This article is one of a four-part series presenting real world use cases of information management solutions like M-Files. Check out the other three here:
- Sharing Information and Documents with Customers
- Route and Sign Documents Electronically
- Identifying Internal Breaches
At its core, the concept behind the Four Eyes principle is a simple one — it’s simply a matter of getting two different people to approve some type of action before it can be taken. You’ve no doubt heard the old saying of “two heads are better than one.” This is simply the same concept, applied to the larger world of business.
The Four Eyes principle is something that you see play out in a wide range of industries. In the legal profession, for example, many documents require two signatures for verification instead of one. In a retail environment, there may be a requirement to have at least two people unloading a truck or stocking shelves at the same time in an effort to reduce the risk of injury or theft. Even some data management systems require two people to approve updates to documents before those changes are committed to the data.
Regardless, what you’re really trying to do is increase accountability across the board. A second person might catch an error or other type of issue with a document that the first one missed.
Of course, in some environments, this is a lot easier said than done — particularly in those where data is spread out in a lot of different repositories and leaders may lack basic visibility into what is being stored where, when, and how. If you’re not actually sure where the most recent version of a document exists, it’s hard to get one person to sign off on it or review it — let alone two.
Thankfully, there is a solution that can allow you to leverage the full benefits of the Four Eyes principle to your advantage. A simple workflow process in an information management system like M-Files can not only make this easier than ever, but simple and efficient at the exact same time.
The Four Eyes Principle and M-Files: A Match Made in Heaven
Consider the Four Eyes principle within the context of a professional services firm, where two different people need to review the same document before it makes its way into the hands of a client. Here, this protocol provides a level of quality control on all client deliverables — not to mention a series of checks and balances to make sure that important items are getting out the door on-time.
If for just one example, a firm has finalized an updated corporate tax return for a client, it will obviously need to be reviewed by at least two people — the accountant that prepared it and the client’s account manager.
With an information management solution like M-Files, you don’t necessarily need these two people to be in constant communication with one another because the system is designed to handle every step of the process. As soon as that corporate tax return is completed, that information automatically gets assigned to a workflow that instantly notifies the reviewing parties. This happens regardless of where the information is stored or in which data repository it may exist. M-Files connects disparate repositories, creating a single source of truth for information across a business.
At that point, all collaborators can then co-author the document and add notes for further changes. Only once everything is formally approved by all key stakeholders will the document be authorized as a client deliverable. This helps make sure that only the best quality version of the document makes its way to the client, thus improving their experience and avoiding unnecessary delays as well.
Without getting too in the weeds, four-eye approval workflows can be configured however the company prefers.
Consecutive, Down-the-Line Approval. One such configuration is a consecutive approval workflow, where the document flows to the first approver and then on to the second afterward.
Concurrent, Parallel Approval. Another option has review and approval done concurrently, and after both have completed their review, the document process is complete.
The configuration is completely up to the user. Either way, this type of workflow automation is a great way to create an audit trail of advisory deliverables to track who made what changes, when, and why. If anything about the document comes into question in the future, you can always see who made which revisions and get insight into what their justifications were. This isn’t just helpful for tracking the overall status of documents as they make their way around your business — it’s also absolutely essential for compliance and even legal reasons, as well.
Generally speaking, the organizations that tend to have a difficult time successfully implementing the Four Eyes principle are ones that don’t really have control over their data in the first place. They tend to lack a way to really track the progress of documents that are in play, creating a situation where two different people may be working from different versions of a document — causing unnecessary errors along the way.
The right information management system like M-Files, on the other hand, is built to keep these types of situations from happening. M-Files can help break down those data silos so that communication and collaboration are easier than ever before. This in turn creates the most important benefit of all: a situation where the Four Eyes principle is executed quickly and seamlessly.