According to Nitro, workers spend an average of 50% of their time creating and preparing documents. Yet, document issues account for more than 21% of daily productivity loss.
Businesses depend on information — documents, files, data, content… everything. It is the lifeblood of just about every organization. The past few years have seen a reckoning for companies in how they capture, store, structure, and disseminate information within the organization. The explosion of information across the enterprise has made it an IT issue that cannot be ignored.
The reason is simple… unstructured data is generated at an alarming rate and it’s burrowed away in siloed applications — think email, chat logs, network drives, CRM. This combined with the huge rise of remote work in 2020 has put intelligent information management solutions like M-Files in the spotlight. The way these solutions combat the problem is revolutionary, featuring transformative capabilities like AI-enabled tagging and collation of content across otherwise disconnected repositories.
To put it into proper perspective, let’s examine the obstacles to efficient information management and the six trends you can expect in 2021.
Pervasive (but Not New) Challenges in Information Management for 2021
Companies are consistently battling several information management challenges, elucidating the need to combat them with a frontline intelligent information management system. Top of the list of challenges are:
- A flood of unstructured data — all information not contained in tidy databases, the information contained in documents, PowerPoints, email attachments, email messages, chat logs
- Difficulty in organizing and classifying data, especially in a traditional hierarchy of file folders and subfolders
- Content scattered across the entire information landscape in siloed systems and applications, like a wasteland of misfit documents
Hopefully, some of the trends mentioned below will help ameliorate some of these challenges.
Improving Information Findability with Federated Search
Over 60% of information workers needed to access at least four systems, according to CMSWire. Federated search describes a search technology that can scan several sources for information at the same time. By default, federated search capabilities are baked into the M-Files solution. M-Files doesn’t care where your documents are. Searches can be completed across all company information silos to return results, regardless of where the files live. That’s the power of focusing on content over location — decoupling the content from its repository.
AI-Enabled Information Management Functions
Artificial intelligence is ever-present in many technologies we use, and information management is another technology that has a prominent place now for AI. It’s especially useful in a few ways: AI can comb through large amounts of data, for personally identifiable information as an example, and AI can suggest metadata tags to help classify data.
M-Files has spent extensive resources to stay on the bleeding edge of AI in information management. M-Files offers several intelligence services that will help you automate your office work.
- M-Files Smart Classifier: Automatically suggests a Class for an object, such as “Template”, “Agreement”, or “Offer”
- M-Files Information Extractor: Automatically scans through the content of a document to suggest relevant metadata
- M-Files Image Analysis: Automatically examines the image to suggest captions, categories, tags, and facial analysis results as metadata suggestions
The Rise of Anywhere, Anytime Access to Information
The year 2020 will go down in the history books. The whole world was shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic and for businesses, this meant deploying a large remote workforce to ensure business continuity. It put into stark contrast those that were ready with digital transformation and those that were behind the curve.
Knowledge workers needed remote access to company information and files. They needed the same experience from home as they would at the office. By far, the number one most vital part of any successful remote, flexible work strategy has to do with a true information platform at the center. At its core, an information management system is precisely what it sounds like — a solution designed to facilitate not only the storage of critical data but also the organization and retrieval of that same information.
M-Files provides remote access to information from anywhere in the world and from any device. Now, employees can work from anywhere — the hotel, their home, an airport, a client location… anywhere.
Much like remote work and remote access, flexible and diverse tools that enable hassle-free collaboration will be an indispensable part of a company’s tool stack. As traditional working models shift to a collaboration-centric model, intelligent information management tools like M-Files are needed to enable that shift.
But we’ve moved past just enabling collaboration into an era of optimizing it. From sharing documents to tracking tasks to co-authoring, these technologies ease the burden of collaborating, even in a remote work environment.
Connecting Disparate Information Silos
Employees shouldn’t have to toggle between applications, programs, and tools to find the information they need. M-Files and the Intelligent Metadata Layer deliver a simple, unified user experience for modern information management. You can browse data in all connected systems and repositories, whether in the cloud or on-premises with the same user interface — something that other ECM solutions don’t offer.
Friendly and Attractive User-Interface
Now that information management solutions have reached a certain level of maturity, part of the focus has shifted to creating a sleek user experience. Users have become spoiled by Netflix, Amazon, Google, and others and they now expect dynamite user interfaces in business, just as they have in their personal lives.
In 2021, M-Files has put the focus on the UI and the experience — highlighted first by M-Files’ new and improved web interface. It’s a trend that will pervade information management solutions of all types and sizes — lest they be bested by competitors that will put the proper resources into intelligent UI design.
As you gear up to take advantage of these emerging trends, you might be interested in exploring the M-Files intelligent information management solution. M-Files goes beyond traditional ECM — automate manual workflows and allow employees to work more productively, and M-Files is equipped with out-of-the-box, built-in AI to help classify and find information. Ultimately, M-Files helps organizations find and manage business-critical documents and information from any device, no matter where it’s stored — preparing your organization for anything 2021 might throw at you.
It’s safe to say that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for all of us — especially for organizations that were in the process of undergoing their own digital transformations as the lockdowns started in March 2020. The need to use technology to support a fast-paced and agile workplace was always paramount — but somehow, it’s become even more so in an era where most of your employees are going to be working from home for the foreseeable future.
But at the same time, a silver lining is on the horizon. A COVID-19 vaccine rollout has already begun in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Soon, if everything goes according to plan, those lockdowns will be lifted and we’ll all slowly but surely start to return to normal. What that new normal looks like is anyone’s guess.
But the situation demands the question: what, then, becomes of your digital transformation efforts?
Now more than ever before, it’s crucial to make sure that the time and money you’re investing in your digital transformation strategy are focused on the right areas. Getting to that point isn’t necessarily difficult, but it will require you to keep a few key things in mind.
It’s All in the Plan
Especially given all the changes that have happened to the way we do business thanks to the ongoing pandemic, the best way to make sure you’re spending your time (and money) in the right places on digital transformation involves making sure that you have a plan at the heart of it all to begin with.
Yes, you want to be able to enjoy benefits like saving time, digitizing critical information, and opening up access to both documents and processes to anyone, anytime, anywhere. But to really make sure your strategy makes sense given your long-term goals; you need to go into as much detail as possible about what those goals actually are.
For example, are you trying to meaningfully improve the customer experience (or the perception those customers have) of your business? Is your number one priority to improve employee efficiency by automating a lot of time-consuming and menial processes. Do you want to implement some type of new system that will empower greater sales than prior to COVID?
For the best results, pick one or even two key objectives and build your plan (and your budget) around those needs. You can always return to the plan and make strategic adjustments later if things change.
If There Was Any Time to Embrace the Cloud, It’s Now
Along the same lines, at this point, it should be clear that whenever you’re implementing a large-scale project like a new CRM system or an intelligent information management platform, you want to make sure that system is as flexible as possible. This means that in the vast majority of situations, you’ll want to go with some type of cloud-based “software as a service” option unless you can think of a very, very good reason not to.
Sure, you may have (legitimate) concerns in terms of areas like security and data governance. But rather than shying away from the cloud because of them, work on finding out what you need to do to address them while still enjoying the massive amount of agility that the cloud brings with it.
Never forget that to make sure that your business is always at the very least aligned with (and in a best-case scenario ahead of) your competitors, you need to make sure the playing field is leveled. This means that you need to have the same level of agility that they do, and that’s something you’re not really going to get unless you embrace the cloud with open arms.
Engagement, Engagement, Engagement
Finally, you need to understand that even the most perfectly executed digital transformation in the world ultimately won’t mean much if your new systems aren’t realizing close to full utilization. If key staff members and stakeholders don’t want to use the new system because they think it’s “too complex” or “less effective” than what they’re coming from, they probably won’t use it — end of story.
Change management is vital to digital transformation. Therefore, you need to make sure you’re using a portion of your budget to train people on the new solution. Engage all key parties to make sure they understand the exact benefits of this change at this particular time. Don’t forget to budget for either ongoing or even future consultancy costs if that’s what it takes because your new tool may be powerful, but it won’t generate anywhere near the results that you’re after if people aren’t willing to use it.
Various reports over the years suggested that knowledge workers spend anywhere between 5-12 hours per week to find information they need to do their job.
If an organization could cut that time in half for each knowledge worker, imagine the huge productivity bump companywide. The solution may indeed be hiding in plain sight with intelligent information management platforms like M-Files, which:
- Enables users to find the information they need lightning fast with Google-like results
- Automates many of the mundane, time-consuming tasks that sap productivity
Check out this recent infographic, where you’ll find:
- 10+ actionable statistics on productivity loss
- An alarming calculation of the real cost wrought by inefficiency
- 10 ways to combat productivity lost to poor information management
Get the infographic on this article:- https://resources.m-files.com/infographics/infographic-how-to-save-half-your-workday-with-intelligent-information-management-2
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.
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.
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.”
And then you think to yourself… Is this actually a safe way to share sensitive information and files? Have we checked this with IT?
4 | Which Device is that Document on, Again?
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 classifies and manages information based on ‘what’ it is, rather than ‘where’ it’s stored. Regardless of whether that information lives in the M-Files platform, or across other systems and repositories, information can be accessed and managed through a single view, without needing an expensive and time-consuming data migration.
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.
One of the most important things to understand about a digital transformation is that ultimately, you’re talking about exactly that: a transformation from where you are today to where you hope to be tomorrow.
In order to get to that point, companies have to be willing to change. Not just for the sake of it, but because it makes the most sense at this particular moment given everything that you’ve set yourself up to accomplish. Clinging to old ways — or worse, old systems — runs contrary to that goal. It doesn’t just stifle innovation and make progress difficult — in most situations, it makes them largely impossible.
As a result, that change often starts with retiring those old legacy systems that are not supporting broader digital transformation initiatives. Indeed, this is one of the biggest hurdles that most digital transformations need to overcome in order to guarantee success and if you’d like that for your own organization, there are a number of important things you’ll need to consider.
A Digital Transformation is a Foundational Transformation
A key concept to understand with regards to digital transformation is that a corporate leadership focused on change is critical to what is about to happen. Leadership should be at the forefront of bringing in new software and new processes, all while taking a cold, hard look at how existing business “best practices” and technology platforms are no longer supporting the overall trajectory of the organization itself.
Because of this, organizations need to be willing to adapt their core systems and processes not to where they are, but to where they want to be. A key symptom that the time for this transformation has come takes the form of siloed information and business practices in various departments that ultimately make it difficult for people to communicate and collaborate with one another.
If information is trapped in a data silo and is only available to your finance team, for example, all of that insight and information is essentially cut off from other teams who might be able to use it — like sales. This doesn’t just put up a barrier where one doesn’t need to exist — it’s literally making it impossible for people (and their technologies) to talk to one another.
Data needs to flow freely not just between departments, but across your entire organization. This is true in terms of human resources, finance, IT and even legal. They can no longer afford to operate in their own distinct “lanes,” never sharing data with one another. There’s no such thing as “departmental data” in a digital transformation. Every last kilobyte of data belongs to your organization as a whole and it needs to be available in the exact same way.
Think about this issue within the context of your human resources department, for just one example. Most HR departments manage not only your existing employees, but the teams who are going out to find new ones, too. But if they don’t have access to critical information on things like the total number of workers, positions to be filled, and onboarding documentation, it can create a negative ripple effect across your entire enterprise. At a bare minimum, it makes it difficult to find those ideal candidates because you’re never really sure what you’re supposed to be looking for to begin with. At worst, it can make it difficult to adequately perform things like budgeting, reporting, security, invoicing and even payments.
Evolution Begins Inward
This is all why digital transformation must be seen as so much more than just “throwing on a fresh coat of paint.” Any components that can be moved to new physical or cloud-based infrastructures should be. Any existing code that can be optimized on the backend WITHOUT changing front end behavior or features should be.
But no matter what, you need to essentially start over with the idea of what your business is and make sure it properly aligns with what your business CAN be. You must take new business requirements into account when creating your digital transformation plan and build something fresh and new from the ground up.
Within the context of a digital transformation, nostalgia is not the asset you think it is. If there is an existing legacy system that is holding you back, and the only argument in favor of keeping it is, “Well, that’s just the way we’ve always done things,” that’s not very compelling.
You need to dive deep into your infrastructure, taking a close look at all of your interconnected components, systems, and applications. You need to understand how they all fit together, how they’re all supposed to work together, and how one might be holding the others back.
In no uncertain terms: you cannot simply update one problematic component without giving the others a very close look.
Again, this is about so much more than just maximizing your IT investment. This is literally about creating a solid foundation that your business can build from to thrive and innovate for the next decade and beyond. Yes, this is going to require a significant change and a lot of effort will be involved.
But as the old saying reminds us, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” That’s why digital transformation begins where legacy software ends — because at some point, you need to break those eggs so that you can move on with the rest of what is to come.
Future-Proof with M-Files
M-Files intelligent information management addresses the problem of disconnected data silos. With the Intelligent Metadata Layer, all of the places where information likes to hide are connected in one, central location. It no longer matters where your files live, but what they actually take center stage and the content of your files is key to digital transformation initiatives. The file name and location become just semantics — as they should be.