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.
The following article is a guest post by Wendy Seykens, Marketing and Communications Coordinator with M-Files partner BMconsultants.
This year has become the year of virtual meetings — where we all convene together to discuss business. An hour here, half an hour there. Sounds familiar, right? These meetings are a source of the occasional funny moment…
“Oh wait, my microphone was still muted.”
“I’m having connection problems.” (Sounding like a garbled, drive-through speaker.)
“Please excuse my 5-year-old’s temper tantrum.”
But put all of these light moments aside, the advent of remote work (and how that carries into an abundance of virtual meetings) has led to many inefficiencies and, frankly, unnecessary stress in working with business documents.
The following document mismanagement moments are all too common sources of stress for knowledge workers — and they’re avoidable, too. Check out these situations that many have surely found themselves in.
1 | It’s Challenging to Search and Find the Right Documents
During a strategy meeting on Microsoft Teams, you’re looking for the latest version of an agenda made by a colleague.
“Wait a minute, I think this is it! Do you see it? Oh. This is not the latest version? Okay, what about this one?”
It’s so frustrating and time-consuming to constantly search for the right information.
2 | Sharing Documents and Comments in the Chat Window can Prove Troublesome
You send the link to a document in the chat window. Later, multiple links are shared back and forth, and multiple comments are made in the chat.
Note to self: Don’t forget which is the link to the latest version and don’t miss those comments that pertain to your work.
Two days and three projects later… You’ve forgotten which chat the links were in, which link is the most current and which comments you need to pay attention to. So, you reread the whole chat log all over again, like a bad novel.
3 | It’s a Secure Work Environment, Right?
“Hello, everyone. This meeting is being recorded. Did you adjust the cost breakdown? And did you also make sure that the associated contracts are changed? Oh. You’ve already sent the documents in the chat? Thank you very much.”
Just before a meeting, you look for a document, so that you can discuss it.
“It really should be on my laptop.” Searching, searching, searching. No luck.
“Didn’t I have it on the desktop in my home office?” Nope.
“Wait, no. It was on my iPad. Let me email it to myself.” Still waiting. Ah, there it is.
Fifteen minutes later than planned, you finally join the online meeting with the right document.
A Simple Solution: M-Files Intelligent Information Management
Have these situations happened to you? And now that you’re aware of these situations, think about how much time is wasted searching and, above all, finding the right documents. Five minutes here. Ten minutes there. All of it adds up. In fact, Gartner says that professionals spend 50% of their time searching for information, and on average, take 18 minutes to locate each document.
How nice would it be if you could search and find all of your work files in one central system? What if it no longer mattered where a file is? What if you could you search across the entire information ecosystem with the help of metadata? What if that central system was integrated with, for example, Microsoft Office 365 and Teams?
There must be an easy solution for that. Yes, there is. With M-Files, these stressful, annoying moments are forever a thing of the past. M-Files is a unique intelligent information management solution that enriches the way businesses secure, process and manage data and content — documents, images, emails, customer information, or other information objects.
M-Files offers connections to network drives, Microsoft and Google apps, as well as major business applications and other document management systems. Ultimately, M-Files lets you fast-track digital business transformation by breaking down silos in separate applications, systems and repositories.
What is a document management system? Put simply, a document management system is an automated business software solution used to organize, secure, store, capture, digitize, and tag business files.
Many document management systems extend beyond basic functionality to include document-related workflows. There are a ton of other add-ons, features and capabilities touted by some document management systems — which has led to other names and designations like enterprise content management (ECM), enterprise information management (EIM) and intelligent information management (IIM).
The term document management often refers to an overarching strategy for how a company stores, manages and tracks its electronic documents.
Document Management Systems Should Serve as a Central Repository
A basic function of a document management system is to serve as the hub — the central repository — for company files. Many basic DMS require a massive migration project to move all business-critical documents into the system. More advanced intelligent information management solutions like M-Files connect to existing repositories — applying metadata and relationships to documents stored in other systems. With integrations, there’s no need for migration and the environments of other systems can remain undisturbed.
One storage consideration should be information security. A central storage location helps protect enterprise information from malicious actors. With advanced dynamic permissions, organizations can control who has access to certain documents or classes of documents.
Document Management Systems Should Facilitate Document Search and Retrieval
Description of services rendered, or products purchased
With all of that information attached to the document’s metadata, searches yield better results and users can retrieve documents faster and simpler. In M-Files, documents can be found using a Google-like search, which returns the most relevant files first.
What are Document Management Systems Used for?
A document management system is used to automatically organize, secure, digitize and classify company documents, making them easy to access, edit and share. Originally, document management systems were borne as companies sought to shift operations away from a paper-based office — with manila folders and filing cabinets. Since then, document management has taken on a more central role in the enterprise tech stack, facilitating workflows and bridging disparate repositories into a central hub.
What Types of Document Management System are There?
There are a few different types of document management system — depending on how they are classified.
Cloud vs. On-Premises Document Management System
What does your preferred IT environment look like — cloud-based, on-premises or hybrid?
Cloud-based document management systems store your files in the cloud, making them accessible anywhere there’s an internet connection.
Some companies may require on-premises document management, where files are stored on a local server. This may be necessary when certain regulations mandate local storage or when certain countries require data sovereignty, for example.
A hybrid DMS allows for a combination of both options.
Folder-Based vs. Folderless Document Management System
Version control: Version control features ensure access to the latest version of a document. Version control and tracking make it easy to see what has changed, who did it and when the change was made.
Regulatory compliance support: If you operate in a regulated industry, a document management system can help reduce the risk of non-compliance. Users can automate audit trails and manage information and related workflows in accordance with compliance regulations.
Scalability: When selecting a document management system, a company should pay attention to the scalability of that system. Looking beyond current needs, find a DMS that has advanced features that accommodate busines growth or change.
Security: A DMS should provide robust security features like access permission and control features, audit trails, federated authentication, enterprise file encryption in transit and at rest, intrusion detection, data loss prevention, high availability and more.
Usability: Since a DMS becomes core technology for the business, it’s important that the user experience is a great one — with easy accessibility, little to no downtime and simple-to-use features. Employees should be able to easily access, manage and navigate files.
Collaboration: A DMS should make it simple for users to share and collaborate on documents — with features like project document management, task tracking, workflows, co-authoring and easy sharing of documents between users.
Content intelligence: Some advanced document management systems employ artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence can help classify documents by populating metadata fields, scan files for certain data and separate business-critical data from clutter.
Remote Work: A cloud-based DMS allows users to access files from anywhere and often from any device — enabling remote work anywhere: at the office, home, airport, hotel, coffee shop… anywhere.
What are the Benefits of Using a Document Management System?
A DMS should make work easier, more productive, and more efficient, saving staff hours of tedious tasks and the exasperation of not finding the documents they need quickly. Main benefits include the following:
When workers spend less time searching for documents or tending to manual, repetitive tasks, they have more time to dedicate to value-adding work.
Compliance requirements for many business documents can be complicated and challenging. A DMS helps organizations avoid fines, revoked licenses or even criminal liability by automating key documents to meet regulatory requirements.
Fast and Easy Document Search
Workers spend an average of 18 minutes searching for a document, according to Forrester. A metadata-based DMS makes it quick and easy to find just the right document.
A DMS makes sharing information and collaborating easy, allowing documents from different sources to be accessible from multiple locations. Users can share documents, monitor workflows, co-author documents, and more.
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.
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.
So, it’s official. We are in a recession. But some experts say investment in digital transformation during a recession should remain steady.
The National Bureau of Economic Research declared on June 8 that the recession began in February. It’s an unusual recession, by all standards — one not caused by macroeconomic financial mechanisms as in 2008 with the housing market collapse or in 1981 on the heels of tight monetary policy and an energy crisis. No, this recession has less to do with financial triggers and can be attributed largely to an unprecedented global pandemic.
It’s left the business community to make some tough decisions. Where can we cut costs? How should we shift resources?
From an IT perspective, while remote work efforts may in some cases increase the adoption of digital technology, investments in tough economic times are often approached with a more cautious mindset.
The Impact of a Recession on the Digital Transformation of Organizations Globally
In October and November 2019, executives worldwide seemed to state that should a recession occur in 2020, investments in digital transformation would either increase or remain the same – with very few saying that would decrease — this according to research from Business Insider Intelligence (BII).
If there was an economic recession in the next 12 months, how do you think your company would change spending in each of the following areas?
It would definitely be interesting to see whether their answers held true in today’s climate. In any case, many experts suggest that defunding digital transformation during a recession might not be a wise idea. At a 2019 Gartner IT Symposium keynote, Gartner Senior Vice President Val Sribar posed the question, “Globally, many economists and CFOs believe we are heading towards another set of economic downturns. If they’re right, how would you respond?”
According to Gartner and IT executives that were interviewed, the answer is for CIOs to prime their organizations for uncertainty, driving forward with digital initiatives while remaining agile and flexible enough to adapt to major changes — either in the direction of the economy or the marketplace.
Sribar continued by drawing an analogy to race car drivers that must learn to accelerate and brake around the same time — meaning that CIOs must figure out how to cut costs and invest simultaneously in the midst of an economic downturn. He added, “You have to analyze and execute, cut and grow.”
The crisis could even serve as an “accelerant” for IT initiatives. Firms that are on their own digital journey — whether that’s investments in robotic process automation or cloud-based information management technology — are persisting in those efforts, according to Bhushan Sethi, Global People & Organization Leader at PwC. Sethi said, “The focus remains on productivity and tying investments back to a business case, but new spend is harder to get approval for.”
But not all organizations are heeding the call.
E-Consultancy and Marketing Week conducted a survey of more than 2,200 marketers, which discovered that the majority believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has already heavily impacted business operations in areas like R&D and digital transformation.
Despite most agreeing that there is a sharp increase in demand for online and digital services, many are pulling digital transformation investments, when they should perhaps be investing in digital transformation, which serves to future-proof businesses. Transformation allows companies to focus on improving the customer experience, bolster digital offerings and develop brand equity.
Information Management as a Key Facet of Digital Transformation Built to Withstand an Economic Downturn
We can attest anecdotally to the fact that our customers — those that had intelligent information management as a core piece of their tech stack — fared well when it came time to send knowledge workers home to work. They had the same access to business-critical information remotely as they had at the office and thus continuity, productivity and efficiency did not suffer. Greg Fulk of Valeo Financial Advisors explains:
Ultimately, the key to minimizing the risk that disruption inherently poses is in future-proofing the organization. And one way to guard against disruption risk is with information management technology that, even in a recession, allows businesses to:
Streamline projects, engagements and client interactions
When all is said and done, the earth will continue to spin, the pandemic will pass, and the economy will recover. The question is: Will you be ready, better equipped, and wiser? Will you use this time to plan and prepare, priming your business to face the future?
It’s no secret that remote work or telecommuting was gaining popularity in the United States over the past decade. According to one recent study, about 4.3 million people work remotely at least half the time — a number equivalent to about 3.2% of the entire workforce. All told, the number of people who work from home in some capacity has increased by an impressive 140% since 2005 alone — a trend that showed absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Based on all of the above, it’s safe to say that it was already established that remote work played an important role in the future of business. Few people probably realized that “the future” would arrive quite as quickly as it did.
At one point during the Coronavirus pandemic, more people were in lockdown in the United States than were alive during World War II. Many employees were working remotely for the first time and countless organizations had to find ways to adapt to the brave new world we found ourselves in.
These same organizations are now trying to figure out the best strategy to accommodate these newly remote, flexible workers. Believe it or not, the most important component of that strategy is still the one that far too many people are overlooking.
Why Information Management Matters Most of All
There are a number of important components that are necessary to make any remote employee strategy truly work. Obviously, you need video conferencing and chat tools so that people can communicate and collaborate with one another. These workers need not only reliable Internet connections of their own, but a secure way to access a business’ network so that they can continue to share data and be as productive as possible.
But while these elements are important… they’re not the most important component that should be at the heart of your strategy.
By far, the number one most important part of any successful remote, flexible work strategy has to do with a true information platform at the heart of it all. At its core, an information management system is exactly what it sounds like — a solution designed to enable not only the storage of critical data, but also the organization and retrieval of that same information.
Think about it like this. Your average business is creating an enormous amount of data on a daily basis pertaining to not only the work of its employees but also its products, its services and its customers. But without a way to share that information and make it easy for anyone to access from anywhere, the actionable intelligence and insight it contains remains trapped inside. At that point, the data is essentially meaningless — it’s little more than a bunch of 1s and 0s sitting on a hard drive somewhere.
During a period where more people are working remotely than ever, the problem of information sprawl actually gets worse, not better. Data is being created from so many difference sources that are essentially siloed off from one another that communication, collaboration AND productivity are harmed in ways that you simply cannot afford.
By having the right information management software at the heart of your remote, flexible work strategy, on the other hand, you accomplish a number of important goals — essentially all at the exact same time.
Give your employees a solution that gives them anywhere, anytime access to all of the critical data they need to do their jobs in the most effective way possible.
You also have an overarching strategy that applies not just to the sharing of information, but that also works in accordance with all of the principles of governance, compliance and security.
So, you’re not just providing your employees access to the tools necessary to do their jobs. You’re doing so in a way that gives you better visibility into who is accessing what information and from where, which ensures compliance with rules and regulations you must adhere to. You’re also adding yet another layer of security, thus protecting your employees, your customers and the very business you’ve already worked so hard to build.
But the major reason why this is so important right now is that sooner rather than later, COVID-19 will be officially behind us. However, the businesses that we’re about to return to will likely barely resemble the ones we left in mid-March. Remote, flexible work is absolutely here to stay and by putting this critical component in place as an organic part of your remote, flexible work strategy today, you’ll be able to reap benefits that will continue to pay dividends long after COVID-19 is finally gone.
If you’d like to find out more about why an information management solution is the number one most important part of any remote, flexible work strategy, or if you just have any additional questions you’d like to discuss with someone in a bit more detail, we’re here to be a resource for you and your team.