For professional services companies like consultants, accountants, legal professionals and others, success so often comes down to their ability to forge deeper and longer lasting relationships with their clients than their competitors. Anyone can provide a service — what firms really need to do to stand out in a crowd involves providing an exceptional experience in every sense of the word.
So much of their ability to do this comes down to the information that they’re creating and working with every day. As your firm continues to grow, there will absolutely come a time when you can no longer manage it all on your own — meaning that you’ll need an information management platform to help extract the insight you need from that data to make better and more informed decisions moving forward.
But at the same time, not all enterprise content management (ECM) solutions are created equally. If you really want to make sure that you’re investing in the right solution for your professional services firm, there are a few key features you’ll want to pay attention to.
Shatter Those Information Silos Once and For All
By far, one of the most important things to look for in an ECM involves a feature set that allows you to finally break down those information silos once and for all.
Information silos are more than just a minor inconvenience — they’re actually costing your business a significant amount of money in more ways than one. If information about a consumer is trapped in your marketing department and can never make its way across the enterprise to sales, for example, the latter is lacking the critical insight they need to create deeper and longer lasting relationships with your clients and customers. An ECM solution should absolutely help you break free from these restrictions — the last thing you need is to end up accidentally creating yet another data silo that requires a massive migration because you’ve chosen the wrong solution.
A system like M-Files is a perfect opportunity to connect to all of your existing business systems in a way that presents information to the people who need it the most regardless of where it lives. Better yet, these full integration capabilities can unlock the free flow of information across your business WITHOUT disturbing any of your existing systems, too.
Empowering Remote Access for Anyone, Anywhere at Any Time
Along the same lines, any ECM solution you choose to go with should also enable remote access as much as possible — people should be able to get information anywhere, at any time, from any device. This type of remote access has always been the future of work, but thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with more people working remotely than ever, it’s become an even more critical idea than it already was.
Not only does a solution like M-Files offer this remote access and connectivity by design, but it also does so in the most secure way possible. M-Files uses encryption and other data security standards to always make sure that your confidential information stays that way, but it also has the dynamic permissions and internal controls you need to configure the system to meet your goals. You can limit access to files by directory, by the type of content or even by the job description of someone trying to access that information. The choice is yours to make based on what you need.
This of course bleeds directly into another benefit your document management solution needs to bring to the table — features that empower collaboration among you and your team members. Only by enabling A) remote access and B) higher security standards as outlined above, will you be able to C) create a secure system where you can easily share information with both colleagues internally and externally with clients as needed. This is of paramount importance in terms of professional services businesses moving forward, and it’s also a goal that an information management system like M-Files is designed to help you achieve.
Optimizing Workflows Across the Board
Any ECM solution you choose to work with should also allow you to fully embrace automation — minimizing those manual repetitive tasks with workflows and business process automation, all so that you can focus more of your attention on those tasks that really need you.
M-Files can help to that end in terms of automating things like invoice processing, for example. M-Files can automatically handle ALL incoming invoices and cover all necessary steps of your accounts payable department — from data extraction to validation to release and beyond. Not only does this create a greater degree of process transparency than ever, but it also reduces costs and eliminates things like human error as well.
An Era of Paper Reduction Has Begun
Any ECM solution worth your time should also help with paper reduction — a step that will finally allow you to break free of the “old school” way of doing things so that you can create a more efficient and more forward-thinking place of business.
M-Files, for example, offers capture and digitization capabilities that allow firms like yours to eliminate costly and inefficient paper document practices. Not only can you free up valuable floor space in your office now that those massive filing cabinets of old documents are no longer needed, but the money you’ll save from a more efficient way of doing things can be funneled back into other areas of your business where it is truly needed and can do the most good.
Scalability to Spare
Finally, we arrive at the idea of scalability — a concept that far too many people tend not to think too much about until it’s too late.
Any ECM solution you pick needs to meet your needs today, yes. But it also needs to be just as useful five years from now as it is at the time of purchase. As your business grows, the volume of information you’re creating on a daily basis will grow, too. Therefore, your information management platform needs to grow right along with you — constantly allowing you to address current demands all while better preparing yourself to meet future challenges, too.
M-Files connects to all of your disconnected information systems — CRM, ERP, network folders, legacy systems, SharePoint, Google G Suite, email — so that your company has information continuity at scale, should your environment change.
Along with so many dramatic changes the coronavirus pandemic has abruptly introduced into our daily lives, a lot more business has moved to the internet. Because of social distancing, millions of employees have exchanged their commutes for a home office. At the same time, all sorts of companies have seen an explosion of traffic to their eCommerce and online service sites.
During this time, businesses have been forced to rapidly shift both their marketing and servicing channels. Because of the abrupt change, not all of companies have the right structure in place to keep up.
How Extreme is the Growth in Customer Service Requests?
While the digital transformation in the way we work and shop has gradually occurred over the past several years, its evolution has suddenly exploded. This change has led at least one digital business analyst to ironically wonder if the digital transformation was quite ready for the digital transformation. And perhaps this change has been felt most dramatically in the area of customer service.
For instance, Ted Smith serves as the Senior Director of Zendesk Market Intelligence. All over the world, Zendesk services about 23,000 companies. According to their data, all kinds of businesses have experienced a spike in customer service requests.
These are examples of activity changes that Zendesk recently reported upon:
- Not only has the number of help desk tickets grown by 24% since 2019, Zendesk has also noticed extreme spikes right after new government announcements or sudden increases in the number of infected people.
- As you might expect, critical or essential businesses have experienced the highest surges in the number of requests, with an overall increase of 133% since February of 2020.
Why Businesses Struggle with an Increased Load in Customer Service Requests
During the outbreak, many consumers feel as taxed as the rapidly evolving businesses that need to serve them. That’s also likely to mean that they’re less likely to forgive delays and frustrations than they might under normal conditions. At the same time, an increased load has made customer service departments even more vulnerable to experiencing issues.
It’s not just a heavier load. Some businesses did not have the right tools in place to accommodate their new remote workforce. Thus, scrambling employees have had turned to disparate and ad-hoc solutions. If your business still relies upon paper files, scanned files, file sharing through various free cloud storage accounts, or email attachments, you’re wasting your employee’s and your customer’s time. As well as wasting time with inefficient searches, these old-fashioned methods of capturing, storing, and locating data will also be more likely to cause errors because of version control and data entry problems.
How Companies Can Adapt Quickly to a Rapidly Changing Business Environment
Out of all of the chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic, businesses that can adapt should emerge from this current crisis much stronger. McKinsey research has found that 70% of customers cited poor customer service experiences as a reason for switching brands. Businesses that can retain their brand reputation and build a more agile workforce will prevail. When businesses can sustain themselves during these trying times, just imagine how much better they can perform after the economy begins to find stability again.
Enterprise-quality information solutions like M-Files will not only make it easier to find documents across all sorts of devices and storage mediums, they will help catch errors that erode data quality. These systems will even send alerts or information to facilitate the next stage of the business process automatically.
Better yet, users can have the freedom to access their information remotely and from a variety of different devices. At the same time, sophisticated security rules ensure that only the right people access the information they need. Version tracking can also make auditing and catching irregularities in data use a breeze.
B2B and B2C Businesses Need Efficient Information Management
Perhaps best of all, these intelligent solutions will ensure simple sharing across all departments and other stakeholders. I recently wrote about a B2B business example of poor customer service experience to illustrate that business customers need to be served as well as retail ones. I mentioned how I had clearly explained to salespeople how I needed a certain SaaS company to solve hmy business issues.
The sales team appeared to offer the right solution, but when I made the purchase and got transferred to the customer service team responsible for getting me set up, they hardly appeared aware of my needs, making for an inefficient and frustrating experience. A better information management system would have automatically sent this team such critical information as my questionnaire response, meeting notes, and any information I had previously requested and received.
In the example above, good tools would have enabled a more efficient and satisfying process. The account team could have represented their company better and even more important, kept the customer satisfied enough not to recount this anecdote at conventions. You can imagine that this kind of experience would have also frustrated a retail consumer who may have felt frustrated after purchasing a new car, HVAC system, or insurance policy.
Is your business ready for intelligent information management?
Information, in all its formats, is the lifeblood of business. Yet, it is an asset that’s often poorly managed, and therefore, provides less value than its potential. Let’s face it. Information only has value when it is refined and used for decision-making.
So why do we not treat information with the respect it deserves?
There can be many reasons for this, but I believe that fundamentally, it is about ease of access and use. To help us make the right decisions, we need to have easy access to the right information, at the right time. This way, we can use information to make decisions that are smarter, faster, and safer.
And the key to ease of access and use?
The short and sweet answer: intelligent information management.
Intelligent information management lets you distinguish business-critical data from clutter. It allows you to automatically connect data to the right context and add metadata tags to further enrich the content. It lets you manage information stored in any system or repository, be it on-premises or in the cloud, from just one user interface. It lets you do that working from the office, from home, from an internet café, or a customer site, or any other place your employees might be working from. And it lets you automate the workflows and processes related to that information. What’s more, it does all of this automatically. Suddenly, content chaos becomes a well-organized and managed well of information.
The payoff for your business is that you’ll gain competitive advantage. You know when and how to react, and even be proactive. You can provide better customer service with up-to-date information available for all team members. All of this is even more relevant in today’s flexible working environment when employees, customers and business partners might be working anywhere, even in different time zones. Immediate and easy access to relevant and correct data is suddenly the deal-breaker.
Let me give you an example of what this intelligent information management could mean…
Let’s start with the hypothesis that you have stored your documents and other information in network folders. The amount of data has grown over the years… there could easily be millions of documents stored in those folders, with duplicates and different versions of the same content, distorting any initial idea of a logical structure to find the exact right document quickly and easily.
To make sense of that chaos, and the numerous versions of the same document, you can first connect M-Files — even when stored in the cloud — and your on-premises network folders, or any other archive you might be using, such as on-premises or cloud-based SharePoint. Then, you can let M-Files Discovery crawl the folders and identify certain patterns and forms of information — like personally identifiable information (PII) — and lift them up for a closer look. This way, you have discovered critical, actionable information and can focus on it rather than trying to navigate through all the redundant, obsolete or trivial (ROT) data stored to find what you need.
M-Files smart tools can then add numerous tags to classify and describe the content so that it is easily accessed and managed in the future as well. Even automatic workflows can be assigned to the document to make sure it is handled according to company guidelines and in accordance with your business processes. Everyone — meaning everyone who is supposed to — will have access to the same document in their own context so that finding the information becomes intuitive. Automatic duplicate detection will ensure that you don’t accidentally end up storing the same document your colleague already saved, but that you keep on using the one common version.
So, do you want to work smarter, not harder? Let M-Files work for you with intelligent information management at your fingertips.
M-Files bested all competitors in this year’s edition of the Nucleus Research Content Management (CM) Technology Value Matrix. Similar to the Gartner Magic Quadrant, the matrix places vendors in four regions — assessing them on two key factors: functionality and usability. M-Files earned the top spot for both criteria, placed in the Leader quadrant for the seventh consecutive year.
As an independent third-party analyst, Nucleus Research has logged twenty years in the technology research and advisory space. Their website boasts: “By following an ROI case-based, investigative approach, our research delivers factual analysis and insight that helps organizations present the financial, and operational value of a technology solution.”
This year, by necessity, companies have gravitated to technology solutions that can help facilitate a remote, flexible workplace. Content management technology has been thrust into the spotlight to help provide the same work experience at home as at the office. Simple file-sharing or cloud storage solutions just aren’t enough.
As Nucleus mentions in the report:
“The shift to remote work has strained the limits of traditional, monolithic Content Management solutions, forcing companies to focus on defining a strategy to deal with the growth of volume in content, data, and document needs, rather than traditional document storage.”
The Nucleus report can be invaluable for technology reviewers in determining which enterprise content management solution is best for their organization and the explosion of data, documents, and information.
To make the most well-informed decision, get the inside track on top CM solutions from an impartial third party with a complimentary copy of the 2020 Nucleus Research Content Management Technology Value Matrix. It’s a must-read report where you can find the strengths of each vendor and match them up to your organization’s needs.
Click the link below to download Nucleus Research’s assessment of 17 top vendors, including the following highlights:
- The Technology Value Matrix and the market positioning of ECM vendors in terms of usability and functionality
- An analysis of the strengths of each vendor’s solution and the value that is delivered to the client
- Insights on overarching ECM market trends and challenges