Working From Home Still Needs to Mean Working Securely

It’s no secret that telecommuting or working from home has been on the rise over the last ten years, particularly as high-speed Internet connections have become a ubiquitous part of our lives. Everyone knew that this was the way of the future – thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, “the future” arrived quite a bit faster than most people probably expected.

According to one recent study, at the highest point of the pandemic in May of 2020 roughly 35% of people found themselves working from home indefinitely. A significant percentage of them are expected to continue to do so long after the pandemic has passed us by.

Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Another study estimated that working from home has the potential to increase productivity by as much as 13%. About 77% of respondents to one Stanford study said that working from home at least a few times per month increased their productivity, allowing them to do more work in less time. It also improved employee satisfaction, while cutting attrition rates by as much as 50%.

Working from home does bring with it its fair share of challenges, too – especially for organizations dealing with inherently sensitive information like accounting firms. All the productivity and performance benefits in the world ultimately won’t mean a thing if employees are suddenly sharing and working with confidential information in an insecure environment. 

Recently, the team at M-Files did a survey with Accountancy Age on data security-related issues that accounting firms in particular face when having employees work remotely. The survey’s findings paint a vivid and important picture about how far telecommuting has come, where it all might be headed, and the challenges we’ll need to face along the way.

The Issue With the “Old School” Methods of Communication and Collaboration

Obviously, it’s critically important that accounting professionals have the ability to create, share and collaborate on data with one another – regardless of where they happen to be. When everything shut down and people suddenly found themselves working from home indefinitely during the onset of the pandemic, firms turned to a number of “solutions” to help make this possible – with mixed results along the way.

According to the aforementioned study, some firms took to sending important documents and other pieces of information through the postal service to get it all into the hands of the people who needed it the most. The issue here is that it simply takes too long to get items to employees who depend on it to do their jobs – to say nothing of how this method makes collaboration essentially impossible.

Not only that, but a sudden delay in postal deliveries – like the ones experienced during the last half of 2020 – could grind productivity to a stop. Early on in 2020, three-day USPS mail service was already taking an additional four or five days to reach 99% of recipients. Flash forward to the end of the year, and it was taking an extra 14 days. This, coupled with the potential that a sensitive item could always be lost in the mail with no way to recover it, make this method essentially a non-starter.

Other firms turned to email – a tool that they’ve used successfully in the past. This, too, brings with it a number of issues – chief among them being confidentiality. It’s simply far too easy to click one wrong button or mistype a character and send sensitive client information to the wrong person.

If you’re trying to collaborate on a project with other employees, this too is less than ideal because it creates too many unnecessary steps. If three people need to sign off on a document before it can be approved, Person A has to send it to Person B – at which point the waiting begins. Maybe Person B gets to it today, maybe they don’t. Regardless, Person C literally can’t do anything because they’re waiting on someone to act on an item that this individual may or may not have even seen yet.

On top of it all, emails are inherently insecure. Unless you can guarantee that all remote employees are using advanced security methods like two-factor authentication – which you can’t – there is always the potential for an email account to be compromised, exposing all of the proprietary and sensitive information that has ever passed through it at the same time.

Finally, the working from home revolution has exposed a major issue at the very core of many accounting firms – namely that they’re using far too many applications or systems to manage and share business and client documents to begin with. According to the M-Files study, 23% of firms use at least three such systems on a daily basis. This can include things like email folders, files and folders across shared network drives, CRM and ERP systems, a dedicated accounting solution, file sharing applications like Dropbox and more.

At that point, simply knowing where to find an essential document becomes a uphill battle. Likewise, if something important is stored on a local shared network drive and you’re now working from home, how do you access it? The answer is clear:

You don’t. 

Tearing Down the Old School to Build the New One

Thankfully, there are modern solutions built with this type of data security – not to mention communication and collaboration – in mind. It’s simply up for accounting firms to embrace them.

A document management solution like M-Files, for example, can consolidate all data across an enterprise into a single, easy-to-use system. It allows accounting firms to organize information based not on where it is, but on what it is – all while giving people the chance to access it through a single view without needing any expensive or time-consuming data migration.

Keep in mind that if information is being shared among employees with a private tool like Dropbox, firm leadership suddenly has no control over what it is and what is being done to it. It can easily be lost or compromised in some way and this is actually a major source of duplication and version issues. But with M-Files, you can leverage features like dynamic organizational permissions and permissions-based content and context to secure documents and folders based on who needs access to them to do their jobs. For the right person, that information is easier to find than ever. For the “wrong” person, they’re totally cut off from it – exactly as it should be.

In the end, working from home isn’t going away anytime soon – and that can very much be a good thing under the right conditions. Trying to manage sensitive accounting firm information using methods that were designed for a time when everyone was still in the office is only inviting disaster. Instead, true document and content management is needed and tools like M-Files can help bring it to accounting firms everywhere in the easiest and most cost-effective way possible. 

Source: https://resources.m-files.com/blog/working-from-home-still-needs-to-mean-working-securely

The Key to a Successful Digital Transformation in the Work From Home Era

Regardless of the type of business, you’re talking about, organizations invest in digital transformation for a myriad of different reasons.

Some turn to the power of modern technology to improve efficiency – empowering employees to communicate from department to department easier than ever before. Others want to guarantee that data can flow freely across the enterprise, making sure that the critical information that people need to do their jobs is always in the right hands. Others still do it for cost savings. Not only can a digital transformation save a tremendous amount of money upfront, but it’s an investment that will also continue to pay dividends for years to come.

All of these benefits have always been important – but they’re especially so given everything going on in the world right now with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March of 2020, as the pandemic first began to make its way across the world, millions of employees suddenly found themselves working from home indefinitely. As a result, many organizations suddenly realized that they lacked the infrastructure needed to support this revolution. In addition to not having access to the tools people needed to work as productively as possible, they found themselves in dire need of solutions that would allow them to share critical information as securely as possible. This is especially true in an industry like accounting and financial services, where firms are dealing with data that is decidedly more sensitive than most.

Even though vaccines are rolling out across the world, the number of remote workers isn’t exactly dropping. One recent study revealed that in August of 2021, about 13% of people were still working remotely full-time due to concerns about the pandemic and the newly emerged Delta variant, among others.

Indeed, working from home is a trend that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon – which means that organizations who were preparing for digital transformations prior to the pandemic need to seriously rethink their approach. The world has changed in a dramatic way and there’s no putting that particular genie back in the bottle. This is only a negative thing if you allow it to be. If you approach your digital transformation from the right perspective, you stand to gain enormously in a wide range of different ways, all of which are worth a closer look.

The Shifting Landscape of Post-Pandemic Life

Not too long ago, the team at M-Files partnered with Accountancy Age on a report that detailed what digital transformation – and business in general – has been like before, during, and (hopefully) after the pandemic. It featured survey respondents from a mix of organization sizes, ranging from those with 51 employees all the way up to those with 1,000 or more.

Overwhelmingly, the report revealed that accountancy firms in particular were simply not ready for the transition to fully remote work when lockdown restrictions were originally imposed. A massive 76.6% of respondents said that they initially battled significant challenges in terms of enabling staff to work productively from home – not to mention the difficulty they experienced in servicing clients as effectively as possible.

So much of this has to do with the fact that the accounting industry has long adopted a myriad of different applications and solutions to share, manage and store sensitive business data. This includes but is not limited to chat and video conferencing tools, enterprise content management systems, and more.

The issue here is that this almost immediately runs the risk of creating data silos that firms simply cannot afford to have existed. Again, information needs to be able to flow freely from one segment of the business to the next – regardless of where those employees happen to be. This is true not only in terms of allowing people to effectively collaborate with one another but with regard to empowering workflows as well. If critical data is trapped in a single repository and the person who needs it to do their job doesn’t have access to it – or worse, isn’t sure it exists at all – this only runs contrary to a firm’s goals.

Initially, in an effort to combat some of these risks, many accountancy firms took to sharing information with clients by sending physical copies in the mail. This was true of 44.4% of respondents. Another 79.4% of respondents said that they shared the same information via email. Not only do these methods pose a significant security risk, but they also affect traceability as well – leading to a poor client experience when the opposite should be your primary objective. 

The Future of the Workforce Has Arrived

All of these things underline the importance of digital transformation in the modern era – particularly during a time when the “new normal” that we’re all about to return to will likely have little resemblance to the one we left behind.

Case in point: data security. As stated, accountancy firms in particular lacked the infrastructure needed to truly support remote workers in the most secure way possible. In addition to email folders, respondents to the aforementioned survey said that they used files and folders across shared network drives, solutions like Microsoft SharePoint, CRM and ERP systems, dedicated accounting solutions, file sharing applications like Google Drive, and more to manage and share business and client documents within the firm itself.

The right approach to digital transformation is an opportunity to consolidate all of this down into one simple, easy-to-use system that is built with modern workflows in mind. M-Files, for example, is a document management system that allows information to be accessed based on not where a file is stored, but on what is contained within it. All data is stored via a system that can be accessed anywhere, at any time, on any device. More than that, permissions can be set to make sure that only the people who need a particular file to do their jobs have access to it – thus preventing that information from falling into the wrong hands.

Likewise, a digital transformation can be a great opportunity to create branded, customizable client portals that themselves can help accountancy firms better collaborate with clients. Not only does this guarantee the security and privacy of client documents, but it also improves the digital client experience as well.

In the end, a digital transformation is a massive undertaking, yes – but for most accountancy firms, the pandemic has proven that it’s an investment that is well worth making. “Change” and “disruption” are only negative words if you allow them to be. With the right perspective, you can see them for what they really are – opportunities just waiting to be taken advantage of to propel the next decade of your firm’s success and beyond.

Source: https://resources.m-files.com/blog/the-key-to-a-successful-digital-transformation-in-the-work-from-home-era

Regardless of the type of business, you’re talking about, organizations invest in digital transformation for a myriad of different reasons.

Some turn to the power of modern technology to improve efficiency – empowering employees to communicate from department to department easier than ever before. Others want to guarantee that data can flow freely across the enterprise, making sure that the critical information that people need to do their jobs is always in the right hands. Others still do it for cost savings. Not only can a digital transformation save a tremendous amount of money upfront, but it’s an investment that will also continue to pay dividends for years to come.

All of these benefits have always been important – but they’re especially so given everything going on in the world right now with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March of 2020, as the pandemic first began to make its way across the world, millions of employees suddenly found themselves working from home indefinitely. As a result, many organizations suddenly realized that they lacked the infrastructure needed to support this revolution. In addition to not having access to the tools people needed to work as productively as possible, they found themselves in dire need of solutions that would allow them to share critical information as securely as possible. This is especially true in an industry like accounting and financial services, where firms are dealing with data that is decidedly more sensitive than most.

Even though vaccines are rolling out across the world, the number of remote workers isn’t exactly dropping. One recent study revealed that in August of 2021, about 13% of people were still working remotely full-time due to concerns about the pandemic and the newly emerged Delta variant, among others.

Indeed, working from home is a trend that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon – which means that organizations who were preparing for digital transformations prior to the pandemic need to seriously rethink their approach. The world has changed in a dramatic way and there’s no putting that particular genie back in the bottle. This is only a negative thing if you allow it to be. If you approach your digital transformation from the right perspective, you stand to gain enormously in a wide range of different ways, all of which are worth a closer look.

The Shifting Landscape of Post-Pandemic Life

Not too long ago, the team at M-Files partnered with Accountancy Age on a report that detailed what digital transformation – and business in general – has been like before, during, and (hopefully) after the pandemic. It featured survey respondents from a mix of organization sizes, ranging from those with 51 employees all the way up to those with 1,000 or more.

Overwhelmingly, the report revealed that accountancy firms in particular were simply not ready for the transition to fully remote work when lockdown restrictions were originally imposed. A massive 76.6% of respondents said that they initially battled significant challenges in terms of enabling staff to work productively from home – not to mention the difficulty they experienced in servicing clients as effectively as possible.

So much of this has to do with the fact that the accounting industry has long adopted a myriad of different applications and solutions to share, manage and store sensitive business data. This includes but is not limited to chat and video conferencing tools, enterprise content management systems, and more.

The issue here is that this almost immediately runs the risk of creating data silos that firms simply cannot afford to have existed. Again, information needs to be able to flow freely from one segment of the business to the next – regardless of where those employees happen to be. This is true not only in terms of allowing people to effectively collaborate with one another but with regard to empowering workflows as well. If critical data is trapped in a single repository and the person who needs it to do their job doesn’t have access to it – or worse, isn’t sure it exists at all – this only runs contrary to a firm’s goals.

Initially, in an effort to combat some of these risks, many accountancy firms took to sharing information with clients by sending physical copies in the mail. This was true of 44.4% of respondents. Another 79.4% of respondents said that they shared the same information via email. Not only do these methods pose a significant security risk, but they also affect traceability as well – leading to a poor client experience when the opposite should be your primary objective. 

The Future of the Workforce Has Arrived

All of these things underline the importance of digital transformation in the modern era – particularly during a time when the “new normal” that we’re all about to return to will likely have little resemblance to the one we left behind.

Case in point: data security. As stated, accountancy firms in particular lacked the infrastructure needed to truly support remote workers in the most secure way possible. In addition to email folders, respondents to the aforementioned survey said that they used files and folders across shared network drives, solutions like Microsoft SharePoint, CRM and ERP systems, dedicated accounting solutions, file sharing applications like Google Drive, and more to manage and share business and client documents within the firm itself.

The right approach to digital transformation is an opportunity to consolidate all of this down into one simple, easy-to-use system that is built with modern workflows in mind. M-Files, for example, is a document management system that allows information to be accessed based on not where a file is stored, but on what is contained within it. All data is stored via a system that can be accessed anywhere, at any time, on any device. More than that, permissions can be set to make sure that only the people who need a particular file to do their jobs have access to it – thus preventing that information from falling into the wrong hands.

Likewise, a digital transformation can be a great opportunity to create branded, customizable client portals that themselves can help accountancy firms better collaborate with clients. Not only does this guarantee the security and privacy of client documents, but it also improves the digital client experience as well.

In the end, a digital transformation is a massive undertaking, yes – but for most accountancy firms, the pandemic has proven that it’s an investment that is well worth making. “Change” and “disruption” are only negative words if you allow them to be. With the right perspective, you can see them for what they really are – opportunities just waiting to be taken advantage of to propel the next decade of your firm’s success and beyond.

Source: https://resources.m-files.com/blog/the-key-to-a-successful-digital-transformation-in-the-work-from-home-era

Productive Processes and Profit Begins at Home!

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.

Source: https://resources.m-files.com/blog/productive-processes-and-profit-begins-at-home

Risk Management Transformation

Risk managers are facing possibly their biggest challenge in these pandemics hit times. Increasing regulatory pressures, complex demand from remote worker management, aligned with previously unseen volumes of data. This perfect storm of circumstances is driven by the complexity and demands of risk management, each with their own unique compliance and regulatory challenges.

Across all sectors, radical transformation is required to address increasing internal and external challenges. The need for creative solutions that offer agility, empower growth and profitability, whilst enabling a comprehensive approach to tackling risk management.

The challenges

The risk management community are required to identify and address risk and issue challenges, often driven by:

  • Environmental and technical Inter-program dependencies
  • Internal political pressure
  • Cross-organisational initiatives, such as third-party suppliers
  • External factors, such as political, economic, social, and legislative

To address the above challenges, Risk Managers need clarity of information, quality, and certainty of data and above all, a 360 view. In addition, they are looking for analytics and insights from the data to support decision-making processes.

Identification typically includes:

  • Sources of risk to the business
  • Define specific risks and issues
  • Identify and create a working risk framework
  • Analyse and describe the steps in risk management
  • Identify threat and opportunity responses
  • Identity and create process flow of information flow
  • Identify, create (where required) risk and issue documentation
  • Obtain full buy-in and continuous support from the C-Level team

Not uncommonly, identification presents a series of further challenges, mainly from the sheer amount of information available across an organisation. In many circumstances, critical information resides in non-integrated silos across a technology estate. Legacy systems, files in local shared drives and non-protected “shadow systems such as Spreadsheets or databases.

Digital Transformation enables the risk management function to be smarter, more agile, and more strategic

Half of all organisations were unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic with updated crisis management plans. Many organisations acknowledge a pandemic or similar global crisis risk event was not on their radar of potential threats. With many acknowledging that data resided in multiple sources and needed to be pulled together manually resulting in:

  • Critical information missing negating faster or smarter actions?
  • None or limited connectivity across systems
  • Data, systems, or processes that could have helped confident decisions making were not in place

The first step in transforming risk function is to identify where to improve. Where can improvements be found. What gaps in current mission -critical processes surfaced during the pandemic crisis? The pandemic provided risk professionals with critical, real-life insight into how current processes held up in mission-critical situations.

Wealth of Data

Most sectors rely heavily on access to a very broad range of information. This wealth of information can help risk management in becoming a more strategic area for organisations. Data such as climate change, social unrest, or legislation, is critical when investing in new business opportunities, such as geographical locations. With this enhanced visibility, the risk manager can play a far greater strategic role in the company, ensuring that adherence to localised compliance rules such as environmental, technical, or logistical, will prevent a loss in the first place.

Corporations now need qualified data to add greater value in better decision-making. Risk managers have moved on from simply taking a financial view on risk, they are expected to also support the business goals of their companies in a much more holistic management sense.

And it is here that technology can provide the support and the means to make this happen.

The way forward

Emergent digital technologies are providing huge benefits and support to risk managers facing today’s challenges. From integration via application programming interface (API) to comprehensive use of both structured and unstructured Metadata, enabling intelligent search to extract the full value from data held.

Developing a 360 view of risks, how they interrelate, and the potential impact on the organisation is essential for building resiliency. Consolidation into a fully searchable environment, enabling risk managers and other stakeholders to securely analyse data, share information, and collaborate on business exposure.

Use of Risk Hubs

The frequency and severity of disruptive risk events are undeniably increasing. Risk teams need to have the ability to plan, run scenarios and respond to future events effectively, safe in the knowledge that the data they are using or providing, is as factual and near real-time as possible

The use of portals “Risk Hubs” to securely share data, offers an excellent approach in ensuring the right information is available at the right time. These have the benefit of enabling both internal and external co-operation, along with information updates, real-time exchange, and knowledge share.

Digital transformation of risk management, enhances the traditional business model, transforming it into an aligned, collaborative, and interconnected digital environment. By adopting the correct processes, procedures and by using the most appropriate tools, the capability to confidently lead an organisation through a crisis, swings heavily in favour of the risk practitioner.

Source: https://resources.m-files.com/blog/risk-management-transformation