How Long Does It Actually Take to Find a Document?
Let’s track the timeline of responses over the last twenty years…
IDC reports that workers who manage, create, or edit documents for a company were spending up to 2.5 hours per day searching for what they needed.
IDC published Moving Beyond Search: Advanced Data Gathering in the Enterprise, which includes the comment:
“Nearly 70% of respondents (knowledge workers) to IDC’s KMWorld Conference search survey indicated that they spend five or more hours per week doing online information searches, with 16% indicating that they spend 12 hours a week or more doing searches.”
IDC publishes Managed Print and Document Services for Controlling Today’s and Tomorrow’s Information Costs:
“IDC surveys find that the time spent searching for information averages 8.8 hours per week.”
McKinsey reports that employees spend 1.8 hours every day searching and gathering information.
IDC’s Information Worker Survey says workers spend 5 hours per week searching for documents. (See chart.)
Gartner says that professionals spend 50% of their time searching for information, and on average, take 18 minutes to locate each document.
So, what do we know?
It seems like through the past few decades, the time it takes to find information has decreased. That checks out. In 2001, we didn’t have near the technology aptitude we have now. It’s worth mentioning that the above statistics are nowhere near homogenous in their methodology, a point made very poignantly by Martin White in his LinkedIn Pulse article “Time spent searching”? – a chronology of the myth and some recent research.
Anecdotally, I know that I used to spend a bit of time trying to find information before I was introduced to M-Files. Whether it was 2.5 hours a day or 18 minutes per document is irrelevant, because I can tell you that it was way more time than it needed to be — switching between my laptop folders, Salesforce and other systems trying to find the right version.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume that it took less than the 18 minutes Gartner suggests it takes to find a document. Let’s assume less than 15 minutes… less than 12… less than 10. Let’s just say, on average, it takes 8 minutes to find a document.
I can tell you emphatically and unequivocally…
It now takes me all of 15 seconds to find any piece of information I need with the help of M-Files — maybe 30 seconds tops if it’s down the search results a bit.
That’s a far cry from 8 minutes or even 5 minutes. Imagine how much time you could recover for more productive work if literally every document you needed — created by you or someone else, for this project or that client — was available in one location in just a couple clicks.
The Power of Federated Search and Google-Like Results
As we’ve mentioned before, federated search describes a search technology that can scan multiple sources for information at the same time. Arguably one of M-Files’ most compelling features is the enablement of true federated search.
Connecting to All of the Systems and Nooks and Crannies Where Information Hides
M-Files vaults are themselves a repository where users can store files, documents and other information.
But M-Files also connects to existing systems to present information no matter where it lives. Imagine a world where it doesn’t matter if the information you need is in your CRM, SharePoint, ERP, network folders, wherever. It means that you can deploy M-Files without disturbing existing systems that certain business units or departments prefer. You can institute an overarching, scalable information management strategy without massive data migration.
A Single Keyword is All You Need to Find Information
Simply type in a keyword and find what you need. Let’s talk about that.
Metadata. That’s what underpins the entire M-Files intelligent information management platform. It’s what enables you to find what you need with just a keyword. It’s what effectively decouples business information from file location and places the emphasis where it needs to be — the content of the file.
When a file is saved, users are prompted to enter key information on the metadata card — dates, people, type of document, keywords. Artificial intelligence can even help do that for you.
The result is simple, yet profound: files are super easy to find.
Finding information on Google is second nature for us. Type in a word or phrase and boom… page after page of results. The results are presented by relevance and can easily be filtered by date, website and other parameters.
Now imagine you had the same experience when searching for business information — where you simply enter a keyword (and a filter or two, if you want), and the system returned a search window with the most relevant results at the top.
This is what happens in M-Files. Again, no matter where your information is stored, M-Files reaches across your entire information ecosystem to present the most relevant search results.
Between you and me, M-Files has a ton of incredible features that turn your operation into a well-oiled machine. But when friends and family ask what my company does, this is my go-to. I explain this concept of federated search and the lightbulbs start to go off.
It’s powerful. It’s simple. It’s an experience every single office worker should have in their workplace. I don’t know how I managed to be productive before — when it took longer than a few seconds to find what I needed to do my job.
At its core, the concept behind the Four Eyes principle is a simple one — it’s simply a matter of getting two different people to approve some type of action before it can be taken. You’ve no doubt heard the old saying of “two heads are better than one.” This is simply the same concept, applied to the larger world of business.
The Four Eyes principle is something that you see play out in a wide range of industries. In the legal profession, for example, many documents require two signatures for verification instead of one. In a retail environment, there may be a requirement to have at least two people unloading a truck or stocking shelves at the same time in an effort to reduce the risk of injury or theft. Even some data management systems require two people to approve updates to documents before those changes are committed to the data.
Regardless, what you’re really trying to do is increase accountability across the board. A second person might catch an error or other type of issue with a document that the first one missed.
Of course, in some environments, this is a lot easier said than done — particularly in those where data is spread out in a lot of different repositories and leaders may lack basic visibility into what is being stored where, when, and how. If you’re not actually sure where the most recent version of a document exists, it’s hard to get one person to sign off on it or review it — let alone two.
Thankfully, there is a solution that can allow you to leverage the full benefits of the Four Eyes principle to your advantage. A simple workflow process in an information management system like M-Files can not only make this easier than ever, but simple and efficient at the exact same time.
The Four Eyes Principle and M-Files: A Match Made in Heaven
Consider the Four Eyes principle within the context of a professional services firm, where two different people need to review the same document before it makes its way into the hands of a client. Here, this protocol provides a level of quality control on all client deliverables — not to mention a series of checks and balances to make sure that important items are getting out the door on-time.
If for just one example, a firm has finalized an updated corporate tax return for a client, it will obviously need to be reviewed by at least two people — the accountant that prepared it and the client’s account manager.
With an information management solution like M-Files, you don’t necessarily need these two people to be in constant communication with one another because the system is designed to handle every step of the process. As soon as that corporate tax return is completed, that information automatically gets assigned to a workflow that instantly notifies the reviewing parties. This happens regardless of where the information is stored or in which data repository it may exist. M-Files connects disparate repositories, creating a single source of truth for information across a business.
At that point, all collaborators can then co-author the document and add notes for further changes. Only once everything is formally approved by all key stakeholders will the document be authorized as a client deliverable. This helps make sure that only the best quality version of the document makes its way to the client, thus improving their experience and avoiding unnecessary delays as well.
Without getting too in the weeds, four-eye approval workflows can be configured however the company prefers.
Consecutive, Down-the-Line Approval. One such configuration is a consecutive approval workflow, where the document flows to the first approver and then on to the second afterward.
Concurrent, Parallel Approval. Another option has review and approval done concurrently, and after both have completed their review, the document process is complete.
The configuration is completely up to the user. Either way, this type of workflow automation is a great way to create an audit trail of advisory deliverables to track who made what changes, when, and why. If anything about the document comes into question in the future, you can always see who made which revisions and get insight into what their justifications were. This isn’t just helpful for tracking the overall status of documents as they make their way around your business — it’s also absolutely essential for compliance and even legal reasons, as well.
Generally speaking, the organizations that tend to have a difficult time successfully implementing the Four Eyes principle are ones that don’t really have control over their data in the first place. They tend to lack a way to really track the progress of documents that are in play, creating a situation where two different people may be working from different versions of a document — causing unnecessary errors along the way.
The right information management system like M-Files, on the other hand, is built to keep these types of situations from happening. M-Files can help break down those data silos so that communication and collaboration are easier than ever before. This in turn creates the most important benefit of all: a situation where the Four Eyes principle is executed quickly and seamlessly.
While it’s absolutely true that no two digital transformations are created equally, maybe the most important factor for digital transformation at scale is that it begins and ends as true company-wide efforts. Without a clear understanding of the importance of the project — along with buy-in from any and all key stakeholders along the way — your efforts will be doomed to failure before they’ve even had a chance to really get going.
Regardless of the nature of your project, any digital transformation will require several factors to ensure its success. Not only will they help make sure that everyone is always on the same page and moving forward, but they will also be invaluable in terms of mitigating risk and avoiding a lot of the mistakes that cause serious issues as well.
Define an Ample Budget
Even modest digital transformations still require an upfront capital investment to be successful — which means the number one game-changing factor to help scale your own efforts involves preparing for these costs as soon as you can.
While it’s true that the costs of your efforts to embrace emerging technologies will obviously vary depending on a number of factors that are unique to your business, experts recommend that you should expect to budget around a 5% operating cost which itself will be determined by the marketing and your unique company.
But when you consider the money you could be leaving on the table by not making an effort to keep up with your competitors in a technological capacity, it’s easy to see why this investment is such an important one to make for most people.
The Importance of a Well-Defined Plan
Once you know exactly what results you want from your digital transformation, you need to define the steps needed to make that vision a reality. In other words, you need a well-defined plan and you need one BEFORE your digital transformation begins.
It may take a bit of trial and error to determine the exact course of action for your company, but doing so will make sure that everyone understands what is expected of them and why their role is so important. It will also help avoid confusion later on.
Choosing the Right Technologies: Things to Consider
Since technology itself is at the heart of digital transformation at scale, it stands to reason that you should spend a great deal of time thinking about which ones you’re trying to embrace and, more importantly, why.
But it would be a mistake to start with the technology itself and buy into something simply because it’s “new” or “state-of-the-art.” Think about what your business needs to accomplish that it currently cannot and make a list of those technologies that can help make that happen.
Are you trying to execute a digital transformation with an emphasis on cloud-based services to reduce your overhead and empower collaboration? Do you want to be able to employ artificial intelligence tools to derive more from your business’ data? Do you want to bring in automation so that you can offload a lot of those menial tasks, freeing up the valuable time of your human employees to focus on those matters that really need them?
If your business is constantly battling data silos and lost productivity due to poor communication and collaboration, for example, an information management solution like M-Files would absolutely be one of those technologies that can help solve these challenges. By connecting information across your enterprise into a single, secure repository, insight can finally flow freely across your organization for the first time. Everyone who needs access to information to do their job has it, thus making it easier to work together and derive superior results for your clients as well.
Along the same lines, you’ll also want to make an effort to implement these technologies with minimal disruption to existing operations. A solution like M-Files can help enormously to that end, as it works natively with a lot of the software you’re probably already using and won’t necessarily require employees to change their workflows or undergo a massive data migration.
Change Management Best Practices to Be Aware Of
Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing — but it can be if your employees aren’t engaged all throughout your digital transformation. This is why change management matters so much to your effort’s success — if employees are unwilling to change for the sake of your company’s future, engagement will suffer. This will put you farther away from your goal, not closer to it.
Always be transparent about what shape your digital transformation is taking and allow employees to prepare on their own terms to get them more comfortable. Make sure you provide training on any new tools and keep those communication lines open so that you can address any and all concerns someone may have.
Digital Transformation at Scale: Setting Benchmarks for Success
Finally, you need to understand that “success” in terms of digital transformation isn’t as clear-cut as you may think. There is no set amount of time for how long it is supposed to take, for example. The only metrics you should be paying attention to are those that speak directly to what you were trying to accomplish, to begin with.
To put it another way, your benchmarks for success will be unique to your business — but it’s important you set them now and measure them continually to help guarantee progress is moving along as it should be. Consistently monitoring and measuring key performance indicators relative to your goals will at the very least always help confirm you’re headed in the right direction. This will also help make sure that everyone stays focused, that people are ready to learn and adapt as new challenges arise, and it will also help confirm that the approach you’re taking is the right one. That last point may very well be the most important benefit of all.
So, it’s official. We are in a recession. But some experts say investment in digital transformation during a recession should remain steady.
The National Bureau of Economic Research declared on June 8 that the recession began in February. It’s an unusual recession, by all standards — one not caused by macroeconomic financial mechanisms as in 2008 with the housing market collapse or in 1981 on the heels of tight monetary policy and an energy crisis. No, this recession has less to do with financial triggers and can be attributed largely to an unprecedented global pandemic.
It’s left the business community to make some tough decisions. Where can we cut costs? How should we shift resources?
From an IT perspective, while remote work efforts may in some cases increase the adoption of digital technology, investments in tough economic times are often approached with a more cautious mindset.
The Impact of a Recession on the Digital Transformation of Organizations Globally
In October and November 2019, executives worldwide seemed to state that should a recession occur in 2020, investments in digital transformation would either increase or remain the same – with very few saying that would decrease — this according to research from Business Insider Intelligence (BII).
If there was an economic recession in the next 12 months, how do you think your company would change spending in each of the following areas?
It would definitely be interesting to see whether their answers held true in today’s climate. In any case, many experts suggest that defunding digital transformation during a recession might not be a wise idea. At a 2019 Gartner IT Symposium keynote, Gartner Senior Vice President Val Sribar posed the question, “Globally, many economists and CFOs believe we are heading towards another set of economic downturns. If they’re right, how would you respond?”
According to Gartner and IT executives that were interviewed, the answer is for CIOs to prime their organizations for uncertainty, driving forward with digital initiatives while remaining agile and flexible enough to adapt to major changes — either in the direction of the economy or the marketplace.
Sribar continued by drawing an analogy to race car drivers that must learn to accelerate and brake around the same time — meaning that CIOs must figure out how to cut costs and invest simultaneously in the midst of an economic downturn. He added, “You have to analyze and execute, cut and grow.”
The crisis could even serve as an “accelerant” for IT initiatives. Firms that are on their own digital journey — whether that’s investments in robotic process automation or cloud-based information management technology — are persisting in those efforts, according to Bhushan Sethi, Global People & Organization Leader at PwC. Sethi said, “The focus remains on productivity and tying investments back to a business case, but new spend is harder to get approval for.”
But not all organizations are heeding the call.
E-Consultancy and Marketing Week conducted a survey of more than 2,200 marketers, which discovered that the majority believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has already heavily impacted business operations in areas like R&D and digital transformation.
Despite most agreeing that there is a sharp increase in demand for online and digital services, many are pulling digital transformation investments, when they should perhaps be investing in digital transformation, which serves to future-proof businesses. Transformation allows companies to focus on improving the customer experience, bolster digital offerings and develop brand equity.
Information Management as a Key Facet of Digital Transformation Built to Withstand an Economic Downturn
We can attest anecdotally to the fact that our customers — those that had intelligent information management as a core piece of their tech stack — fared well when it came time to send knowledge workers home to work. They had the same access to business-critical information remotely as they had at the office and thus continuity, productivity and efficiency did not suffer. Greg Fulk of Valeo Financial Advisors explains:
Ultimately, the key to minimizing the risk that disruption inherently poses is in future-proofing the organization. And one way to guard against disruption risk is with information management technology that, even in a recession, allows businesses to:
Streamline projects, engagements and client interactions
When all is said and done, the earth will continue to spin, the pandemic will pass, and the economy will recover. The question is: Will you be ready, better equipped, and wiser? Will you use this time to plan and prepare, priming your business to face the future?
In July, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) published a policy brief with some tremendous evidence-based information on potential productivity gains from teleworking in the post-COVID-19 era.
TL;DR Worker efficiency improves with low levels of telework but decreases with ‘excessive telework’, implying a ‘sweet spot’ where worker efficiency – and thus productivity – is maximized at intermediate levels of telework.
First, four key themes from the piece — supported by data and evidence — are:
Remote work may be a permanent fixture after COVID-19.
Remote work varies substantially across countries, sectors, occupations and firms.
In the long run, remote work has the potential to improve productivity and worker well-being but carries some ambiguity and risk in its overall impact.
To minimize risk of harming long-term innovation and worker well-being, remote work should be a choice and not “overdone”.
We wanted to take a moment to give you an abbreviated synopsis of some of the more interesting, actionable findings.
Remote Work Affects Productivity in These 2 Main Channels
Perhaps one of the most compelling sections of the report, it lays out the two main factors that shape the impact of telework on firms and staff.
Telework can improve or hamper firm performance, with its overall effect depending importantly on two main channels:
A direct channel affects firm performance through changing the efficiency, motivation, and knowledge creation of the workforce.
An indirect channel is for telework to facilitate cost reductions that free up resources for productivity enhancing innovation and reorganization.
The path to productivity gains is laid out in this model:
Will Remote Work Improve or Harm Your Firm? These are the 4 Determining Factors
According to the model above, there are four main factors that will determine whether remote work will help or hurt your firm’s productivity:
1 | Worker Satisfaction
This one can break two different ways. “Telework can improve firm performance by raising worker satisfaction and thus worker efficiency, e.g. through better work-life balance, less commuting or fewer distractions leading to more focused work or less absenteeism. It is, however, also possible that worker satisfaction decreases with telework, e.g. due to solitude, hidden overtime and a fusing of private and work life, or an inappropriate working environment at home.”
Thus, it is important to give workers the choice to work remotely and offer a flexible work environment where employees can choose what’s best for themselves.
2 | Cost Reductions
Telework can also improve firm performance through facilitating cost reductions. A few ways this happens:
Lower capital costs by reducing office space and equipment required by the company
Labor costs can be reduced as telework enlarges the pool of workers firms can choose from
Hiring costs may decrease if higher worker satisfaction reduces voluntary quits and turnover
Potentially attract workers at lower wages than would otherwise be the case – in particular if combined with other measures that improve work-life-balance such as flexible hours – to the extent workers are willing to give up a higher salary in return for these amenities
3 | Communication
The report points out that the reduction in in-person interactions — and communication quality, in general — can hamper productivity. “A wide range of evidence supports the notion that personal meetings allow for more effective communication than more remote forms such as emails, chat, or phone calls. For instance, personal communication has been shown to be more convincing, to attract more attention, or to better allow observing social clues. Disruptive forms of communication may surge to compensate for the lack of personal communication, e.g. increased email traffic or virtual meetings.”
4 | Knowledge Flows
This factor is near and dear to us here at M-Files. The lack of personal interaction can decrease knowledge flows among employees. At M-Files, a few cornerstones of our information management solution are:
The ability to share information easily with colleagues
Improving the discoverability of critical, helpful information
The flow of information between individuals, departments, business units and external parties
Workers learn from in-person encounters with colleagues — water cooler chats, dropping by a teammate’s office — and that interaction cannot be understated. The report says: “Innovation depends importantly on the sharing of knowledge: ‘What each individual knows is less important. What counts is collective knowledge.’”
To compensate in a remote work environment, firms should realign their digitization efforts to promote knowledge sharing in the absence of interpersonal engagement. And to that end, information management tools like M-Files are absolutely critical to ensure a healthy knowledge flow.
In Remote Work Environments, there is a Point of Diminishing Returns
The report goes on to explain that there is indeed a point of diminishing returns with teleworking. In summary, worker satisfaction increases in a remote work environment — enough to offset potentially negative effects on communication, knowledge flows and managerial oversight.
“The relative strength of these channels in turn is likely to depend on the intensity of telework: the negative effect due to the lack of personal interactions likely becomes stronger with telework intensity, as opportunities for in-person communication diminish, while worker satisfaction improves with low levels of telework but may suffer from ‘excessive’ teleworking, e.g. due to solitude or a fusing of private and professional life.”
Thus, there is a sweet spot for maximizing productivity. Not offering remote work is bad. Too much remote work is bad, also.
Ultimately, firms must ascertain for themselves where that point of diminishing returns is and aim to create a more flexible workplace where employees have the option to choose whichever volume of remote work suits them best.
And to maintain productivity, they need to be equipped with digital solutions like communication, collaboration and information management — at the very minimum.
What Exactly is Information Lifecycle Management (ILM)?
“Information lifecycle management (ILM) is the effort to oversee data, from creation through retirement, in order to optimize its utility, lower costs, as well as minimize the legal and compliance risks that may be introduced through that data.
“ILM involves storage optimization as well as strategies to improve data quality and security. Finally, a strong information lifecycle management practice will proactively control data retention and disposal in accordance with business policy.”
Why is Information Lifecycle Management Important?
Most organizations don’t leverage their information effectively. There are varied statistics out there but one assessment says that 60-73% of company data goes unused. It lies dormant in some repository, forgotten about, taking up space that costs money and may even violate compliance requirements.
Ultimately, the information your organization creates is one of its most important assets. A good strategy must carefully manage and protect that information, particularly when customers have entrusted it to you. The past decade has seen the advent of evolving regulatory compliance and privacy requirements — like GDPR and CCPA — which now sit at a crossroads with an upsurge in digital data volume.
Companies must sustain good governance policies over rapidly increasing quantities of information. This is not an effort that can be delayed. The most prosperous businesses of the next decade will be those that can locate, categorize, and enforce control over their information.
The consequences of doing nothing (or very little) can have vast and amplified effects on the organization at-large over time. When it comes to enterprise information, they need to secure it, deduplicate it, and dispose of it at the proper time. Serious consequences include:
Legal and regulatory exposure. Many regulations specify how long data must be kept. There’s no benefit to keeping it longer and, in fact, could present risk if sensitive information is still discoverable past its useful lifetime.
Cost. A Veritas study estimated that poor information governance will create 1 billion of avoidable storage and management costs worldwide by 2020. Unnecessary data storage costs money.
Access. Obsolete or irrelevant information mixed in with critical information slows down access and creates the potential for confusion and errors.
Information Lifecycle Management Visualized
Our friends at Iron Mountain published an infographic which succinctly lays out a 5-step information lifecycle management path. Businesses are creating a massive volume of information, but what happens to those documents? Are they handled appropriately? Are the disposed of or taking up costly space on a server somewhere?
Take a look at the infographic and follow the path:
The concept that Iron Mountain visualized is that documents and information should have a defined lifecycle with five steps — encompassed by awareness of compliance measures.
Create. Create information and classify it with metadata according to organizational standards.
Use. Make information available to certain individuals and applications in support of organizational goals and obligations.
Retain. Protect information by storing it in secure repositories according to retention policy.
Preserve. Safeguard information to meet legal, regulatory, operational and archival requirements.
Dispose. Destroy or archive information at the end of its useful life according to formal procedure.
Simplifying Information Lifecycle Management
Regrettably, many organizations — even large ones — depend on manual processes for information lifecycle management and that makes the process slow and inaccurate. M-Files can automate much of the process to free up staff time to work on more strategic projects. It can also save time and headaches in the event of a discovery demand or regulatory request.
The M-Files intelligent information management platform has a role in all five phases of the information lifecycle, simplifying every process, and here’s how:
At the inception point of a document, it can be classified with metadata — even with the help of built-in AI — and governance rules can be applied with workflow rules to flag that information for proper archival after its useful lifetime.
With customizable, dynamic permissions, access rights are controlled tightly, and usage policy is inherently well-defined.
M-Files offers a cloud, on-premise or hybrid deployment allowing for flexibility and security in data storage — aligned with any compliance or governance policies.
If information needs to be retained in accordance with regulatory requirements, M-Files can safeguard that information for any specified length of time.
A simple governance workflow can automatically destroy or archive information at the end of its useful life — or notify an information manager to act on that data.