The global move to remote work amid the COVID-19 crisis has procured a digital transformation wave and an increased need for strong document management. In today’s volatile climate, companies everywhere have turned to work from home (WFH) to maintain productivity, forcing them to take a hard look at their enterprise content management (ECM) toolsets and processes. This has exposed specific weaknesses in the ways many organizations collaborate and manage documents.     

If nothing else, these unprecedented circumstances have rendered digital agility crucial to an organization’s success, expediting modernizing efforts. Businesses already boasting powerful document management software and collaboration tools were set for success, while others have faced critical challenges. The modern enterprise’s evolution to accommodate remote work has shone a light on an undeniable need for modern document management solutions.

Document Management in the Digital Workspace

According to Gartner, 74 percent of CFOs surveyed expect a portion of their employees to continue to work from home post-crisis. For employees to access and share files and documents remotely, quite simply, those files must be both digital and readily available in a centralized location. 

As Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder of Deep Analysis, puts it, “Documents are essentially digital currency. If we lose or cannot find contracts, invoices, and bills, then we literally lose money or businesses stop.” If we expect employees to conduct business as usual, we need to equip them with the platform to manage that currency. During this time, the companies that have distinguished themselves have invested in an IT infrastructure that includes a reliable document management engine, giving employees access to the information required to carry out their job in a WFH context.

Sounds simple, but how do you choose the right ECM or DM solution? The Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM) said the best way to choose the right solutions for a digital workplace would begin by answering these three basic questions:

  • What information will employees need to do their jobs?

  • Where is this information currently stored?

  • Can employees access this storage remotely and securely?

Beyond merely choosing a platform to store and organize documents, you’ll need to consider how employees can access that information remotely and securely collaborate on projects. Organizations should consider technologies that enable both information security and compliance management while favoring overall user experience and ease of access to information.

Security is King

When digitizing all company documents and information for remote access, data security may take on a new shape from that of the past. The digital workspace requires secure connections, communications, and storage, with a goal of eliminating as much paper documentation as possible. This may mean prioritizing cloud-based or SaaS (Software as a Service) ECM solutions that allow for secure, controlled remote access.

The crisis was the kindling that fueled a stark switch to digital over the past several months – forcing businesses to evolve collaboration methods and invest in new technologies. Virtual meetings, online education platforms, live stream virtual events became the norm. During the chaos, many companies may have overlooked or under-resourced the change management process required to adopt the newly introduced technologies. 

When undergoing a digital transformation, it’s essential to carefully assess which tools will provide your organization with the security levels you need to keep your sensitive data far from prying eyes and out of harm’s way.

Without a single solution to manage communication and collaboration for both internal and external parties, ensuring secure document sharing can be cumbersome. Sharing access to project management tools and internal servers with external collaborators can leave you at high risk for a breach. With an advanced document management system, you can control who – both internally and externally -- has access to which documents, with the option to control and automate review processes and workflows. Federation, or unified, access can streamline this further by providing a single interface for users to access and manage their content, irrespective of which systems the documents reside in.  

Security is especially important in remote situations when dealing with strict compliance regulations and confidential information. Clients who entrust you with documents that require regulations like HIPAA or FINRA will want to make sure your ECM can manage and apply the privacy laws that protect both you and your clients’ information.

The Power of Digital Workflows

Powerful content management software has the capacity to automate standard business processes, reducing the risk of error. Shadow IT, or fragmented document management that doesn’t favor automated workflows for review and approval, can lead to information silos and process breakdown. Automating workflows within a single, digital document management system will standardize and improve document review and approval procedures, leading to greater productivity and long-term scalability.

With the right document management system, managers and employees can have a clear overview of project advancement and task completion without the need for constant communication or physical meetings. Most electronic document management software can alert users to take action - and even approve records with an e-signature integration.

For industries with quality management needs, digital workflows can be incredibly powerful in managing validation processes and fulfilling compliance expectations.

Better Integration Means Higher Adoption

Change management and user training on any new technology can be challenging to implement in a remote work scenario. The most seamless way to adopt a new document management software without the need for extensive change management support is to offer a solution that’s deeply integrated with the tools your organization already knows and uses daily. Layering document management and compliance solutions on top of existing collaboration tools enable them to work in tandem to ensure the software’s adoption without sacrificing short-term productivity. 

Many document management solutions offer integrations with commonly used business applications, including CRM software such as Salesforce, electronic signature applications like DocuSign or AdobeSign, and business process automation tools like PSIgen.

Of equal importance are integrations with other content systems to begin to break the chains of information silos. AIIM research suggests that 52% of organizations have more than three content systems in operation, so providing a single point of access for information across those systems is immensely powerful. Seamlessly integrating documents from on-premises ECM and document management systems, cloud-based file sync and share solutions, and business applications deliver a level of information coherence that allows enterprises to enhance productivity, reduce time searching for content, and strengthen compliance.   

Conclusion

Whether your organization is new to remote work or merely looking to ramp up your tech stack and increase productivity with a holy grail DMS, centralized and secure document management is the oil to the modern-day ECM machine.

While ad-hoc, one-off solutions for file sharing and communication may seem like a quick fix for smaller businesses under financial stress, you may just end up with fragmented information management and IT silos. Investing in a DMS solution that enables both easy and secure information access along with automation features to create workflows -- all while integrating with the systems you already use – will set your organization up for long-term success.

Whether you’ve taken a temporary pivot to “working from home” or plan to maintain a remote workforce in the future, leveraging and successfully adopting the right document management system will streamline your business operations like never before.