Data sprawl is a term coined by the Wall Street Journal—it refers to both the masses of data that global organizations generate and the fact that this data resides in disparate systems. With the advent of the mobile-enabled workforce, employees aren’t required to remain within the confines of their office for accessing corporate data or completing transactions. As a result not only is there now a massive amount of data to contend with, but it’s coming in from everywhere — different systems, internal and external contributors and devices.
If managed effectively, this data can be gleaned for insights, but the reality is this level of data management must be addressed in a proactive manner. Additionally, enabling secure “mobile work behaviors” is another important factor to consider since many sensitive and confidential documents must be sent outside of firewalls.
Data, Data Everywhere
As an ECM solution provider, I constantly see real examples of data sprawl. My clients are creating more and more data in-house and in the field. For example, one of our clients had information management concerns that started with their human resources department. HR was saving their documents to a shared network drive. I’m using the word “shared” here literally because other departments could access these documents – even though they were not supposed to be able to. As you can see, this company did not have the security best practices in place. Additionally, they had no standardized naming conventions in place for files. For example, an employee review could have been named “JohnSmith2016EmployeeReview” or “JS2016ER” or “JS2016ER_Miami.”
Another issue was their processes around HR documents, which were essentially ad hoc. Imagine one version of a document residing within an employee’s hard drive, which is then emailed to their supervisor. The supervisor saves it to their drive and then emails a copy to HR. HR makes an important edit and then sends the document back to the supervisor. Now, multiply that scenario by the number of employees in the organization. You not only have a time-consuming, resource burning manual re-occurring process, you also have an activity that leaves sensitive information in places it should not be.
Clearly all of these practices were problematic. But once we started engaging with the client we realized these information management issues ran throughout the entire organization! Envision multiplying many times over the aforementioned information management challenges. Talk about data sprawl! How many versions of documents did they have? Did they factor in all the locations? Which documents require secure access? How were they addressing email records, faxes, interoffice memos and paper mail?
When we conducted the needs analysis, we specifically focused on a few components: overall information security, role-based information access and process efficiency. This is why I love M-Files—it quickly addresses all of these!
Our above mentioned client now uses M-Files to store and manage all of their documents. They have consistent naming conventions, and documents that require security, like employee records, have role-based security applied to them. We built workflows to handle their common HR processes like time off requests and reviews. We then replicated these practices throughout the organization. Overall we ensured that all their content was managed and accessible. Information—managed. Sprawl—eliminated!