In business, efficient processes can make or break an organization. If processes are not executed properly, companies lose time, money, and damage their reputation.
Almost all important processes in business today deal with information… and lots of it. The ability to get information under control is the key to thriving in today's competitive business climate.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of guides on how to craft and optimize business processes, so it’s surprising that so many companies struggle to get it right. According to a 2018 study by Panopto, even getting basic information to get their job done is a challenge in many organizations. According to the report, the average employee spends 5.3 hours per week waiting for assistance or insights from coworkers - with 81% saying they are frustrated because of that lack of information.
And it doesn't matter how technology-savvy an organization may be. Companies that produce advanced technology may not use it themselves.
Here's a real-life example: A company that produces artificial intelligence technology to enable rapid machine-language parsing of social media for trends still has employees doing manual searches in its email system for information about projects.
Instead of adapting the tool they sell to others for their own use, they stick with the traditional method that has worked in the past.
Why? Because employees are human and people are averse to change. Or the company may be concerned with regulatory or liability issues. But the bottom line is still the same; by failing to come up with more efficient ways to process information, the organization is missing huge opportunities.
Besides losses due directly to inefficiencies, companies lose valuable business opportunities from clients whose messages got lost in the shuffle, either via email, social media, or other communication channels.
In addition, even if managers could be assured that employees have all the information they need to get their job done, firms suffer losses due to misplaced documents or the need for employees to manually move between applications, folders, windows, and databases in order to gather the information they need.
That by itself costs employees as many as 32 work days a year, according to research from RingCentral.
Contrast that with another firm – perhaps a one- or two-person real estate services firm, without the advanced IT, development, and management staff of the AI firm.
In fact, the firm is a one-man show; the work is done by the professional staff, who, with the help of a part-time secretary, are able to parse through all messages and accounts as well as publicly available information, automatically discovering who was serviced when, enabling them to generate follow-up offers, newsletters, and even birthday wishes.
For example, when their system finds new house listings, they can contact the seller and offer to work with them on the sale of their old house, or the purchase of their new one.
Thus, using advanced technology, the firm develops processes that ensure that they never miss a sales opportunity, never leave clients in the lurch, and are able to maintain positive relations with clients, both past and present, by excelling in customer service.
The tools to develop better processes, including in data management, are readily available. It's up to companies to examine those tools and determine which ones are going to help them accomplish their goals, whether those goals are saving money, increasing sales, reducing the time needed to carry out tasks, etc.
These solutions must be:
Robust: It’s no secret that the amount of data needed to run a business is exploding. It’s estimated that by 2025, 463 exabytes (an exabyte is one quintillion bytes) of data will be created each day globally.
Companies already have many gigabytes of data in their databases, email systems, social media accounts, file systems, spreadsheets, and more. To use this information in the most efficient and effective manner possible, companies should make it easier for employees by deploying tools that help people find what they need.
Correctly done, companies will be able to suppress “shadow IT’ solutions that people pick when they don’t have the right tools available.
Intelligent: Employees need an efficient way to track down the information to work with clients, complete projects, draw up budgets, etc. Artificial intelligence and machine learning-based systems can be used to learn and understand how employees use data over time, thus learning what works and what doesn’t. The system can then analyze a project and instruct users on how to handle their data in the most efficient ways possible - which emails they should keep and which can be disposed of, where they should store files, how should they classify it so they can find it later, etc.
Augmenting Employee Efforts: Robust, intelligent data management systems work best when they are placed in a “senior data advisor” role – guiding employees on the best and most effective way to handle data. Machine-learning based systems that guide employees on where and how to store data can help prevent employees from making mistakes that, to them, might not seem to be mistakes – but are in the long run, because the file or email they store in the wrong folder or team account will get lost, and won't be accessible to those who need it for future projects.
An important file regarding regulatory changes, for example, needs to be stored in a section of the server where everyone who works on projects involving that regulation can access it – not in the directory of the project that is using it now, and not in the personal folder or account of the employee who got hold of the document. Analyzing that document, the data management system would understand its importance to the organization as a whole and would recommend that it be stored in the appropriate place.
Smart information management solutions can enhance a company's ability to handle data and communication issues, ensuring that things are done more efficiently. These solutions shouldn’t change the processes that workers are already using. Since they're automated, these solutions can step in when needed and direct users to the data they need when they need it; since they're intelligent, they will know which data are most relevant to a project and make sure that they grab the employee’s or team's attention.
Effectively implemented, intelligent information management solutions can enhance the way a firm works and make employees and team members more productive. With manual classification work now out of the way, employees and teams at companies of all sizes – from the one-man real estate firm to the multinational – will be able to concentrate on productive work that advances their careers and makes them and their employers more money.