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Overcoming low productivity and inefficiency from poor document management

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens)

Information and the speed at which it flows throughout an organisation is a key determinant of business success. The faster your staff can find and leverage information, the better your chances will be for achieving a competitive advantage. 

Even a decade ago when the vast majority of the workforce was office-based and documents resided within internal servers or in filing cabinets, looking for information was a time-consuming process that presented a series of challenges. But since then, there’s been a seismic shift in the enterprise and rather than information only residing in a few locations, content has exploded and now resides in a whole host of disparate systems and repositories. This means that effectively managing information is a more pressing concern than ever before. 

Exponential growth of information 

The advent of cloud computing, along with the growing popularity of remote working environments and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon, have given rise to what can only be described as content chaos. However, one of the unintended consequences of these advances and shifts in workplace dynamics has been the sprawl of information, which brings its own unique challenges. In an age when company information has broken out of the four walls of the office and is growing at an exponential rate, how do you manage and access it? 

This is no simple task, as recent research commissioned by M-Files confirmed. Working with market research specialist Vanson Bourne we polled 250 UK-based IT decision-makers to find out how well (or not) they manage their content assets, and it is clear that the vast majority are struggling on that front. 95 per cent of UK firms face some sort of challenge when trying to find, access and edit documents and information in the workplace. The issues are many: 64 per cent state that information is commonly saved incorrectly; half of workers cited ‘version creep’, with multiple versions of documents saved in different places and 29 per cent face problems with accessing documents from different devices. 

These challenges are not without consequence. 63 per cent of respondents stated that they have had to recreate documents that already existed because they were unable to find them on their systems – wasting time, money, and effort in the process. 

Going mobile  

As worrying as these figures are for office-based employees, remote workers are not finding it any easier, with 89 per cent of respondents finding it challenging to locate documents when working outside of the office or from mobile devices. There’s a growing trend towards mobile, remote and flexible working, which are key to unlocking a broad range of organisational benefits, from improved productivity to higher rates of employee satisfaction. However, to realise these benefits, organisations need to ensure that employees have the same easy access to documents when they're out of the office as they enjoy when at their desks. Companies need to focus heavily on providing the right tools to make flexible and remote working straightforward for everyone. 

The approval process  

Approving documents is another hurdle that must be navigated, and very few organisations have yet to adequately address the issue. Three quarters of respondents in our research stated that they face challenges when approving documents. Of these, just over a third are not always promptly notified when they are required to approve a document, three in ten struggle to access the documents they are required to approve when out of the office, and 21 per cent state that they cannot participate in document reviews when working remotely.  

These challenges impact business efficiency and slow down the pace at which employees can get things done as bottlenecks occur due to delays in document reviews and approvals. In addition, the reliance on wet / physical signatures brings with it a host of other issues, such as security and compliance threats. 

How much more might staff be able to achieve if they had all the tools and capabilities needed to access, edit and approve documents virtually?  

Solving the productivity challenge with metadata-driven ECM 

Finding a better way to manage documents and information should be a priority for any organisation struggling to do so efficiently. Time spent looking for documents and, in some cases, recreating them altogether, comes at the expense of other, more productive activities. At a time when the UK is facing a productivity deficit of the sort not seen for at least two decades, these are the kind of inefficiencies that businesses can scarcely afford. When we consider that employees spend around half of their time searching for information, ensuring quick and easy access to content would go a long way.  

Organisations need to think carefully about how they can work smarter, starting with how they manage their information and documents. A good starting point is investing in an enterprise content management solution (ECM). The next-generation of ECM solutions can go a long way to helping organisations tame their content chaos and become more productive in the process. Conversely, if an ECM system is not user-friendly or if an organisation has multiple different systems in place, this can create more challenges than it solves. 

The very essence of an ECM solution is to improve and enhance information management within organisations. However, the problem with many traditional ECM systems is that they are not intuitive or user friendly. As a result, employees often choose to bypass the ECM system in favour of simpler and more familiar ways to save, share and manage information. As a result, the programmes fail, user adoption is low, investments are wasted and the old inefficiencies and risks to information security remain. 

Metadata-driven ECM solutions, by contrast, enable organisations to simplify the ability to access, secure, process and collaborate on documents, which in turn improves productivity and speeds up the decision-making process. By leveraging an intuitive metadata-based approach for organising information by what it is versus where it’s stored, businesses can break free from the old folder-based system and enable employees to find and manage information in an easier and faster manner. This kind of approach is far more user friendly, meaning that employees are much less likely to turn to other applications to share information. In turn, IT departments can retain control of information and how it is being used. In short, content chaos subsides and order emerges. 

Julian Cook, Vice President of UK Business, M-Files (opens in new tab) 

Image Credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock

Julian Cook is Vice President of UK Business at M-Files. He has more than 20 years’ experience in IT, working in a variety of business development, marketing, and consulting roles