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1 Email Attachment = 31 Different Documents (and a Version-Control Nightmare)

When I joined the team and was first exposed to the M-Files solution, I was genuinely amazed at how it made working simpler. Like most, I was used to managing information in traditional file folders on my laptop, sometimes backed up to some cloud service. I didn’t know any better.

But what amazed me most wasn’t really the super-technical aspects of M-Files — the razzle-dazzle of the Intelligent Metadata Layer or the jargon around high-availability and fast recovery offered by geographically-distributed data centers. While those things are remarkable in their own right, what really made M-Files cool for me was the everyday user experience — how M-Files just made working easier.

One of the things I liked most? No more email attachments. I could just send the link to a document in a few clicks. It’s a simple thing really, but the implications are far-reaching. Email attachments are an inept way to manage documents. Not only that, but attachments can be downright harmful to a project. Don’t believe me? Humor me and let’s play a scenario through.

CEO Jessica is preparing an important 2019 business plan to present to the Board of Directors. She emails it as an attachment to each of the five business unit Vice-Presidents and asks them to review and edit sections relating to their business unit. Each VP makes their changes and forwards the attachment to the five Directors working underneath them and asks them to weigh in on details pertinent to their roles. Not a terribly uncommon scenario.

A few days later, it’s crunch time for Jessica to finalize the business plan for the board meeting. What does she find in her inbox? 30 completely different marked-up and edited versions of her original document — one from each VP and 25 more from all the Directors underneath them. What a nightmare.

Again, email attachments are just a bad way of handling documents. They create easily-avoidable inefficiencies. The three most common are:

Version control delays. Jessica’s business plan will have 31 different iterations. This creates a ton of work in poring through those versions and parsing the different edits into one document. Not only that, but those team members may at some point be viewing an outdated version. Let the games begin.

Disorganized approval processes. Let’s say Jessica doesn’t need edits to the plan but just an approval. She sends the attachment to the VPs and Directors and asks for a reply with the word Approved. What now? She must keep track of who out of the 30 approvers hasn’t replied, chase them down with follow-up emails to those that haven’t approved it, and monitor return attachments for any changes suggested prior to approval.

Confidentiality issues. Email attachments are duplicates — uncontrolled duplicates at that. After Jessica has sent the attachment, it exists in an environment outside of her control and can be edited and forwarded without her oversight. And what if she accidentally sends the email attachment to an unintended recipient? She has no access control.

So, what’s the new paradigm if not email attachments?

If Jessica had an enterprise content management (ECM) system like M-Files, she’d have much more control over versions, recipients and all document activity. The business plan task would be a hundred times easier for everyone. With M-Files, she could:

  • Share the document with a link to the one unified version, rather than an attachment which spins off 30 different versions. From there, content stakeholders could check the document out, make changes or comments and check it back in for the next person, effectively enforcing the “one document to rule them all” process.
  • Control who can access the document and who can edit it. She can add, remove or suspend access to the document if the stakeholder group changes.
  • Monitor quickly which recipients have accessed the document and who hasn’t yet completed the assignment.
  • Request sign-off in the form of a simple assignment workflow where users mark the document as completed.
  • Inspect the entire document history — version changes, who touched it and when, what edits were made.

When it comes to sending file attachments, people suffer from scotoma. What is that, you ask? Scotoma is a vision problem where there’s a blind spot in an otherwise normal visual field. Essentially, with email attachments, most people don’t know any other way. They don’t even realize there’s a better way and that’s a terrible blind spot for how people and organizations manage their information.

7 Simple Reasons Why You Should Use M-Files to Email Files

  1. Easy to send larger files
  2. No more errant, rogue versions of the same document exist
  3. Avoid the “Oops forgot to attach the file” follow-up email
  4. Added value of straightforward document review, edit and approval capabilities
  5. Custom permissions access
  6. Avoid the “Oh $#!%” moment of sending a sensitive document to the wrong recipient
  7. Mobile-friendly

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