One of the most important things that business leaders need to realize is that outdated technology – especially a document management solution – isn’t just frustrating.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.
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.
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more people are working remotely than ever before. On the one hand, productivity hasn’t really suffered as there are a large number of cloud-based tools that make it possible to be just as productive outside of the office as you are in it.
But on the other hand, there are also certain types of collaboration habits that make security breaches no longer a matter of “if” but “when.” Understanding what these are is the best way to avoid them at all costs.
The Dreaded “User Error”
If you had to make a list of all the reasons why data breaches are allowed to occur in the first place, the human error would undoubtedly be right at the top. It’s not that your employees are outright trying to sabotage your network — far from it. But when people share passwords with other employees, share sensitive data via insecure collaboration tools or make any similar mistakes, they’re essentially opening the door to your network for anyone to walk through.
To combat this as much as possible, you need to make it as easy as possible for employees to access the data, the tools, and the systems they need to do their jobs. Likewise, you need to invest in ongoing cybersecurity training to help make sure people are aware of all of the potential risks they face. You can’t expect someone to avoid falling victim to a phishing attack if they’re not even really sure what one looks like.
The Risk of Data Overexposure
A lot of people don’t realize that the types of chats and files shared by employees on online collaboration platforms are usually retained forever — meaning that this data is always going to be vulnerable to a cyber-attack if you’re not very, very careful. So even if your business’ network isn’t breached, you’re still not out of the woods if that collaboration tool is as at that point hackers would have access to everything someone ever said or did with the platform.
This is why you always need to choose your cloud-based partners wisely and assess each one’s level of data and system security before picking one to go with moving forward. Likewise, you should add as many security measures to reach the data repository as possible to help reduce your risk surface as much as you can. Always make sure that employees are using two-factor authentication, for example, and move away from free applications. Finally, make sure that all sensitive or otherwise confidential information is always classified that way so that you know exactly where critical data is and where it needs to be protected.
M-Files gives organizations full control over who can access information at different stages of a process. Access will also automatically change when people leave or move into a new role.
Risky Personal Devices
Another one of the major collaboration habits that makes it possible for data breaches to take place has to do with employees who insist on using their (inherently insecure) personal devices.
If you give an employee a laptop computer, you can encrypt any data contained on it. You can always make sure that it is up to date in terms of patches and you can take whatever other steps are necessary to mitigate risk. You don’t have that option when someone is using their own personal devices, which is why you need to pay close attention to this phenomenon at all times.
Always audit your IT environment and network activity and pay attention for suspicious activity. If you find that users are working with their own devices, try to get them to use corporate devices and always install endpoint protection tools on each one.
Finally, one of the biggest collaboration habits that increase the chances of a data breach ultimately comes down to the use of unsanctioned tools, otherwise known as Shadow IT.
Sure, your employees may feel more comfortable working with their own personal file sharing services. But you can’t protect this data repository if you don’t know that it exists in the first place and if someone is using it to link to or share corporate files, it runs afoul of the very best practices that cybersecurity plans are built on.
For the best results, always be sure to work closely with all departments to understand employee workflows and their business needs. Try to really understand WHY someone is using Shadow IT — what feature do they need that you’re not giving them access to, or what other concern do they have that this relieves? Then, select collaboration tools that address these issues — thus minimizing security risks across the board.
The following article is a guest post by Wendy Seykens, Marketing and Communications Coordinator with M-Files partner BMconsultants.
This year has become the year of virtual meetings — where we all convene together to discuss business. An hour here, half an hour there. Sounds familiar, right? These meetings are a source of the occasional funny moment…
“Oh wait, my microphone was still muted.”
“I’m having connection problems.” (Sounding like a garbled, drive-through speaker.)
“Please excuse my 5-year-old’s temper tantrum.”
But put all of these light moments aside, the advent of remote work (and how that carries into an abundance of virtual meetings) has led to many inefficiencies and, frankly, unnecessary stress in working with business documents.
The following document mismanagement moments are all too common sources of stress for knowledge workers — and they’re avoidable, too. Check out these situations that many have surely found themselves in.
1 | It’s Challenging to Search and Find the Right Documents
During a strategy meeting on Microsoft Teams, you’re looking for the latest version of an agenda made by a colleague.
“Wait a minute, I think this is it! Do you see it? Oh. This is not the latest version? Okay, what about this one?”
It’s so frustrating and time-consuming to constantly search for the right information.
2 | Sharing Documents and Comments in the Chat Window can Prove Troublesome
You send the link to a document in the chat window. Later, multiple links are shared back and forth, and multiple comments are made in the chat.
Note to self: Don’t forget which is the link to the latest version and don’t miss those comments that pertain to your work.
Two days and three projects later… You’ve forgotten which chat the links were in, which link is the most current and which comments you need to pay attention to. So, you reread the whole chat log all over again, like a bad novel.
3 | It’s a Secure Work Environment, Right?
“Hello, everyone. This meeting is being recorded. Did you adjust the cost breakdown? And did you also make sure that the associated contracts are changed? Oh. You’ve already sent the documents in the chat? Thank you very much.”
Just before a meeting, you look for a document, so that you can discuss it.
“It really should be on my laptop.” Searching, searching, searching. No luck.
“Didn’t I have it on the desktop in my home office?” Nope.
“Wait, no. It was on my iPad. Let me email it to myself.” Still waiting. Ah, there it is.
Fifteen minutes later than planned, you finally join the online meeting with the right document.
A Simple Solution: M-Files Intelligent Information Management
Have these situations happened to you? And now that you’re aware of these situations, think about how much time is wasted searching and, above all, finding the right documents. Five minutes here. Ten minutes there. All of it adds up. In fact, Gartner says that professionals spend 50% of their time searching for information, and on average, take 18 minutes to locate each document.
How nice would it be if you could search and find all of your work files in one central system? What if it no longer mattered where a file is? What if you could you search across the entire information ecosystem with the help of metadata? What if that central system was integrated with, for example, Microsoft Office 365 and Teams?
There must be an easy solution for that. Yes, there is. With M-Files, these stressful, annoying moments are forever a thing of the past. M-Files is a unique intelligent information management solution that enriches the way businesses secure, process and manage data and content — documents, images, emails, customer information, or other information objects.
M-Files offers connections to network drives, Microsoft and Google apps, as well as major business applications and other document management systems. Ultimately, M-Files lets you fast-track digital business transformation by breaking down silos in separate applications, systems and repositories.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.