Information, particularly the careful control and management of it, has always been at the heart of running an efficient and successful business. Yet while the move from paper-based commerce to digital has brought benefits, the real rewards are reserved for those prepared to look beyond the ‘filing cabinet’ approach to information management and take control of the document journey.
Many organisations that regard themselves as fully digital are in fact failing to fully leverage the information within the business, simply because it is trapped in many disparate silos. Such an approach is inefficient and leads to multiple versions of the same information existing on different systems. This replication increases the risk of data becoming out-of-date or incorrect.
The need is clear for a system that not only stays up-to-date, but automates some of the workflow management, allowing for increased efficiency and a coherent audit trail. With enterprise content management (ECM) technology, documents and files can be searched, managed and made available to staff, often automatically.
This means managers can focus on strategy, secure in the knowledge that they will be alerted should key processes, such as compliance, fall behind. A good ECM solution can also be tweaked and refined during use, evolving with the needs of the business.
ECM can enable regular and automatic training updates – with confirmation that a document has been read and understood; it can prioritise and assign tasks and ensure they go to a suitably qualified staff member; and it can facilitate remote working by giving access to even the most obscure documentation.
With an ECM system, the files presented will always be the most up-to-date. This vision of a paperless system gives improved and auditable compliance with HR and health and safety legislation, as well as an improved service to the customer.
Actually implementing an ECM system is likely to be straightforward. Implementation does not require an army of IT staff, as occasional maintenance and upgrades can be managed from afar by the provider. Indeed, a good enterprise information platform should be intuitive and flexible enough to be operated and adapted by the users rather than having to rely on technical support.
Naturally, security is also an increasingly important consideration in the move to digital. From data protection laws to increasingly stringent contractual requirements for handling client information, not to mention the old-fashioned reputational calamity that inevitably arises from a data breach.
Modern information management frameworks have tight permission enforcement at their core, allowing businesses to control where each document is sent, with security features ensuring only designated members of staff have access when it arrives. Additionally, enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) systems provide a secure and trusted cloud-based means for users to share sensitive or valuable information with confidence. Because they are specifically tailored for enterprise use, such solutions give organisations the ability to maintain ownership and control disparate data and content.
The technical aspects are not where the real difficulty lies or where projects sometimes fail or fall short of expectations. The single biggest reason behind the failure of IT projects is commonly when leaders fail to secure full adoption by relevant members of staff. It is essential to keep staff on board during the planning and implementation stage and, in particular, key team members.
Crucially, IT infrastructure should be there in support of the business, not the other way around. Managers considering new infrastructure should think beyond the technology and try to define their vision for the project based on how they see their teams working in the future.
Particularly for organisations that are behind the curve, there has never been a better time to move to an ECM solution. At the most basic level, it enables considerable efficiencies over a traditional, paper-based approach. Beyond this though, it opens the door to new, more responsive ways of working, with an up-to-the-minute information hub allowing easy, verifiable compliance with increasingly complex obligations and enhancing customer service.
By Monique Williams, Hyland Southern Africa Regional Manager