Are you having difficulties managing important information across your enterprise? Whether you and your employees are storing photos, documents, spreadsheets, general files or videos, saving these files directly to work desktop hard drives is inherently risky. How confident are you with your enterprises’ ability to effectively manage your documents and files? In this article, we discuss how a distributed information management strategy will change the way you work and is an innovative new way of running your business.
The Way You Manage Data is (Likely) Out of Date
Most organizations have tons of files on their file server. It’s often a disorganized mess – no one knows specifically which documents are important and what’s not, or who is responsible for anything. All of that is on an expensive storage solution that needs to be protected, managed, and backed up onsite and offline. Typically there are three categories of storage: Individual storage (classic user drive), shared storage (for internal documents or collaboration between staff like a project or shared report), and client documents (which may exist in the CRM or file server or a mix/duplication of both).
Typically the trend is for employees to save their files directly to their local computers, and then share out the final product. However, this often creates concern for the overall business, since the organization doesn’t control the data and if the computer fails, the data is gone. But what if there was a way to allow your employees to work the way they wanted, while still maintaining control over the business’s information?
What’s different now?
Over the past few years, there have been advances in several new storage methods. We have the cloud, and there are all kinds of services from Dropbox and OneDrive, to cloud CRM platforms, in addition to your traditional file servers/local applications. Organizations are increasingly using document management systems, like OpenText or Microsoft’s SharePoint and it requires users to check documents in and out and add metadata. Using this method alone can be difficult since there is a huge learning curve and users will often get frustrated, reverting back to their preferred methods. The trick – figuring out how to make the best use of all of the options available to you. Besides, a lot of companies are moving to Office 365 for email but aren’t aware of or leveraging the other benefits that get included in that subscription – even though they’re already paying for them.
How to store important data
That depends. The organization still needs to understand the benefits and risks associated with using different systems. Many companies are shifting to really only be interested in the deliverable, not all the scratch work that goes into it – trusting that the employee will do a proper job. If they were to need to access the document in future years, they’d only be interested in the final deliverable. But how do you implement the change?
A high-level way of looking at it is to change the way you see the different types of storage:
- User Storage: Use OneDrive or something similar where the documents are stored locally but automatically synchronized to the cloud. This lets people organize their working files however they like, work quickly from their own computer onsite and off, and has built-in collaboration tools. And, since it’s linked to the user’s Office 365 account, it’s ultimately in the control of the organization too.
- CRM/ERP: Anything associated with a client/project/etc should be in your CRM/ERP platform and not duplicated elsewhere.
- Shared Storage: Anything else that isn’t either a working file for a user or a client deliverable should be in some sort of shared storage like SharePoint, ideally logged with appropriate metadata. Since these are just for deliverables it’s worth the effort to enter them into the system properly.
The result is that your boss has the report they want in a clear place, and the 10 other files and drafts that went into creating it are not cluttering up shared space. This way, you don’t have to worry about the server building up with unnecessary files that slow the system down. Plus, you avoid the time it takes to go through years of information at a later date trying to determine what is or is not important. Creating a distributed information management strategy for your enterprise will ultimately ensure better file system performance, greater clarity, reliability, security and efficiency. Sounds great, right?
Why this option may not be right for your business
Even though it may seem like a great solution, moving to a new distributed information management system may not work for your business. If you need more control around the working files (i.e. everything has to be tracked), then giving staff the freedom to work on their own files may not be appropriate. Also, this kind of shift requires trust and adoption from the entire organization, and everyone – from top down – needs to be comfortable with the change. It also requires significant confidence in the technologies your business is using, and making sure that your data is not left vulnerable. Finally, it’s crucial that this type of document management and workflow is designed and implemented by a proper team, ensuring that the change and support run smoothly – keeping your business running.
Ultimately, the choice to move to a new storage method is determined based on your businesses needs. Be sure to do your research and develop a plan before making any major changes.