How to keep your documents secure and under wraps

Security is a growing concern for all employers, but law firms and professional services organizations are at the forefront of this, as these businesses adopt security tools and practices that change how sensitive and/ or confidential documents are stored, created and shared.

“New security models in document management systems and security features that are applied directly to the document have grown in popularity in legal organizations,” says David Cramer, manager of Business Development in Legal and Professional Services at Blue Technologies. “And it’s certainly something that may trickle down into other verticals and be utilized by other businesses.”

Smart Business spoke with Cramer about corporate document security trends.

What’s new with how documents are stored, including who has access?

In the past, document management systems have been set up under an open security model. Everyone with access can see any content that resides the system — even if it doesn’t deal with their particular client or workload. Sometimes this is called an optimistic security model.

Now, some law firm clients are saying, ‘We don’t want this particular matter to be visible to anyone outside of the team of attorneys, paralegals and legal assistants that are working on it. Nobody else in the firm should have access.’ Therefore, businesses may need to implement a pessimistic or need-to-know security model by adding security functions through their current document management vendor or layering a third-party security solution over the document management system.

Corporate customers, such as those in financial services and health care, may require professional services to go through an IT audit to be sure security measures have been applied, including restricting content. While these audits aren’t new, some corporations are asking for verification of specific practices.

Large organizations also have started moving away from an open security model in their document management system. They’re restricting content within different departments, such as the corporate legal department and/or compliance.

How is security being added to the documents themselves?

Document cleaning tools — created after a savvy Microsoft Word user used metadata to discover Microsoft’s annual report was created on a Mac computer — are growing in popularity. If an older document is repurposed, these tools clean the metadata, so people cannot see prior edits. Any document that goes outside of an organization can be cleaned via a desktop computer, laptop or mobile device before it’s sent over email or through a secure file sharing tool. This cleaning can be done automatically or by giving the sender an option to clean or not clean the document.

Another useful tool is safe sending, which is used to prevent the Outlook oops — sending a message to the wrong person because a different email address popped in when the sender started typing the recipient’s name. If an employee is sending an attachment to an external party, the email would be flagged, and a dialog box would pop up and ask, ‘Here is the email address it’s going to, is that correct? Yes or no.’

What else would you like to share?

It’s important to remember the human factor. Last fall, a large law firm drew criticism because an employee didn’t utilize the proper technology — in this case, redaction software. Someone transferred a Word document to a PDF, blackened the language in the PDF and filed it with a court. When a reporter requested the document, copied the language and pasted it into Word, the redacted language became visible. In the world of business, it’s not only having the right technology tools; it’s training to ensure true user adoption is adhered to throughout the organization.

In addition, some vendors are using artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor cybersecurity attacks and determine if it’s an external or internal threat. The AI examines technology users to understand their patterns and workflows and flag abnormalities — behavior changes like downloading a massive number of documents — so administrators, security, compliance, or risk officers can further investigate.


Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

The benefits of moving your IT needs offsite

As business technology grows more important and complex, many organizations have found it makes sense to outsource their information technology.

“By using a managed service provider, they’re able to outsource that function to someone who’s an expert at it and allow their staff to focus on their main business objectives,” says Eric Thal, managed services manager at Blue Technologies. “It also enables their internal IT directors and staff to work on strategic initiatives, rather helpdesk-type questions.”

Smart Business spoke with Thal about the advantages of outsourcing your IT and what to keep in mind as you make the switch.

Why do companies outsource their IT?

The biggest reason is focus. Companies can focus on the product or service they’re in business for, freeing up employees to work on high-value strategic initiatives. The managed service provider can even take on the role of dealing with outside vendors, so there’s no more waiting on hold to find out what’s going on with the internet connectivity.

Many businesses find it difficult to staff an IT role or department. Often, the office manager or controller has to wear a second hat and be the IT point person. Plus, if there’s turnover or someone goes on vacation, it’s challenging to ensure the level of service remains high.

Working with a managed service provider, who acts as a virtual CIO, enables a company to predictably budget its technology costs for a given quarter or year. With managed services, it becomes an operating expense. So, it’s a consistent, predictable spend to manage the IT infrastructure, as opposed to large capital expenses every couple of years. Or working on a break-fix model — something breaks, the provider comes and fixes it, and then because they did that in June, June’s bill is significantly more than the rest of the year.

Finally, it reduces the risk. An outsourced expert will better understand cybersecurity, which mitigates the risk of security breaches that can cause damage to the technology, the organization, and its reputation. The managed service provider can proactively monitor the network to identify and solve potential issues before they cause downtime. It also can help vet new technology and ensure the business has an accurate inventory of all assets. The outside firm helps ease day-to-day management while equipping the company for future growth.

What types of businesses are more likely to outsource their IT?

While all types and sizes of organizations can benefit from outside IT help, a lot of it is compliance-driven around credit cards and health care information, or the compliance requirements for anyone that supplies technology or products to the government or deals with customers in the European Union. For example, a small doctor’s office won’t want a full-time IT staff on-site, but it’s important to make sure the hard drives are encrypted, and no one has access to personally identifiable information or health care records.

It’s also difficult to staff up every domain that’s needed. A midsize organization might have one or two on staff, but those one or two people aren’t experts in everything related to IT. An outside provider can help fill any gaps.

In addition, if a company has a large geographic footprint or many employees who work from home, it can be difficult to have in-house IT that can handle the different users and their locations.

How should companies pick an outsource provider?

When looking for a potential partner, make sure they use a well-established framework, like ITIL, to manage the IT infrastructure. Not every engineer or managed service provider knows these frameworks as well as they should.

You want an outsourced partner with a strong onboarding process because the first 90 days are critical. That’s when they do an initial assessment of the network and use that as a blueprint for the roadmap and plan going forward. Then, the relationship will become a virtual CIO position where the outside firm meets regularly with the owners or a team to review what’s working, what’s not working, what adjustments need to be made, and help them plan for the future.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How automation can aid cost recovery in your business

Organizations are showing more and more interest in automating day-to-day tasks and activities, whether it’s in sales, customer service, human resources, accounting or administration, says Curtis Verhoff, advanced solutions manager at Blue Technologies.

“While automation isn’t a new concept, customers — both current and new — are bringing up the idea first,” he says. “Rather than technology providers pushing companies toward automating tasks and processes, businesses are providing the momentum.”

Content today often comes in via email through electronic forms, rather than paper, from customers, prospects, vendors, clients, etc. Organizations are exploring technology solutions that can not only capture the data easily, but also integrate it with the existing systems to expedite their processing. A nonprofit, for example, with low staff numbers but a high need to stay connected to donors, may find these technologies very beneficial.

Smart Business spoke with Verhoff about implementing automation in your organization.

What kinds of technology can add automation to daily operations?

There are several dozen workflow automation data capturing solutions that can be added to an employer’s existing business technology. This middleware is software that lies between two systems, such as Microsoft Office 365 and a business management software like SAP, to make it easier to communicate and manage data. With help from a technology provider, organizational leaders can determine which technology fits best to streamline and/or automate processes.

For instance, a health care facility had 40 different fax lines where the information came in; so many channels to so many different people created bottlenecks and inefficiencies. Under the right technology plan, the organization was able to consolidate down to 15 fax numbers and add software that looked at the information on those incoming faxes and automatically redirected it to the appropriate team under consistent logic and rules. The solution saved both hard and soft costs.

In another scenario, rather than have CPAs in an accounting department doing low-level jobs, one company added a technology solution to monitor incoming emails and documents through a centralized accounts payable group email box. Then, the employees just have to validate the information that’s automatically loaded and send it in the right direction.

Does this software require a big budget to implement?

Up to this point, many automation tools were expensive and mostly utilized at the large enterprise level. However, middleware solutions that can help organizations automate day-to-day tasks are now very cost affordable for all sized companies. It is a good idea, though, to spend the resources upfront to ensure the right solution is chosen and the relevant employees are thoroughly trained.

How can employers get started with automation?

The first step is understanding all processes that are being utilized by the organization. Talk to the employees who undertake these tasks every day to learn the standard operating procedures in detail and identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies.

Once this is mapped out in as much detail as possible, it’s easier to determine at what points manual steps can be replaced with technology. Each scenario differs and requires a custom approach to maximize the ROI when technology is implemented at the team or department level.

The right technology will save time and reduce potential mistakes that can be costly. It will minimize manual labor and free up your employees to do more important things for the organization.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How to secure your organization and intellectual property

Smart devices and other technology tools are becoming more pervasive within all organizations. It’s the internet of things taking shape; everything from smart boards and devices, to cloud computing, artificial intelligence and data acquisition.

“We’re using technology to do more with less — to more effectively collaborate and communicate,” says Ben Simms, vice president at Blue Technologies. “But when you do that, you open yourself up and become a little bit more vulnerable.”

Smart Business spoke with Simms about how to address the growing concern of security.

Why should all business executives take security for their technology seriously?

It’s incumbent upon every business leader today to look hard at where they are.

The security of your network and servers — whether on-premise, in the cloud or both — are not the only areas of vulnerability. For example, hackers were able to breach a corporation through its HVAC smart system. So, are you looking at everything, and looking at it consistently enough? Copiers used to be analog devices. Now, they are digital on and off-ramps. They are Wi-Fi enabled, and in some cases, servers sit at the bottom of their drawers.

In addition, it’s not uncommon for an executive to go to a conference, jump on the public Wi-Fi, get malware and bring that back to the home office. Before you know it, that malware penetrates the email system, which then spreads organization-wide.

Everything is inter-connected and inter-related. We share so much data in so many different ways and it’s only going to be become more pervasive, as networks get faster and more robust.

What’s the biggest misstep you see people make when securing their organization?

Some think that if they just invest in technology like firewalls, that is enough. But most breaches happen because people and processes are out of sync. Are your employees going through awareness training? If your people aren’t aware of social engineering, phishing and other tactics, even the best defense can be penetrated.

It’s harder to control the behavior of people than to add hardware and software. What sites are they surfing? Where should they go? Where shouldn’t they go? That type of training is important because bad actors today can embed malware in a website pop-up ad. If someone inadvertently clicks the wrong thing, they can start to get in.

What’s your advice for how organizations can start beefing up their security?

There is a security breach in corporate America every 14 seconds; it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. What layers are you putting into place to make your organization, and your intellectual property and data, less attractive to bad actors?

Your business needs to cover the four main areas of security — network security, data encryption, access control and physical security. There are different ways that you can test those, in order to improve them. You want to take a gamut of different security tactics, techniques and strategies, such as firewalls, data encryption and multi-factor authentication, and apply those to create barriers for breaching.

In addition, ransomware has gotten sophisticated and patient. It may attack the backups first before going to the rest of the company. By the time you realize that it’s happening, it’s likely too late. That’s why your backups should be off-site and gapped appropriately from your existing networks.

You also need to ensure your organization follows any relevant regulations for personal information that you collect, as well as security requirements in your contracts, such as manufacturing companies that must be DFARS compliant.

By working with someone who can create a customized plan for your organization, you can do an assessment to understand the current state of your security. Where are you at today? Where are your areas of vulnerability? Then, what would be a more desired state? How would you ideally make your organization less of a target? Finally, create a gap analysis and milestone deliverable to get from your current security to that desired future state. Also, if your business isn’t compliant, how are you working toward compliance? Having a game plan is an important step and can go a long way to appeasing the regulatory agencies that oversee these things.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How to deliver a great customer experience

We have entered the era of the customer. Competing in a crowded marketplace requires delivering customer experiences that differentiate your brand, so leading companies continue to invest in better ways to improve customer engagement.

“Companies are shifting their budgets, with more dollars allocated to marketing automation, AdTech, data and analytics tools, and web and app development. This is all aimed at supporting improved digital engagement,” says Ben Stormer, senior vice president of Technology at g2o.

Smart Business spoke with Stormer about the era of the customer.

Why is digital transformation no longer optional?

It can be argued that every business is a digital business. After emerging as a disruptive trend, digital transformation has become an ongoing requirement. Winning companies use digital technologies to reinvent themselves as agile and proactive organizations that anticipate their customers’ wants and needs, and not just react to them.

What does this mean for businesses today?

Customer experience has become a key differentiator and the new battleground of business. Standing out requires delivering great experiences to consumers, businesses and, increasingly, employees. Regardless of industry, to grow their organization and brand, companies must reinvent their business via customer-focused strategies.

New partnerships are also emerging. Companies are looking for help leveraging the latest advances in technologies, data and human-centered design to achieve their goals — to acquire and retain customers, deliver innovations and drive productivity.

How can companies provide differentiated experiences?

  • Create a multifaceted team. Building an engaging digital experience requires collaborating across functional areas and blurs the lines between traditional IT and business teams. Successful teams often include people from digital, data, analytics, marketing, product management and technology.
  • Be intentional. Bring the team together to have conversations upfront and regularly throughout the process. If you develop the roadmap together, collaborating and communicating along the way, you can avoid potential problems.
  • Avoid sameness. Be mindful of what others are doing to engage customers. For example, in retail, apps that allow shoppers to buy online or pick up at the store are now the norm. To offer something unique, invest in architecture that combines software, custom code and data to create new experiences. Also, consider joining relevant user groups and communities. Truly knowing your customers can help you create a differentiated value proposition.
  • Consider customer preferences and privacy. Privacy should be a top priority with the growing urgency to manage personal information appropriately. With the California Consumer Privacy Act going into effect in 2020, it’s only a matter of time before other states adopt similar protections. To stay ahead of the requirements, deploy systems and processes so that you a) know where customer information is stored, b) can quickly take action to turn it off or delete it altogether, and c) are in the position to demonstrate these capabilities to avoid any financial ramifications.
  • Enlist expert help. Depending on your company’s needs, budget, timeline and internal capacity, you may need a partner that specializes in the development and delivery of digital experiences. The right one will recognize that design, development and data are inseparable and must work together.

Why is delivering an engaging experience so hard?

The ability to design intuitive experiences that customers want, and value, is critical — but agile development and deep data expertise are equally important. Ultimately, it requires collaboration across the team to inform, design and build engaging experiences. Companies that succeed will focus on breaking down existing organization silos to deliver a customer experience that stands out.

Insights Technology is brought to you by g2o

How to make your digital transformation a success

When you ask someone, “What is digital transformation?” you’ll get different answers. For C-suite executives, it’s about understanding and knowing where the important data are, and using that information to impact business in a positive way.

This is critical because data are the future. Organizations must get a handle on their data, not only to understand their business better, but also to act on the information in a timely manner. Only then will executives and managers be able to analyze processes and workflows to allocate the right resources, pass insights on to executors and mitigate business risks.

Smart Business spoke with Sudhir Achar, CEO of EOX Vantage, about the digitization of business processes and how to ensure this transformation provides results.

What does it mean to digitize something? What are some examples?

When you digitize a process, you use technology to follow that process from cradle to grave, capturing data inputs along the way. This enables you to track how long something takes, what’s creating a backlog and where information is missing. Then with automation, alerts can be sent to the appropriate people at the right time.

Take, for example, an e-commerce company using independent contractors to deliver goods to its customers. The e-commerce company required independent contractors to have a clean driving record and the appropriate insurance coverage, but the company did not have a system to track compliance. So when drivers with expired insurance or expired licenses got into accidents, it put risk back on the e-commerce business.

By digitizing what was a paper-driven process with a digital application and automated workflows, the experience for the independent contractor was improved and the company turned the paper process and its unstructured data into a digital process with structured data that provided real operational intelligence. Compliance was automated; drivers are notified 90, 60, 30 and seven days out from the expiration of their insurance. If a driver becomes noncompliant, an automated message helps ensure that driver isn’t scheduled. 

In another instance, when customers brought their vehicles in to be serviced at a car dealer, they received a loaner car for a day or two. The car needed to go onto an insurance policy but the complicated process included a lot of emails and faxes, and was different at each dealership. Cars went out without coverage. People got into accidents and the manufacturer, who owned the car, was responsible. 

With a uniformed digitalized process deployed across hundreds of dealerships, the manufacturer was able to verify that each loaner car is insured, reduce its risk and gain valuable insights into the operations of dealerships across the country.

At the dealerships, the process was simplified. Employees click a button to put a car on their insurance. They print off an insurance card and hand it to the customer. When the car comes back, employees hit a button to end the policy, and the system generates a bill. After a month and a half, 90 percent of dealerships were using the new system.

Why do digital transformation efforts fail?

The implementation process has two pieces — technology and people. Both sides of the equation need to be managed for a better chance of success. The human element also needs to include buy-in from the C-suite. 

In addition, rolling out massive and encompassing changes across an entire enterprise is risky. You may get pushback. That’s why it’s better to focus on little wins to help build the case. Processes that are harder to implement than you initially thought, or ones that don’t have the expected business impact, will also stall digital transformation efforts.

How should companies get started with a document digitization strategy and digital transformation?

Start by looking at your current resources and capabilities in order to determine what needs to be added. If your IT department is putting out fires rather than executing strategy, you may want to consider a partner that specializes in building corporate digital transformation plans or digital transformation accelerator programs designed for companies moving into the digital age.

Insights Technology is brought to you by EOX Vantage

2020 vision: Are you secure? Do you have a workplace of the future?

As the New Year approaches, it’s a good reminder to think about how technology may impact your business operations. Beyond the end of Microsoft’s Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 support, security threats remain at the heart of most of the changes.

“Whether it’s your wireless printer, voice over IP phone system, multi-function device copier, desktop, laptop, mobile device, network or servers, an organization’s entire threat surface needs to be serviced, protected and monitored holistically,” says Eric Thal, sales manager at Blue Technologies.

Smart Business spoke with Thal about business technology trends and what they may mean for the future of your operations.

What’s going on with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008?

After January 2020, Microsoft will no longer be updating, supporting, or providing bug fixes and patches to the operating systems Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008. Companies are upgrading slowly, but many organizations are still running more than half of their environment on one of those two platforms. Make this a priority now so you are ready for the changes in 2020.

You mentioned cyber threats to phones and copiers. How vulnerable are those?

All the technology used today represents a company’s threat surface. Bad actors typically take the path of least resistance, and it can be easier to hack into a network through a printer or a phone system than a password-protected, highly encrypted server. Anything that’s connected to the network, and certainly anything that’s wireless, needs to be properly managed, secured and segmented. Also, if the organization has poor, acceptable usage or password policies, such as using the same passwords for multiple devices, not changing them often enough or not putting much thought into the password itself, a hacker can gain access.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, it’s often not a question of if; it’s a question of when. That’s why all organizations should be following a well-established, trusted framework for maintaining and monitoring the integrity of their environment — not only for security’s sake but also to ensure a legally defensible position when a breach does occur.

What are other trends related to IT security?

More small and mid-sized businesses are opting for mobile device management, whether they’re issued by corporate or are personal devices. With these tools, an organization can containerize the corporate data securely, so that if something happens — a device is lost or an employee leaves — the information can be located, remotely locked and wiped. This technology, traditionally used by large enterprises, has moved down market and is being adopted across many organizations of different sizes.

Also, the basic email protection that comes with Microsoft Office 365 is not typically enough for organizations, especially if they have regulatory concerns or compliance needs. Enhanced email security may be the way to go. With that, more organizations need an added layer of security and require two-factor authentication for their workforce. For example, an authentication app on a cellphone is paired with a password.

With the rise of ransomware, backup needs to be taken seriously. Because once an organization pays, it’s more likely to be targeted again. A fully tested, disaster recovery plan helps with business continuity in the event of a power outage, weather event or some other emergency. Businesses should keep cloud backups of critical information off-site and gapped appropriately from their existing networks. Every business needs cloud backup and should only put it in an enterprise-grade data center, which has the appropriate certifications, replications and backups and is multisite for geographic redundancy.

How can managed IT help companies in many of these areas?

Between staying abreast of the latest software and ensuring the organization’s threat surface is effectively managed and protected, it’s a lot to keep up on. Managed IT can help organizations service and support all of their technology, securely, so the company and its employees can focus on its core business.

After all, technology is integral to the business world already and likely to grow even more so in 2020 and beyond.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How to use an enterprise operating system to solve business challenges

All too often, business owners and executives find their companies bogged down by the essential, noncore operational needs — things like communication, developing dashboards, creating reports, document management, project management, and regulatory and compliance management. 

However, by implementing an enterprise operating system (EOS) to govern and streamline the data, a business can operate more effectively and efficiently.

“The platform provides you with many of the same tools you probably use today, but they can integrate and communicate seamlessly with one another. Your teams can collaborate better and provide you with fast and actionable insights, so you can manage your business better,” says Sudhir Achar, CEO at EOX Vantage.

Smart Business spoke with Achar about how the data integration technology of EOS can be used to create custom solutions for your organization.

How does EOS work differently from other technology products?

One key challenge many businesses have is lack of visibility and control due to disparate data sources. Like the operating system on your smartphone, which works seamlessly with different technologies, an EOS is industry-agnostic, easily configurable without customization, and provides reasonable return on investment. 

An EOS also can manage different departments that are physically or geographically separated. 

What’s an example where an EOS helped improve a company’s business decisions?

A rental car business was managing data from various sources, pulling information from a manufacturer and a separate insurance company in order to distribute it to dealerships. Because that data resided on different platforms and it could be 30 days before new information was added, the data were often obsolete at the time the decisions were made.

With EOS technology, the operational segments were bought together, so both the dealership and manufacturer could easily see the average life cycle of a vehicle, the insurance issues and whether specific regions or dealerships were having problems. It let managers use data to determine whether to reward or discipline certain people, departments, groups or projects without bias. 

In other words, the EOS helps with predictive analytics. It enables business leaders to more easily see patterns or trends, so they know where to put their focus.

This challenge of uniting databases so the CEO or COO can understand what’s going on within departments happens across many industries, from manufacturing to insurance or health care providers.

How does an EOS help companies stop their spreadsheet woes?

Spreadsheet data are uncontrolled, duplicated and prone to errors, which leads to individuals who are very knowledgeable about the company but do not share that information with the team. Because of this, business leaders do not have actionable insights from data. 

With its secure data environment, EOS unifies and controls data to provide a single source of truth. It also helps cut down on time, preventing data loss in communication, which in turn helps lower the margin for errors.

Can EOS assist business owners with regulatory compliance?

Regulatory compliance is a scary phrase for the C-suite. EOS helps ease the nightmare and manage the regulatory checks for the company with the use of the dynamic organizational chart and actionable operational intelligence.

Compliance happens at policy level. With the help of EOS, the business can have compliance at an execution level, which helps track execution against industry standards like ISO, CFR11, FDA, HIPAA or SSAE17.

Insights Technology is brought to you by EOX Vantage

Don’t let HR departments labor over employee paperwork

When HR onboards new hires, the department has to process 401(k)s, health care enrollments, policy acknowledgements, direct deposit authorization, W-4s, 1-9s and more.

“With this repetitive and burdensome task, it’s no surprise that many HR professionals complain that processing onboarding paperwork takes a huge chunk of their time. Employment applications may be upward of 10 pages, and most companies still hand-key this information, which introduces the potential for errors,” says Ben Simms, vice president at Blue Technologies.

While many companies have added technology in areas like accounts payable, HR isn’t usually the priority. However, content management software can help HR be more efficient and reduce errors by optimizing the hiring process.

“Instead of wasting their first day filling out paperwork, new hires hit the ground running,” Simms says.

You want new hires to gather a good first impression, not bog down with paperwork, especially in this tight labor market.

Smart Business spoke with Simms about how enterprise content management (ECM) systems can create pleasant, efficient onboarding and offboarding experiences.

Why is it so important to create a positive first impression with new employees?

Companies only have a short window to convince new hires to stay.

  • 33 percent of new hires know if they’ll stay at the company long term after one week.
  • 63 percent know within the first month.

Once you lose an employee, his or her seat stays empty for 63 days, on average. It can take eight months for the next person to reach full productivity. Many companies spend 16 to 20 percent of an employee’s annual salary trying to replace them.

Without a clear understanding of the HR tasks, documents and tools they need to move through onboarding swiftly, frustration builds, processes stall and information falls through the cracks. A bad onboarding experience doesn’t just affect an employee’s first impressions. It can leave your organization exposed to security and compliance issues, which can affect your profitability and reputation.

How can an ECM solution help?

Automating HR onboarding workflow processes increases visibility and centralizes information management. A well-designed ECM supports effective, paperless onboarding and ultimately improves the service HR provides to new employees.

The ECM solution allows HR staff to track the onboarding process and monitor tasks across departments easily. It provides a comprehensive view of all onboarding-related information, and it should integrate with Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS) systems to ensure actions taken within the HRMS initiate associated processes in the ECM.

How do ECM systems improve security and compliance?

Storing sensitive employee data on paper has inherent security risks. Having to explain to employees how and why their personal information ended up in the wrong hands could have serious consequences, including litigation. A paper filing system isn’t sufficient for today’s business landscape. When Department of Labor auditors show up, they’ll likely discover multiple compliance violations due to inadequate recordkeeping and privacy controls. Keeping employee data in an ECM system provides an extra layer of security, ensuring only authorized users gain access.

In addition, employee separation happens with all staff eventually. Whether through resignation or termination, HR staff must follow termination processes and complete the employee offboarding checklist.

An ECM solution reduces risk by ensuring the separated employee no longer has access to applications, information and facilities. It can automate the offboarding process in a central location, including generating checklists, notifying departments of tasks and providing HR with critical paperwork. It also improves the experience for the separated employee, including automated, real-time status updates.

A well-designed ECM system eliminates inefficient paper-based onboarding while saving time and money. When people are your most important asset, ECM solutions can help eliminate errors, oversights, wasted time and potentially bad first impressions.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How to break down information silos with technology

Technology is supposed to make everything easier, but that’s not always the case. Across all industries, multiple systems are put in place to solve business challenges. While each department may have visibility and control, that information remains locked within the department.

C-suite executives must go to several places, whether it’s software applications or Excel spreadsheets, to access companywide data. And in even the smallest companies, departments can become siloed.

When departments run various technologies, they cannot always access each other’s systems, which generates different metrics, different data and different outputs. Your employees may be spending valuable time compiling reports, which are already outdated when they reach the executive level.

However, these obstacles can be overcome. You can navigate your enterprise more efficiently and easily share information with the right enterprise operating system.

Smart Business spoke with Sudhir Achar, CEO and co-founder at Vantage Agora, about utilizing technology for better visibility and control.

When executives are isolated from data, what problems does this create?

Companies often prescribe for symptoms and don’t get to the root of the problems. Department heads or managers know what’s going on, but top executives don’t have a quick, universal way to review data from one place; this slows decision-making and may keep them from taking the right action.

Also, when departments are on different platforms and the applications don’t talk to each other, a problem might arise between them that needs to be escalated. If a CEO can’t understand what’s going on, how is he or she supposed to help resolve the issue?

How can technology help?

Even before you look at technology, start with discipline. People have different personality traits and methods, but there should be some standardization that leads to procedure. Once a standard operating procedure (SOP) is in place, it’s easier to draw out the common connections from each application and put that information together into actionable dashboards through an enterprise operating system.

This overarching software should be updated in real time where problems are easy to see, whether that’s at the top of the page and/or using colors, like a traffic light’s red, yellow and green, to show the company’s health and give executives the ability to dive deeper into problem areas.

Eventually, you can automate some SOPs and add triggers, so if something happens — good or bad — an automated notification goes to the staff who need to know. Some examples include alerts before sales misses a goal or a department falls out of compliance, as well as notifications when someone hits an incentive-based threshold.

An enterprise operating system can also help track trends, like daily output. If employees are high or low, does the workload need to be rebalanced? 

What else is important to understand when adding this kind of technology?

Start by mapping and auditing what you have. How many systems are you using? Do you need them all? Can you consolidate systems to make the data clearer?

You and your team can talk through the pain points and inventory of processes to see what can be automated. What can be done to make it easier with the current resources, as well as additional resources? Can technology help eliminate processes so people are focused on more high-value tasks, such as sales or customer interaction, rather than repetitive processes, like creating reports? 

Next, research enterprise operating systems to find one that fits your organization. The company that develops the system should have an implementation team who can help tailor the software so that it works for your operations.

Keep in mind what’s financially viable and whether the enterprise operating system offers anything to subset a system you currently pay for. Also, look at whether the technology can scale up in a viable way. Are additional features based on the number of users or added straight to the software? 

Finally, the technology should be easy to use and streamlined, which will increase employee buy-in and help executives organize and manage the business.

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