With regards to technology, one of the major mistakes that far too many business leaders make involves clinging to legacy applications purely out of a sense of familiarity. They think to themselves, “Why do I need to invest in something new? This has gotten the job done for years, I see no need to make any type of change right now.”
But while those legacy applications may be getting the job done… they may not be getting them done particularly well, and it could be costing most businesses far more than they realize.
The Most Common Business Challenges of Legacy Technology
By far, one of the biggest problems with legacy technology is that they almost always result in the types of security vulnerabilities that most businesses simply cannot afford to deal with.
A lot of people don’t realize that software updates are about more than just adding new features or tweaking the graphical user interface. Vendors offer software updates to patch bugs, exploits and other security vulnerabilities quickly after they’re discovered, before they can be taken advantage of by someone who knows what they’re doing. If a vendor stops providing updates and focuses their attention on a modern solution, that means that when additional exploits are discovered (and make no mistake about it, they will be) they will be left unchecked. That means there is essentially a backdoor into your business’ network that could potentially compromise every last kilobyte of critical data you’re creating on a daily basis.
In 2018, Shawn McCarthy, the research director for IDC Government Insights, said spending on legacy systems had risen by 13 percent over the last five years alone. This increase means agencies need more now than ever to ease themselves of the burden of antiquated IT systems.
Another major issue with legacy applications ultimately comes down to cost. In the event that a piece of software is no longer supported by the vendor, that means that it is up to you and you alone to keep it running as effectively as you can. Normally, that involves hiring people with the right type of expertise to keep a constant eye on your infrastructure — a move that is costly to say the least. Even if you hand over these duties to your existing IT people, every minute that they spend simply making sure that everything stays up and running is a minute that they’re not making money for your business.
One of the biggest examples of this cost issue has to do with how legacy technology usually lacks compatibility with other IT solutions. By remaining tethered to these legacy systems, you’re likely creating data silos across your business where critical information is essentially trapped in one platform, unable to get into the hands of the people who need it to make critical decisions. Workaround solutions exist, sure — but they’re usually just as costly (not to mention frustrating) to implement.
Likewise, legacy applications are problematic for most enterprises simply because they’re trapped in stasis for all time. They’re not evolving and gaining new functionality as the industry around you does the same. This makes it not only more difficult to scale your business as needed, but it makes it nearly impossible to innovate as well.
A report from Dell says:
“In the last 10 years, roughly 701 percent of all applications used by Fortune 5000 companies run in legacy environments built 20, 30, even 40 years ago, according to one analyst group. Another top tier analyst firm estimates that a typical corporation spends between 60 percent and 80 percent of its IT budget simply to maintain existing mainframe systems and applications.”
The Solution: Modern Day Information Management
The good news is that all of these issues with legacy applications can be solved with the right information management platform like M-Files. This type of solution will almost instantly eliminate the need for specialist skills to “make do” with your legacy apps by providing a common platform for storing and accessing ALL legacy data across your business.
M-Files, for example, is designed to act as a way to bring all of your various data repositories together — regardless of what is being stored where and why. It brings together information from network shares, cloud storage and other sources into a system that anyone can access at any time. At that point, it doesn’t actually matter where the data is — so long as you know WHAT it is that you’re looking for, you’ll be more than capable of finding it.
But the best part of all is that this type of solution can be presented in a way that maintains familiarity for users — meaning that they don’t have to worry about how difficult it will be to learn a new system just to keep working in the way they’ve always preferred to. From their point of view, nothing really “changes” beyond the fact that it’s now easier and faster to find the information they need when they need it the most.
This brings with it the added benefit of allowing your information management platform to act as a useful source of historical data, all of which can be mined for critical business insights using the analytical engine of your choosing. This can help you uncover trends and patterns that otherwise would have gone undiscovered, finally allow your data to push your business forward rather than allowing it to hold you back.
Of course, the benefits of moving away from those legacy applications and towards a more modern solution like an intelligent information management platform aren’t exclusively internal. By allowing your information management solution like M-Files to integrate with your front office systems so that current and historical data can be accessed quickly, you’re allowing your people to respond far faster to customer issues as well. This brings with it perhaps the most important benefit of all: you get to create a more seamless (not to mention higher quality) experience for your customers by improving the quality of work that you’re able to do for them across the board.
Change is certainly tough on any organization — the scope, scale or specific nature of that change doesn’t actually matter. Some changes are major — like with digital transformation initiatives. When an organization decides that they are investing in a new information management system, for example, it can represent a change to the fundamental way people work — a positive change, but one that requires an adjustment, nonetheless.
As a prime example within the M-Files solution — and top of mind since it was the topic of our last podcast — is the idea that computer folders don’t matter. Putting files in folders and subfolders has been the norm since the very first iteration of MS-DOS — where you drop objects into a file directory. So, the idea of simply having documents described by metadata, out in the ether, uncoupled from file location is a paradigm shift.
Getting your team to buy into the vision of a newer, better way of doing things is the first step to navigating disruption. Mismanaging disruption can absolutely harm user adoption if you’re not careful, which will harm your return on investment for the solution, too. Thankfully, if your current goal involves boosting the user adoption of your information management system, there are four key ways you can do it.
You Need a Team of Champions
Your users aren’t just going to decide to adopt your new information management system out of the kindness of their heart. They need to be swayed, and they’re going to start looking to the people around them in order to see whether yours is a solution worth paying attention to.
Therefore, if you really want to boost user adoption, you don’t just need a team of people who are willing to sing your praises. You need a team of people who are willing to champion the effort and evangelize their experience. Essentially, you’re looking for people who won’t shut up about what a good experience this is and how they’re getting more work done than ever — and you need as many of them as you can get.
The benefit here is that this creates a snowball effect in the best possible way. Once a few of your champions begin to spread the word, it’ll almost always convince someone who was resistant to change to give your information management system a fair shake. They, too, become advocates for the effort and things only get better from there.
Overall, find a quick win and evangelize it to get people on board. If you have a user who lets you know that thanks to the information management system, they were able to improve their own productivity by 30%, that’s a big win — and that person (and their story) should be held up as a major example of what your solution can do.
Test, Test and Test Some More
Another one of the best ways to boost user adoption for your information management system involves using the testing phase to train IT and future administrators. Keep in mind that during your wider rollout, people are obviously going to have a lot of questions. They’re also going to run into issues and have concerns that will need to be addressed — it’s only natural.
What you need to do is be in a position to take care of all of this, creating the most seamless support experience possible. If users can see that there is someone there to help them and that they’re not just being “thrown into the deep end before they’re ready,” they’ll be much more likely to embrace the solution. This is true even if problems arise or things get a little frustrating.
On the subject of training, be sure to use real-life use cases specific to your business as the main training modules. The more general your examples are, the more disconnected users will feel because they don’t feel like this information management system has any relevance to THEIR lives.
Instead, you need to create training modules that speak to the work they’re doing on a daily basis. Show people how this solution will fit into their lives and let them experience how much easier their job will be once it is in place. Demonstrate how communication and collaboration are better than ever.
The more relevant you’re able to make it to their lives, the more likely they are to adopt it wholeheartedly — and at that point, that’s really all you need to get started.
Communication is King
There’s a reason why your business is using THIS information management system at THIS particular moment — and it’s incumbent on management to explain why it’s so important for users to change the way they’re used to doing things.
Obviously, you have a plan in place. If you want to boost user adoption, you need to make sure that plan is actually communicated to your users early and often.
If users can at least understand what this tool is, why it will make a positive impact on their lives and why it’s so important for them to use it, they’ll be much more likely to adopt it. At that point, the software can speak for itself and the users can see the benefits up close and personal.
Choose an Information Management Company Committed to Help You Increase Adoption
Make sure that whichever solution you choose, that company has a robust Services and Support team, with the experience needed to help you roll out the software. Any SaaS company worth their salt knows the most effective way to increase user adoption of their product. So, ask questions about Services and Support in the buying process. Find a vendor that will guide you to optimal user adoption.
At M-Files, we have a global Services and Support arm ready to help you tackle change management, user adoption, and everything in between. When you implement M-Files, really, what you’re doing is asking staff to use a tool that is objectively better than the previous one. Our Services team is experts at demonstrating just that. Once your staff sees the information management system for what it really is — an invaluable asset that will allow them to work better than ever — they’ll soon begin to wonder how they were ever able to live without it.
To say that information governance is critical in the fast-paced digital era that we’re currently living in is probably a little bit of an understatement.
Every day, businesses are creating countless volumes of data that contain the insight necessary to guarantee success for the next five, ten or even twenty years of that organization’s existence. The problem is that if you can’t dive beneath the data and uncover the true narrative playing out, the data itself is effectively worthless. Without the right information governance plan, you’re really just talking about little more than a series of 1s and 0s sitting on a hard drive somewhere.
This is all especially important during an era when more people are working remotely than ever, thanks in large part to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that continues to drag on. Employees are using mobile and cloud technology to stay productive while on-the-go, creating even more challenges in terms of managing information in a way that allows it to remain productive and useful.
However, even organizations that understand the importance of information governance often run into issues — as this exceptional AIIM article goes a long way towards illustrating. It outlines not one but three pressure points that usually cause information governance policies to fail, and we thought we’d take the opportunity to both recap and present our own unique solution for each one.
Weak Spot #1: Information Entry Points
One of the biggest areas where information governance tends to break down is also, for most organizations, among the most immediate: the point at which that information enters your system to begin with.
These days, even small enterprises have more information coming into their environments than ever. But a lot of organizations have thus far been slow to adapt their governance strategies, particularly to take advantage of the fast-paced cloud and mobile-driven worlds that we’re currently living in.
For example, did you know that only about 40% of businesses have automated processes to guarantee the deletion of personal information? Likewise, did you know that 85% of people see that a failure to digitize, standardize and automate business inputs is one of the key bottlenecks that appears during a digital transformation?
This is one of the biggest reasons why it’s so important to have an information management platform like M-Files. Whether you’re talking about capturing information with scanners or the native input of files and information using other tools, within M-Files, the entry point is automatically equipped with artificial intelligence-enabled metadata. This helps guide the information through its lifecycle, making it more searchable (and ultimately useable) at the same time. So regardless of being forced to focus so much on WHERE the information is, you can instead devote your attention to WHAT it is — which is exactly the way things should be.
Weak Spot #2: Information End Points
Another one of the major pressure points for information governance comes down to information endpoints — a topic that is far more complicated than most people assume.
Endpoints can be practically anything — from personal workstations to smartphones to Internet of Things devices and beyond. If you’re unable to access data on those endpoints, you’ll have a far harder time leveraging and growing historical data intelligence, validating past categorizations and much, much more. You’ll also likely be dealing with a lot of duplicate data, which can make it even more difficult to find exactly what it is that you’re looking for when you need it the most.
Weak Spot #3: Policy Administration
Finally, we arrive at policy administration: something that a lot of organizations are still trying to do manually, to mixed results.
If you’re still trying to do everything “the old-fashioned way,” even keeping your information governance policy up to date can be an uphill battle. Never forget that every minute you’re spending trying to get this right is a minute that you’re not focused on those matters that really need you. Plus, depending on the size of your enterprise, trying to demonstrate compliance may not just be difficult… It might be literally impossible.
If this describes your own situation, don’t worry — you’re not alone. That AIIM article referenced above indicated that for about 70% of organizations, key governance processes are less than 50% automated across the board. Even today, a lot of businesses still find embracing automation something to be far easier said than done.
That is, unless you leverage the right information lifecycle management tool like M-Files to do all of this for you. As stated, M-Files is built to guide information through its lifecycle with workflows as efficiently as possible. Those workflows notify all key stakeholders when a document has reached the end of its useful life, thus allowing them to quickly do something about it.
Plus, M-Files will automatically save documents that need to be kept due to regulatory compliance and much, much more. All of this makes sure not only that your information governance policy is executed and managed in just the right way — it frees up as much of your valuable time as possible so that you can focus on those tasks that actually generate revenue for your business.
At its core, a digital transformation is all about taking the business you have today and helping it evolve into the organization you WANT to be running tomorrow through a newer and more innovative approach to technology. It’s a way to modernize your infrastructure, improve user experience, and create a bold new company culture — all at the exact same time.
It is possible to get this all wrong, however, and the results could be disastrous if you’re not careful. By understanding the top five causes of digital transformation failure, you can take steps to avoid them at all costs.
The Myth of the “We Can Do It Ourselves” Mentality
One of the most admirable things about the entrepreneurial spirit is the idea that “we can do it all ourselves.” After all, the mentality that “there’s no better person for the job than me” is a big part of the reason you are where you are right now. It’s why businesses thrive and enjoy a tremendous amount of success because of it.
It also, unfortunately, happens to be another one of the major reasons why digital transformations fail.
This is especially true when it comes to technology partners, who a lot of people make the mistake of viewing less as an organic part of the execution strategy and more like an afterthought. Make no mistake about it: they are NOT passive third parties who are going to come in when you tell them to, do what you tell them to, and leave, never to be heard from again.
If your digital transformation is going to succeed, you can’t be afraid to ask for help — and that’s especially true in terms of finding partners to come in and fill a few of the tech-related gaps that you may have. These partners need to be a part of your execution strategy from the moment you start working on it and they need to be willing to stand by your side and lend a helping hand every step of the way.
Scaling Too Quickly is Just as Bad as Not Scaling at All
Most of the time, the types of people who initiate changes want to see results as quickly as possible. This is all well and good — unless you’re trying to implement several changes at once as you would be in a digital transformation. It’s impossible to control everything at that type of speed, so don’t even try.
Instead, slow down and pay attention to those little details. Digital transformation is BORN from those details. Scale and transform processes one-by-one and just remember — there really is no need to rush.
The Bottom-Up Approach
Another one of the reasons why many digital transformations fail has to do with the Bottom-Up Approach. That is, the advocacy for the digital transformation process begins with one or maybe even a select few employees who love the idea of automating processes, implementing new technologies, or changing the company culture in some appreciable way.
This is all great — but it requires them to essentially work their way UP the organization, getting buy-in from all key stakeholders along the way. While it’s likely that they’ll be able to get a lot of their contemporaries onboard, they’ll almost never be able to achieve 100% support — thus dooming a digital transformation initiative before it ever really had a chance to get off the ground.
Instead, you should use a Top-Down Approach where leadership buys in FIRST and evangelizes digital transformation initiatives along the way.
The Danger of Silos
By far, one of the major reasons why a lot of digital transformations fail comes down to siloed activity and especially siloed information. Never forget that a true digital transformation is all about allowing a business to evolve from its very core — so anything less than an “all hands on deck” approach simply won’t suffice.
But if one department is engaged in activities that another is totally unaware of, how are they supposed to work with and complement one another? How will Department A be able to understand that what they’re doing will have a very real impact on Department B? If information is siloed because departments and individuals still want to use their own systems, how is any type of collaboration supposed to take place at all?
Thankfully, avoiding this type of situation altogether is easy — you just have to make sure that you have the right tools and resources in place before your digital transformation begins. One of those will undoubtedly be an information management platform, with M-Files being among the most prominent examples. Here, it doesn’t matter where critical information for your digital transformation happens to be stored — M-Files automatically works with many different repositories to bring everything together. All data is available via a straightforward interface that everyone in a business can access — thus allowing information to flow freely across your enterprise during a time when that is desperately needed.
Unclear Goals Always Create a Resistance to Change
Finally, we arrive at the idea of unclear goals — a problem that a lot of people don’t realize even exists until it’s far too late.
If your only goal for your digital transformation is “embrace new technology” or “gain a competitive advantage,” that really isn’t as specific as you think it is. Before you begin your digital transformation, you need to sit down and think about what you’re really trying to do. Are you trying to bring about a strategic initiative that will help your business reach a new level of revenue? Is there some other type of specific, precise business goal you have in mind? Are you trying to take advantage of process automation, remote working, or something of that nature?
It doesn’t actually matter what it is — so long as the goal itself is clear at the beginning of this process. Unclear business goals are also unfortunately the ones that you’ll have the most difficult time explaining to your employees — meaning that it’s going to be hard to get them on board, too. This almost always creates a resistance to change that is difficult to course correct from, which is why you’d want to avoid this type of situation in the first place.
In the end, don’t forget that digital transformation will impact both the experience you’re offering to your customers AND your company culture in one fell swoop. If you make the types of mistakes as outlined above, you run the risk of damaging both, at once. But if everything goes off the way it should, you’ll have the makings of genuine competitive advantage in both fields that will serve you well for years to come.
The sheer volume of information being created on a daily basis by the average business is staggering. In fact, it’s been estimated that more data has been created in the last two years alone than in the entirety of human history leading up to that point. Contained inside that data is the insight that officials need to make better and more informed decisions about where their company is headed — but this can be a difficult point to get to when wading through all that data becomes an overwhelming uphill battle.
This is also one of the major reasons why metadata is so important. At its core, the term metadata refers to a set of data that describes and gives information about other data. In other words, it’s that brief description you write or those keywords that you use to quickly determine what is in a document before you open it. Metadata is incredibly useful if used properly — but that, too, becomes a challenge as an enterprise grows in scope and scale.
In no uncertain terms: the information that businesses create is ultimately only as useful as the metadata attached to it for categorization purposes. Without the right metadata structure in place, critical insight and other information is hard to find on the best of days. Not only that, but this creates additional problems like data being classified improperly, data that lacks a clear relationship to similar important data, a system that isn’t set up to support process-driven workflows, and more.
From that perspective, metadata is absolutely as important as the data itself. This is true for a number of reasons, all of which are worth exploring.
Maybe the biggest reason why metadata is so important comes down to the primary role it’s supposed to play. You’re classifying important insights so that you can understand what the content actually is, rather than just what it is named or where it’s located. In fact, when skipping out on the metadata, it’s like leaving money on the table.
Think about it within the context of the metadata attached to song files on popular music services like Pandora, Spotify, or iTunes. Here, you get more than just a file name when you search. You get the name of the artist. You get the genre of music the song falls into. You get the name of the album, the year it was published, related songs from the same or similar artists, and more.
Without all of this metadata, you would just have a massive cesspool of millions of songs and no way to find the ones you actually want. If you were looking for that great song that you always loved hearing on the radio but only knew it by the (incorrect) name Teenage Wasteland, you’re going to have a really difficult time finding what you’re looking for. But if you know anything else about it — like the fact that it was recorded by The Who and appeared on the album Who’s Next, it would be a matter of seconds before you found your treasure Baba O’Riley, the first track on the album and one of the band’s biggest hits of all-time.
Within the context of your business, metadata functions in much the same way. If you know even a little bit about what you need, or how it’s related to something else, you can always find what you’re looking for. But without that underlying metadata structure, you’re really looking at little more than countless files sitting on a hard drive somewhere that you don’t really know how to extract value from. Once that information has been “located” using the metadata, that effort comes with the added benefit of making that data even easier to find later.
Another one of the major reasons why metadata is so important is because you can use it to easily relate a particular file to other essential information. With the right information management platform at the heart of your efforts, even if data is stored in different data sources, you can still find absolutely everything you need relating to a project or another file just by using the metadata itself. Say a project has ten important files associated with it, all of which are spread out among network hard drives, Salesforce, SharePoint, OneDrive, and similar services. You either need to know exactly what is stored where and go looking for it every time. With a document management solution like M-Files, you can use the metadata to gain access to what you need instantly.
But really, the major benefit that metadata brings to the table involves how it impacts the way you and your employees are able to complete important tasks on a daily basis.
If metadata is collated across the enterprise by way of an overarching information management system, it enables other important features — like workflows to automate business processes and dynamic custom permissions for information security. So not only do you have to spend less time (and less money) on information security and worrying about critical information falling into the wrong hands, but manual, repetitive business processes can be automated. This saves a tremendous amount of time for your average employee, as every minute they’re NOT spending trying to locate an important file is a minute they’re spending actually acting on the important information inside. This in turn brings with it the most important benefit of all: unlocking the maximum productivity potential of your entire workforce, all while allowing them to work smarter, not harder, along the way.
If you had to make a list of some of the major reasons why an information management project might fail — particularly those that are a part of full scale digital transformations — a lack of executive buy-in would undoubtedly be right at the top.
Getting the blessing of your company leadership is about more than just securing the funds needed to execute the project in the first place. True digital transformation requires a culture willing to embrace what is about to happen. It requires people to be able to see the very real benefits they’ll get at the end of these efforts. It relies on everyone being on the same page and moving in the same direction at all times, all while mitigating the common risks as much as possible along the way. This isn’t just difficult to achieve without total buy-in from executives and other key stakeholders.
It’s largely impossible.
But thankfully, all hope is not lost. Getting your executives’ blessing for your information management project is actually a lot more straightforward than you might think it to be. You just have to keep a few key things in mind along the way.
Understand the Scope of the Situation
Obviously, you understand why this particular information management project is the right move for your business to make at this specific moment. If you’re dealing with a lack of buy-in from executives, the key to overcoming this is to first make an effort to understand why that may be the case.
More often than not, it comes down to an issue of communication: one where you’ve thus far been unable to explain the true value of what you’re proposing. Other times, company leaders are simply not in a position to clearly see the end result quite yet. They know what you want to do but are less sold on the “why” of it all.
Regardless, these are things that you can absolutely control with the right approach. However, it may require an adjustment from the way you’ve been doing things up to this point.
Frame the Information Management Project Properly and Establish a Vision that Justifies Its Own Existence
You need to make sure that you’re framing the project in a way that makes financial sense as quickly as possible. Any type of information management project is capital investment — to say nothing of how much work people are going to have to put in. Rather than letting your executive team get hung up on the costs, emphasize the value that they’re getting in return.
Yes, the project might cost $X to complete. But if you save $Y per month and are projected to see a return on investment in a year and a half, suddenly you’ll have a much easier time making your argument.
Regardless, you need to make sure that you’re establishing a vision for the project that justifies the change. The destination has to be worth the journey it takes to get there, so to speak. No matter what type of project you’re talking about, boil everything down to the two core essentials:
- Here is what we need to do, and
- Here is what we’re going to get in return.
So long as “what we’re going to get in return” is more beneficial and valuable than the effort required for the project itself, you absolutely have the makings of a transformation that justifies its own existence. At that point, executive buy-in is as simple as communicating those points as clearly and as succinctly as possible.
Figure Out What Moves Your Management Team
One of the most important ways to get your executives’ blessing for your information management project involves figuring out what moves your particular executive team and funneling everything through that particular tunnel.
Maybe cost-cutting is an important topic that your leadership is focused on. In that case, you would want to go into more detail about how legacy information management solutions (and all of the frustrating data silos that they create) are enormously expensive. If critical data is trapped in a single solution, it isn’t being moved freely across an enterprise. The people who need access to that insight don’t have it and they’re usually missing opportunities and making poor decisions as a result of it.
Not only would you be able to save on labor by replacing that legacy system with something new, but the new system itself would be cheaper by default. Suddenly, you’ve made a far more compelling argument in favor of your project that speaks directly to the heart of what your management team is focused on.
If revenue generation is the topic of the day, you could point out how your new information management project would allow you to eliminate manual tasks through automation so that employees can focus all of their attention on the most important matter of all: their clients. By creating an environment where technology can execute all of those manual tasks (while also eliminating human error), everyone will be able to provide a better customer experience with a seamless flow of information between departments and to your customers.
It doesn’t actually matter what your executives’ number one priority happens to be. The two above examples could easily be talking about the same project; they’re just taking two totally different approaches to the discussion. So long as you figure out what is most important to your executives and steer the conversation in that direction, you’ll have a far easier time getting everyone on board.
If you’d like to find out more information about how to get executives’ blessings for your information management project, or if you have any additional questions that you’d like to discuss in a bit more detail, we are available to be a resource and discuss your needs at any time.