Modern organizations rely on information and data, and access to these assets needs to be swift and efficient. Failure to provide this access results in reduced productivity, wasted time and cost, and often a poor customer experience. Enterprises are well aware of this and, for many years, have used document management to capture, store, and retrieve information.

But as Steinbeck said, “The best-laid plans of mice and men, gang aft agley” -- or in simple terms, things don’t always go according to plan. 

And that is true of information management in most organizations -- who now find themselves in a situation where they have not one but multiple internal systems storing content. As a result, end-users struggle to find the content they need to work on, leading them to waste time scouring different applications to get their job done. 

Something has to change.

Introducing Document Management for the Users 

What real users want is a simple, central platform to work with information. That requirement includes rapid searching for information but also working on the results of those searches. And of paramount importance -- the platform must provide a single place to access content from across the enterprise, without needing the user to access multiple repositories.

This set of requirements formed the genesis of Federated Document Management (FDM).

FDM brings a modern, connected approach to information management. A FDM system offers users a simple, fast solution to access, view, edit, share, secure, and destroy content from a single application. The concept is simple but offers a much-needed solution to one of the biggest causes of frustration among knowledge workers - information silos. 

Why Silo’s Fail

Vendors have tried numerous times to persuade organizations that the concept of managing information in one central location is viable. Most organizations that try this learn the painful lesson that every enterprise is unique, and creating a single repository is near impossible. 

Why?

Most enterprise content management (ECM) and document management (DM) systems offer excellent generic document management functionality -- but subpar options for specific departments or vertical industries. As a result, users often do not select ECM or DM solutions but instead purchase specific solutions for each scenario, culminating in content stored across various application silos. 

It's no wonder the average knowledge worker spends 2.5 hours per day searching for information, considering how much content information silos present. One core problem workers face alongside this is maintaining a single source of truth for documents. 

The problems associated with information silos cause headaches for users, inefficient processes for businesses, and isolate information that conflicts with itself. 

Why is Federated Document Management different? 

Creating a centralized system with a single view for information is not an unrealistic expectation -- the tools to achieve it already exist. Technologies such as federation, migration, manage-in-place, enterprise search, and metadata schema are not new. Yet, creating a genuinely consolidated view across multiple repositories has proved challenging to date. But unified document management changes this.

FDM enables users to "manage" everything from one place, rather than moving everything into one place. This is a subtle but vital nuance. In essence, users work with information from one user interface, but the data remains in its native system.

This approach focuses on the user experience. Instead of offering a breadth of full ECM toolsets, it instead targets the core functions. To eliminate the need for multiple systems, an open connector framework provides users with consistent connectivity to multiple repositories without custom-built systems.

The benefits of Federated Document Management

FDM provides unparalleled support for those businesses needing information as the starting point for their various processes — most organizations in reality. The FDM creates a vital abstract structure that organizations can leverage to increase efficiency and effectiveness across multiple systems, departments, and user roles. 

The constraints that knowledge workers face when searching for information through numerous systems disappear when using a FDM system. Minimizing these constraints and nullifying the associated costs of searching across various systems paves the way for significant cost and productivity benefits across all organizations. 

When creating a FDM system, the desire is to deliver a better experience for end-users, but organizations can also expect to see multiple other benefits from its implementation. 

Reduced User Training

Implementing new systems can be exciting for managers and those in leadership positions as they look towards the results a new system will provide. However, forcing your users to learn new systems consistently is an inconvenience and adds an extra layer of stress to their workweek.  

FDM negates users' need to learn and manage multiple interfaces by delivering corporate information through a single, simple user interface. 

This alone will have knowledge workers cheering and singing the praises of the FDM. 

Increased Productivity

Knowledge workers know first hand the time sink involved with finding information and subsequently switching systems to work with it. Searching for a document takes, on average, 18 minutes

This changes drastically with FDM -- workers can find their content within seconds and use manage-in-place technology to edit it, process it, and move onto the next document. 

Single source of truth

An early promise of document management was that it would provide organizations with a single source of truth. With this, users could reliably find the latest versions of contracts, documentation, or other corporate information in one central location. 

Multiple content systems make this core vision incredibly challenging, with numerous copies of the same content being present and confusing workers. 

A FDM system can immediately show a system administrator exactly where these duplicates occur and provide them with the tools to correct the issue. As businesses rectify these overlaps, they move closer to having one real single source of truth. 

Cloud and remote working

Numerous legacy information management systems are on-premise and unable to move to the cloud. Remote access to information becomes an issue, often forcing workers to create their own solutions via inefficient VPN connections to corporate networks. 

Corporate content can be distributed and viewed via the cloud by using a FDM system, enabling a cost-effective solution for cloud-enabling on-premise information. This capability proved essential for companies during 2020 and the COVID pandemic, allowing remote working knowledge workers to complete tasks effectively. 

Final thoughts 

Organizations are placing importance on digitizing content now more than ever but are doing so through systems that hinder their workers' ability to access the information efficiently. 

By leveraging technology explicitly designed for the users' needs, a Federated Document Management system can provide a solution that allows quick access to information and deliver it through one central system. 

While ease of use is a focus, FDM also delivers enhanced productivity, security, and collaboration, potentially further mitigating the costs associated with document retrieval and system renewal. 

We know information is the backbone of a business. Through the effective use of FDM, enterprises can create a stable, secure foundation to build their business processes. Goals can begin to focus on exploiting the information at their disposal, rather than just trying to find ways to obtain information more effectively.