According to Gartner, information contributes at least 20-25% of an average organization’s value today. Studies have uncovered countless ways to use data as an asset to help improve businesses by reducing costs, improving customer satisfaction, and managing risks. Along with the paradigm shift towards valuing information as an asset, companies also need to find opportunities to maximize its worth by focusing more upon data governance. The rapid escalation in the number of information organizations need to handle makes governance even more critical.
How Data Volume and Value Make Data Governance Essential
Data governance covers everything related to managing the security, accessibility, quality, and usability of information within an organization. For example, it includes steps taken to ensure businesses have reliable, protected, and accurate information to make better decisions and help serve customers. A governance plan generally includes policies and the tools to implement and enforce those rules.
As quoted on TechTarget, Gartner analyst Andrew White said that most of all, good governance don’t stand alone. Instead, businesses should consider it a core piece of their strategy to achieve overall business goals.
HubSpot created a simple but compelling infographic to illustrate how the rising tide of the volume, value, and even a variety of data underscores the importance of data governance. Some figures they published include:
- Out of all data created in the world, 90 percent has been generated within the past two years, an escalating trend that will almost certainly continue.
- Typical organizations spend 3.5 to 7.0 percent of their overall revenue on information technology. For example, a company with $100 million in revenue might expend up to $7 million just on managing information.
- Out of organizations polled, three-quarters viewed information governance as a critical factor to their success.
- At the same time as most of the information workers viewed information management as vital, less than half thought that top executives understood the importance of governance the as very important.
The Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM) contributed the statistics used in the infographic. They also noted a trend that the most high-performing businesses strove to integrate governance into their overall strategy, so that supports Andrew White’s point above.
More specifically, 42 percent of these high performers already had robust plans in place and another 24 percent had made plans to follow. Of the rest, 13 percent had begun their efforts with only some departments, 16 percent had policies that were still in incubation, and only five percent had no formal governance policies at all.
The Future of Improved Data Governance
Traditionally, businesses set information governance policies crafted to reduce risks. For example, these companies wanted to ensure they protected and managed their data to avoid compliance problems and to preserve high-quality information for reporting. According to AIIM, today’s high-performing companies would also add the additional benefits of improving customer service, responding faster to changes, and to make better decisions through analytics and high-quality data.
To improve information governance, AIIM suggested including three vital steps:
- Establish an IG team: Start with top leadership and include critical stakeholders and of course, the IT department. Make certain employees understand how managing, controlling, and protecting information will improve business and in turn, their own situations. Keep the door open for feedback on initial plans to all levels.
- Audit existing information: Organizations need to understand, classify, and audit their information to have any chance of assigning both value and risk. This process can offer you all sorts of value because you will know which sorts of data you should spend the most on protecting, storing, and accessing and which data you might invest less in archiving. Sometimes, you may uncover valuable data that you could use if you only knew it existed.
- Weed out what you don’t need: Information ROT refers to the kind of redundant, obsolete, and trivial data that can bog down your storage, systems, and processes. According to Veritas, a storage tech company, about one-third of all data stored will never be useful or used. Another 50 percent is considered “dark data” with no known value. Together, these provide no value and run up cumulative excess costs of trillions of dollars worldwide. Alternatively, you may find some of this dark data valuable and realize you need to invest more in protecting and using it.
Choose the Right Technology to Support Information Governance
At M-Files, we built our business around the importance of helping our customers control and manage information through its lifecycle. With automatic and even AI-enabled features, this system lets you manage records from conception to eventual deletion or archival. You can even set security and processing features that ensure compliance with your company’s governance policies and most efficient business procedures. At the same time, editing rules will maintain data quality and reduce human error. Even better, you can turn to one interface to find anything, no matter where it’s stored or even from which remote location you need to access it from.
You and your team can focus on the challenging task of creating good information governance policies and processes. After that, you can set rules within M-Files to ensure they’re enforced. Give us a chance to show you exactly how M-Files will improve your governance and overall business by contacting us today with your questions or requests for a demo or free trial.
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.
If you’re a student of sales and/or marketing, then you know that you must provide value to your customers. And you must do it in terms of how your customers think about value and not how your company thinks about value. What you think are the greatest features and best use cases are nearly irrelevant. So, when we think about our bread and butter sectors here at M-Files, where our document management solution has significant impact, professional services and specifically, business consulting rises to the top. We sought to answer the question: Why do business consulting companies love information management technology?
And so, to frame the answer in terms of value, it’s important to consider value from the business consultancy’s point of view and not ours. A cool prompt for that angle comes from Bob Apollo at Inflexion Point. He presented at an M-Files Sales Kickoff and I always remember the slide he put up on the screen about how customers think about value.
Solutions like information management technology must answer a few of the following questions for buyers:
- How will this help me to increase revenues?
- How will this help me to reduce expenditure?
- How will this help me to avoid risks?
- How will this help me save time?
- How will this help me achieve my goals?
For business consulting companies we’ve worked with — like advisory firm Horne — the answers are not difficult to ascertain.
How will information management technology help me to increase revenues?
Buyers want a collaborative relationship where information is readily available about their engagement. M-Files turns client engagements for business consulting firms into streamlined experiences.
How will information management technology help me to reduce expenditure?
M-Files reduces expenditure at just about every juncture — respond to audits 5x faster, secure cloud storage versus expensive on-premises storage, and reduction in resources needed for information governance, just to name a few.
How will information management technology help me save time?
According to research, 46% of workers say it’s challenging and time-consuming to find needed information. M-Files drastically reduces the time spent searching for documents by providing a 360-degree view of needed information across disparate repositories.
How will information management technology help me to avoid risks?
Consulting companies have data littered in multiple, disconnected systems — ERP, CRM, laptops, network folders. A multi-repository information ecosystem increases risk, as it compounds the challenge of ensuring that information doesn’t leak out or fall into the wrong hands. Information management technology solves this problem.
How will information management technology help me achieve my goals?
Information management helps business consulting companies reach their goals by allowing them to do more with less by reallocating resources to high-value work, like serving customers or developing new products.
There is way more story to tell on just how information management technology impacts business consulting companies and addresses these five questions.
No single thing probably drove the early growth of the internet as much as email did. In that way, it’s considered a driver application for internet tech, like cryptocurrency sparked interest in developing blockchain tech. Email gave us an inexpensive (sometimes free) and instant way to communicate all over the world. In addition, email lent itself to automation, collaboration, and integration, which sparked development to incorporate those ideas into other kinds of software that worked better for specific tasks.
That was OK then. But we have graduated — or at least we should have. Today, using email for more than mere communication generates avoidable problems and inefficiencies, particularly in an era when you can rely on better tools that will help improve efficiency and overcome email’s challenges. In particular, businesses that rely on email too much to share files and collaborate will certainly struggle with the many hazards of information sprawl.
Understanding and Overcoming Today’s Challenges with Email
Look at just a few problems information sprawl causes when email becomes the de facto collaboration tool. Even more, understand how smart document management systems can eliminate these kinds of inefficiencies and errors.
In a previous article on problems with using email attachments for collaboration, we brought up the specific example of a CEO who wanted input about next year’s business plan. She attached her draft to the email she sent to her five vice presidents. Each of them made some edits and forwarded their versions to their own department heads. As the day for the CEO to present the plan approached, she found her own inbox full of dozens of versions of the plan, all edited, corrected, and commented upon by different people.
In the end, that CEO found himself trying to consolidate all of these versions — a difficult and error-prone process. Even if some of the executives and directors did not make a single change, he still had to account for each of them to make sure they approved it. If not, he needed to write a follow-up email to nudge them.
Is this really the best we can do in an age with tons of easy solutions to the problem?
With an intelligent information management system, she could have simply shared the document link with each stakeholder, alerted them as their deadline for edits or approval approached, and each person would be contributing to a single authoritative document version. The CEO would then have had one version-controlled and consolidated document. Not only could he view all edits in one place, he could also easily see exactly who generated each change and exactly when they did it. This made it much simpler for the CEO to verify information, accept the right changes, and produce his final business plan.
Today’s businesses don’t just keep information in text documents. Various media may consist of graphics, videos, and sound files. If everybody relies on emailing and downloading these as email attachments, it can bog down both the performance of the email system and the capacity of storage devices. Instead, smart document management can keep track of the single storage place for these files and various versions and simply send everybody a hyperlink to access it.
Security and Compliance Problems
Even with small documents, having multiple copies stored on various cloud accounts, employee’s laptops, and of course, as email attachments generates more security vulnerabilities. Just as bad, storing private or sensitive information may create compliance breaches. With a good document management system, the owners can set rules for files that only allow the right people various types of access. Not only does this keep information secure, it also allows the company to demonstrate their compliance with regulations governing the kind of information they have.
Let’s say the CFO just had the latest version of the company’s financial report stored on his hard drive the day before he caught the flu, needed medication, and was in no shape to remember to tell other executives that he had updated the last attachment he had received from the accounting department. Even worse, let’s say that CFO suddenly left the company and had his server account deleted, along with the latest report.
Thinking she could simply bypass the CFO, the CEO asked the accounting department to email her the figures, with neither party knowing the CFO had the most current document on his own computer. Again, a central store of this information would show the most current version and a history of changes. A high-level user could also set and change ownership permissions with a few clicks, so the person who needed to take over for the CFO would take responsibility for this document.
Business Process Inefficiencies
Using the example of the business draft, the CEO wanted to ensure she gathered approvals from everybody who received her first version of the business plan. In turn, she needed to know when the draft had circulated to all stakeholders and then been returned back to her. With email, she would have the clunky process of sending out reminders and then having to check off names as replied hit her inbox. Instead, she could have set alerts within her document management system both to let the stakeholders knew she had a task for them and in turn, to let her know when they finished it.
How Enterprise-Quality Document Management Eliminates Information Sprawl
Nobody doubts the importance of email. It helped grow the internet and revolutionized communication. Still, as noted on HubSpot, many businesses still relies on email for more than its core function — simply out of habit. It’s not that surprising that even top executives still rely on the tool they’ve probably used their entire career. At the same time, once they’ve been introduced to the benefits of smart information management, these same business leaders are pleasantly surprised to find a comprehensive tool to collaborate, track versions, manage audits, automate business processes, and avoid errors.
See how intelligent information management can beat email collaboration with a 30-day free trial.
Shadow IT is when employees use unapproved software, apps, and devices to do their jobs. Typically, employees have good intentions and may turn to various ad-hoc services to get their work done because they don’t believe their employer provides them with a good solution. Since the 2020 Coronavirus outbreak, surveys of IT professionals have revealed that the rise in employees working from home has generated a surge in this practice. Find out why even the best-intentioned uses of shadow IT can pose a security threat to your valuable information and how you can control it.
Why is Shadow IT a Security Problem?
According to reports from MS Office, almost three-quarters of executives admit they don’t know how many shadow IT applications or devices their employees use. This isn’t surprising. According to Microsoft, even security professionals gravely underestimate the problem. On average, they believe all workers in their organization use 30 to 40 unapproved tech solutions when a better figure would probably be closer to 1,000.
These facts also aren’t surprising when you see studies that reveal that about 87% of senior managers have uploaded sensitive documents to a personal email or cloud account. If even senior leadership succumbs to these temptations, you can bet your business has a widespread problem.
While mostly well-intentioned, using all of these unapproved and unknown apps can generate dozens of serious problems for data security and data integrity. Some critical issues include:
Lack of visibility: IT can’t manage resources that they aren’t even aware of. Companies need tools to monitor their networks and any new devices or applications that interface with it.
Impossible to enforce compliance rules: If a business doesn’t even know a resource exists, there’s no way to make sure it complies with government regulations or internal governance. Especially with sensitive data, organizations need to ensure employees get permission before using third-party solutions.
High risk of lost data: Again, there’s no way to know if somebody uploaded the latest and most correct version of a document to their personal email or cloud service and then got sick or abruptly left the company or simply had a problem with their unapproved device or software’s storage. Businesses need a way to track information additions, deletions, and changes, and they also need to ensure these changes get backed up.
Impaired efficiency: If one team has decided to share documents on a cloud server but another team’s passing email attachments around, departments will fall out of alignment. If multiple departments need solutions for such issues as collaboration and document sharing, the company should implement one approved solution.
Vulnerability to digital threats: Obviously, this is the 900-pound gorilla in the room. You have probably read plenty of stories about attacks on popular software like Zoom and Google Drive. These days, companies are particularly vulnerable to phishing attempts made on an unsuspecting user’s email. Solutions that can reduce the risk could include enterprise-security software, audit trails, and two-factor authentication.
Again, most employees turn to outside solutions out of the best of intentions. A good first step probably includes surveying your workers to find out what features they lack in the toolkit your business already provides for them. Then, you can keep people productive and your business safe by evaluating various solutions to fill in these gaps.
At the same time, you’ll also help improve company-wide efficiency and alignment and make security’s job easier by keeping your entire company in alignment. You won’t have to worry that a director has uploaded a sensitive document to his email and one team leader uploaded the attached document to Google docs right before sharing the Edit link with his entire group. In the end, nobody can say which version was correct or even if any of them were.
Future-Proof Your Workforce and Business With M-Files
An enterprise-grade, AI-enabled information management solution like M-Files can almost automatically remove the temptation for employees to turn to ad-hoc solutions to do their jobs.
- The software’s smart features can give employees everything they need to work, share, and collaborate. They won’t have the motivation to turn to private email, software, or storage accounts to get their jobs done — especially when they can access business critical information from anywhere and from any device.
- The sophisticated, certified security will ensure that employees have only the access they need, and even better, M-Files will handle audit trails and version control. You won’t have to worry about lost, missing, or confusing data.
- Using this one, standardized solution will also help keep teams, departments, and entire companies in alignment as they all rely upon the same system. This helps improve communication, business processes, and efficiency.
- Employees will also appreciate the fact they can securely login to M-Files from anywhere and with various internet-connected devices. M-Files enables the remote workforce you employ today and in the future.
Schedule some time with us — we’re here to be a resource for you about your shadow IT concerns within your organization. We’ll explain how M-Files features can ensure your employees have a secure, workable solution. We can also arrange a free trial or demo, so you can actually watch M-Files in action as it improves your company’s security, efficiency, and alignment.
At its core, digital transformation is exactly what it sounds like:
“The process of integrating newer and more sophisticated examples of digital technology across all areas of your business, thus fundamentally changing how things operate for the better along the way.”
But at the same time, it’s also so much more than that. It’s a unique opportunity to not only streamline engagements but eliminate manual processes in favor of automated alternatives as well. It also helps to create the most important benefit of all: empowering you to create a better customer experience with a free flow of information on demand to customers, typically for the first time in your history.
Of course, getting to that point requires you to move beyond digital transformation itself. Once your technological evolution is complete, the next step involves sharpening the tools you’ve acquired to fully unlock all of those benefits outlined above. Getting to that point isn’t necessarily difficult — but it does require you to keep a few important things in mind.
Empowering Engagements, One Step at a Time
As you move beyond your digital transformation, maybe the most important area for you to focus on has to do with how you and your people are actually engaging with your customers. The tools are officially available for you to do this in a better way than ever before. Now, it’s up to you to actually put them to good use.
Your business will have a new level of mobile capability coming out of digital transformation, for example, which absolutely should be utilized to your advantage. Not only will it be easier to share information and insight between departments, but all of that data can also be accessed from any location on Earth with an active Internet connection. This includes via not only desktops and laptops but smartphones, tablets, and other devices.
This means that your employees now have the tools needed to better engage with customers on-the-go or at THEIR location, not yours. This type of purpose-driven technological shift doesn’t just create better engagements with your clients on a day-to-day basis. It also makes your professional services firm far more valuable to your client base as well.
The Power of Automation in the Modern Business Enterprise
One of the major reasons why enterprises go through a digital transformation in the first place often comes down to the idea of automation. Rather than paying high-value employees to focus on routine tasks like data entry or document management, you can turn those jobs over to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) powered solutions to handle everything on their behalf.
Think about it like this: every minute that one of your employees is focused on these everyday jobs is a minute they’re not supporting and empowering your business’ relationship with your customers. AI, on the other hand, is perfect for examining large sets of data and extracting the most meaningful insights in a way that humans could never match in the first place.
From that perspective, automation doesn’t just once again create an opportunity for you to provide a better and more personal level of care to your customers. It’s also an incredible chance to eliminate manual, repetitive and error-prone processes in a way that allows you to become more efficient as a business with far less overhead at the same time.
A Bold New Customer Experience Begins Now
Finally, we arrive at what is perhaps the most important driver behind digital transformation for many professional services firms: enhancing the quality of the customer experience they’re able to offer.
A rock-solid information management system can absolutely act as the foundation between your professional services firm and your customers — but that doesn’t mean that it won’t require a little additional work on your part after the transformation is complete.
Here, you’ll need to focus on two core areas, including:
- Removing any and all obstacles that prevent personnel from serving the customers in the best way possible. This means making sure that information about customers is available to anyone who needs it, whenever and wherever they need it, no exceptions. This enables them to not only make better decisions in the heat of the moment, but to avoid the duplication of documents and requests as well.
- Reducing friction (and costs) to focus on delivering your critical services. As outlined above, you should absolutely be using your digital transformation as an opportunity to digitize and automate as many of those menial administrative processes as possible, all so that your actual human employees can devote the majority of their attention to those tasks that truly need them.
If you’d like to find out more information about the many ways in which professional services firms can reap digital dividends as we collectively move beyond the concept of digital business transformation, or if you’d just like to discuss your own needs with someone in a bit more detail, set some time aside with us.