Both ECM solutions and workplaces have changed a lot over the past decade. As technology has evolved so has the way that companies work. Business has gone digital and there’s no going back. However, organizations’ most valuable asset is still their intellectual property; property that is spread over thousands upon thousands of digitized documents.
The digital workplace was designed to increase collaboration and remove the barriers that had previously hindered teams’ abilities to work together. To perform at their best, employees need to have easy access to the organization’s content. There needs to be a centralized place where documents can be securely accessed and shared.
However, that’s only one part of it. Companies still need to comply with regulations if they want to keep their businesses running. The two nearly universal aspects of compliance are processes and documentation. First, the company needs to put processes in place to become compliant. Then, they need to have documents on hand to prove that they’ve been following the rules when they’re audited.
That’s where ECM systems come into the picture. They’re there to provide employees with the documents that they need when they need it. On the other hand, they also provide enterprises with features that ensure that their valuable information is kept safe and that they remain compliant. From limiting user access, ensuring that employees are working on the right version of a document, and providing logs on how documents are shared, ECM systems bridge the gap between the needs of employees and the security and regulatory obligations of companies.
In the past, ECM solutions lived on companies’ in-house servers and, generally speaking, could only be securely accessed from the office. They also gained a reputation for not being the most user-friendly software systems.
In 2018, that won’t fly.
Companies’ employees and contractors are flung around the world. These employees also expect that everything should be easily accessible to them at all times. If they unexpectedly run into a client at a business lunch, they want the ability to share a project update document from their smartphone.
While this presents a challenge for ECMs, it’s also an opportunity to help enterprises do a better job of making information accessible, fostering internal collaboration, and improving productivity without sacrificing security and compliance. But, how is this possible? With the cloud, of course. When combined with the cloud, ECM systems have the ability to provide global teams with secure, mobile-friendly access to documents from anywhere at any time.
Connecting employees around the world
The days of everyone being in the same office have passed. Between remote employees and third-party contractors, few organizations have everyone working together in the same space all the time. That presents some challenges around communication and accessibility. If teams are distributed around the globe, how can they securely access the company’s internal documents and collaborate with their coworkers?
Traditional ECM systems have struggled to address this. They often lack the flexibility to allow secure remote access without significant support from the IT team. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the user experience (UX) of some of these systems is infamously bad. In 2018, employees expect the tools that they use at work to be as intuitive as the ones that they use at home.
The solution to this problem are cloud ECM systems. Unlike traditional systems, cloud-based ECM solutions connect employees to the company and its documents regardless of their location. That means securely distributing and sharing information is no longer limited to the office or virtual private networks (VPNs). Employees or contractors working outside of the city, country, or continent are still able to easily access the documents that they need to do their jobs without the need for an IT-intensive VPN set up.
In addition, these cloud solutions, like G Suite, employ a modern, user-friendly interface that mirrors the tools that employees use in their personal lives. That’s good news because a better ECM user experience can provide a number of benefits that range from improved adoption to increased staff retention rates.
These cloud-based solutions let teams further reduce the effects of distance by allowing them to collaborate on documents together in real-time. Users no longer need to worry about which version of the document is correct. With an easy-to-find log of the latest changes and interactive comments, they can be assured that the document they see on their computer is the most recent version.
Keeping things moving
Without structure, there is chaos. That same principle applies to document management. While giving users access to the information that they need is important, it’s only half the battle. The other, equally crucial step is putting processes in place to help those users manage their documents.
Imagine having access to every folder, file, and document in your entire company with no guidelines on where to find or how to store your files. Not only would it be overwhelming but it would only be a matter of time before you made a mistake. That’s why document processes are so important. Without them, teams would spend countless hours and emails discussing how to manage their files.
ECM solutions help enterprises take that burden off the shoulders of their employees. With customizable user permissions, companies can give their employees access to only the documents that they need. Many of ECM solutions also have the ability to create document workflows. These workflows notify employees when they need to complete a certain task in a document. After they’re done, the document automatically notifies the next person in the process.
These features allow organizations to log and track how documents are being worked on and shared. When undergoing a compliance audit, this information is often essential. In the end, it’s a win-win. Organizations are able to comply with regulations while also helping their employees be even more productive.
Making the office mobile
As smartphone usage has exploded, so has the number of employees who are doing work on their phones. In 2016, it was found that 60% percent of employees use smartphone apps for work-related activities. That percentage will only continue to rise.
Companies don’t want their employees accessing company data with unsecured devices but how can they guarantee that? They can either make their documents inaccessible outside of the office or implement an ECM system that allows company data to be securely retrieved from any device. The reality is that employees won’t always have their work computer with them. By providing users with secure access to the enterprise’s content on their mobile devices, companies give employees the ability to quickly respond to external and internal requests, find important documents on the go, and be more productive and engaged away from the office.
Maintaining security and compliance
ECM solutions don’t just exist to help employees find and share information, they also provide organizations with ways to keep their data safe. When it comes to sharing content with teams, ECM systems play a huge role in making sure that the right people have access to the right documents.
The nightmare of most organizations is having sensitive company documents stored somewhere outside of their control. The reality is that, in many companies, employees have files saved to their local computers or use unapproved third-party tools to share documents with coworkers, clients, or contractors. Not only does the organization lack access to these files, both of these practices are incredibly risky. If a user loses or breaks their computer, all the local files are comprised or lost. Furthermore, once a file is shared and downloaded by an external user, a company has no control over what that person will do with the potentially sensitive document.
The regulatory consequences of improper file management are equally as frightening. For example, if a medical company is unable to produce the proper documentation during an FDA audit because some of the files have been saved or distributed using tools that were not integrated into their process, they risk losing their FDA certification. Barred from selling their products, the company is at risk of going out of business.
ECM systems give organizations the tools to put permissions in place that limit the documents that employees can access. Not only does it provide the company with enhanced security and improved compliance, it also makes it easier for employees. By only giving people access to the documents that they need for their jobs, organizations make it easier for them to find the files or information.
There are even more security advantages to cloud-based ECM systems. They help centralize all documents on a single platform. Furthermore, with content services tools, organizations take ownership of a document the second it is uploaded into the cloud and set advanced permissions to make sure that only qualified users have access, allowing them to know exactly how a document is shared.
Content will always be at the core of businesses. In much the same way, ECM systems will allow organizations to implement processes that help them leverage their collective knowledge and expertise while remaining compliant with industry regulations. As the companies’ staffs begin to become more and more decentralized, ECM platforms will need to allow them to cater to their increasingly mobile employees. That will mean providing remote, mobile access to company documents in a user-friendly way without sacrificing the security and control that is expected from ECM solutions. As the workplace continues to evolve, so will ECM systems. However, their role of providing secure access to content and encouraging collaboration will remain the same.
Stéphane Donzé, Founder and CEO of AODocs
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