The 10 Commandments for Controlling Your Information within a Hybrid Work Environment

Are Hybrid Approaches the New Normal?

When the bubonic plague killed at least a third of Europeans in the 1300s, farm owners were left with grain rotting in the fields because there weren’t enough workers to harvest it.

In northern Italy, landlords responded by raising wages, something that helped foster a middle class, according to The Atlantic.

Pandemics produce lasting changes in societies they ravage. A shift that will outlive Covid-19 is hybrid workplaces, where employees toil both remotely and in the office.

In a survey of 133 executives in the United States in late 2020, 82 percent said they planned to allow employees to work remotely to some degree, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, which did the study.

In December of last year, 52 percent of executives told PwC that average employee productivity improved during the prolonged work-from-home period. That was up from 44 percent in a related study from the previous June.

The benefits may grow when work from home arrangements, or WFH, are expanded to work from anywhere, meaning employees can carry out their duties from geographic locations where they prefer to live.

When the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office offered work from anywhere, patent examiners who took advantage saw a 4.4 percent increase in employee output versus when they were working at home, with no increase in rework, according to a scholarly study.

Where Problems Lie

Business leaders are planning investment to support remote work, including in tools for virtual collaboration (72 percent) and information technology infrastructure to secure virtual connectivity (70 percent), PwC reported.

“Companies that may have been slow to adopt technologies that support remote work – or to create clear rules and a secure structure around WFH – are playing catch-up,” PwC said.

IBM found in June 2020 that 53 percent of employees were using personal laptops and computers for business when performing their duties at home.

Another 61 percent said their employers had not provided tools to properly secure those devices.

“More than half (of workers) have not been provided with new guidelines on how to handle (personally identifiable information) while working from home,” IBM’s report said.

The problems do not end there. In a 2021 study, Buffer found 16 percent of remote workers struggled with Andrie Neocleous, an information management and digital transformation expert at M-Files’ partner Iron Mountain Cyprus, said that intelligent information management rapidly enables remote or hybrid workforces during crises while improving productivity and efficiency.

“My experience at Iron Mountain has taught me that business transformations, particularly digital transformations, have not been high enough priorities as they should be even though organizations have been researching options and solutions for some time,” she said. “Market conditions, however, have revised these priorities due to the pandemic and their transformations have become imperative.”

Here are 10 principles for controlling data in a hybrid work environment.

01 | Enable Remote Access

Knowledge workers need to access and manage data remotely the same as they do in the office. Intelligent information management systems like M-Files provide employees the same interfaces and views of information regardless of where they are or what devices they are using.

The platform’s offline mode enables users to work on items like documents when they are without an Internet connection. Once they are back online, they do updates with all that they worked with offline.

M-Files also offers secure, customizable portals that virtual teams can use to work with internal and external parties and share large amounts of data.

02 | Control Sensitive Information

Intelligent information management provides enterprise-grade security, encryption and other features for controlling access to documents by user, department, role or meta tags. This helps an organization comply with internal governance or governmental regulations. Administrators can change access in line with shifts in rules and people’s roles.

The technology can enforce credentials, including two-factor identification, to help avoid exposing sensitive data to the elements. People will not see documents that they are not authorized to access.

M-Files’ security extends to its collaboration portals. By integrating with information repositories, documents and other data in the portals can be managed according to commonly agreed processes, legal regulations, or industry standards.

03 | Make Information Searchable, Organized and Classified With Metadata

Metadata is a tag that provides information about a document, such as who created it or the type of data it contains. Much like barcodes enable grocery stores to keep track of boxes of laundry detergent, metadata defines and classifies data to make it easier to find regardless where it is stored.

M-Files tags information with metadata based on what it is. This means users can find the same records using different criteria.

For project invoices, say, a project manager needs to see all information about given work regardless what that information is. The accounts department will search invoices based on data, status or the projects they belong to.

Intelligent information management enforces metadata rules to keep them consistent and compliant with best-practices standards for data entry and organization. This categorizes information to add efficiency to searches and organization.

Metadata helps manage document workflows, automatically fuelling back-office processes. When multiple organizations are collaborating through portals, metadata makes it easy to manage visibility, access and editing rights.

04 | Employ Artificial Intelligence

Intelligent information management uses AI to reduce data entry errors, keep information consistent, make data easy to find and manage workflows. The more people use the system, the smarter it gets, delivering connected content and intelligent automation that increases knowledge workers’ productivity.

Users do not have to train the system. It learns in the background, allowing them to work as they prefer while making their lives easier.

M-Files’ AI can suggest metadata based on a document’s content, its own prior history or set rules. The product recognizes a document’s type and importance, removing the burden of manually tagging it and streamlining the transition from traditional approaches.

Using natural language processing, it can decipher the meaning and context of text. This enables it to understand the relationships between one document and other. M-Files thus shows companies what data they have and how it relates to other information within the system.

Besides classifying and organizing information, M-Files improves data quality and helps organizations prioritize content based on criteria like importance or privacy needs. As a result, businesses can separate important content from trivial information.

05 | Create and Enforce Information Flows With Automation

When documents need to pass from one person to the next, such as for reviews and approvals, M-Files can automate that job through its workflow feature. When information moves to a new person, he or she gets an alert about the task they must perform and reminders in case they forget about the deadline.

The technology shows managers and other stakeholders where things stand, what remains to be done and what has been finished. AI puts documents into the right workflows, triggering process automation and applying rules about things like retention.

M-Files’ portals use workflows to process external content and streamline procedures such as approvals of project deliverables. Metadata manages document workflows.

06 | Ensure Employees Can Find a Single Version of Truth

About 83 percent of knowledge workers waste time daily dealing with confusion about which versions of documents are the right ones, according to a 2013 survey M-Files avoids these issues with version control, which keeps documents in one place and makes it easy to track down problems, answer questions, spot trends and recover information. Alerts and audit trails tell the owner of a document who made which updates and who did not participate.

Through its integration with Microsoft OneDrive, M-Files enables co-authoring, meaning several users can edit the same document simultaneously – even if those users do not have M-Files accounts.

The platform’s portals avoid versioning issues because they are integrated with systems such as CRM or accounting software. This provides access to documents, people, processes, discussions and more.

Typical file sync-based document portals suffer from data duplication because they copy information from enterprise content repositories.

07 | Reduce Information Silos

M-Files’ powerful governance capabilities stem partly from its ability to do federated search, or looking through multiple information repositories simultaneously, even if they are in a company server or the cloud.

Federated governance means customers can apply policies, rules, and laws to content in external repositories by its value and view it in context alongside that which they store in M-Files.

The solution offers two levels of federated content: managed and unmanaged. This acknowledges that not all information needs to receive the same levels of governance.

M-Files’ portals enhance its federated approach, providing unrivalled visibility to customers and their clients.

08 | Connect Structured and Unstructured Data

Metadata allows M-Files to connect structured data, which is organized and easy to analyze, and unstructured content such as text files, images, or email.

Market researchers IDC have said that unstructured information accounts for an estimated 80 to 90 percent of the digital data universe. Historically, there has been little in tools and technologies for extracting business value from it, according to CIO, a publication IDC owns.

Some examples of ways that intelligent data management can make sense of unstructured data include:

Discovery of business-critical data, separating it from clutter to manage it properly

Using natural language processing to understand language in context and extract valuable insights

Pattern recognition processing can identify objects, people or animals in graphics and videos

Speech-to-text processing can convert information from audio files into searchable text

09 | Select the Right Deployment

Enterprises may have different storage requirements for different kinds of data. Cloud storage can be flexible and cost effective for typical information, but sensitive content can require on-premises or hybrid cloud approaches.

The choice should come down to what the organization needs, not the limits that some software can impose. An information management system must be flexible enough to work with any storage solution and to integrate with other repositories.

10 | Ensure the Information Management Strategy Can Grow

Data management systems must be able to handle fast growing amounts of information, but they also need to meet changing business requirements, from project management and audits to training.

As Covid showed, disruptions can test collaboration technologies. The right tools should provide capabilities like co-authoring, version control and the ability to exchange sensitive data with enterprise-grade security.

Systems need to talk to other technologies without hiccups, even if the people using them are in different countries.

How M-Files helps organizations follow best practices for hybrid work

M-Files enables hybrid arrangements by solving more problems than other document management systems can. Its federated search and governance make it easy to find and control data in any repository, all through an intuitive interface.

Beyond enabling employees to access, change and track documents, it reduces mistakes through features like version control. AI and other advanced technologies extract value from unstructured data like videos and email, while automated workflows keep work moving and create audit trails to easily comply with requests from clients or regulators.

Besides offering access anywhere on any device, M-Files has certified security to protect key information. The system makes it easy to comply with governance policies or regulations by enabling security administrators to set up sophisticated rules for keeping data away from unauthorized parties.

The platform empowers hybrid workforces while improving productivity, reducing waste and providing a best-in-class experience for everyone who uses it.

Little wonder that thousands of organizations in more than 100 countries, use M-Files.
For more information on how we can help your organisation please email: or visit

Peter Ellyard

Having spent over 20 years immersed in the document management software industry I have found that by offering a simple to use, highly effective electronic document management solution (knowledge management software) we increase productivity dramatically. Typically by an hour per person, per day! This is not rocket science, just a simple way to streamline your day to day information needs.