time to Embrace the Cloud, It’s Now
Along the same lines, at this point, it should be clear that whenever you’re implementing a large-scale project like a new CRM system or an intelligent information management platform, you want to make sure that system is as flexible as possible. This means that in the vast majority of situations, you’ll want to go with some type of cloud-based “software as a service” option unless you can think of a very, very good reason not to.
Sure, you may have (legitimate) concerns in terms of areas like security and data governance. But rather than shying away from the cloud because of them, work on finding out what you need to do to address them while still enjoying the massive amount of agility that the cloud brings with it.
Never forget that to make sure that your business is always at the very least aligned with (and in a best-case scenario ahead of) your competitors, you need to make sure the playing field is leveled. This means that you need to have the same level of agility that they do, and that’s something you’re not really going to get unless you embrace the cloud with open arms.
Engagement, Engagement, Engagement
Finally, you need to understand that even the most perfectly executed digital transformation in the world ultimately won’t mean much if your new systems aren’t realizing close to full utilization. If key staff members and stakeholders don’t want to use the new system because they think it’s “too complex” or “less effective” than what they’re coming from, they probably won’t use it — end of story.
Change management is vital to digital transformation. Therefore, you need to make sure you’re using a portion of your budget to train people on the new solution. Engage all key parties to make sure they understand the exact benefits of this change at this particular time. Don’t forget to budget for either ongoing or even future consultancy costs if that’s what it takes because your new tool may be powerful, but it won’t generate anywhere near the results that you’re after if people aren’t willing to use it.