Updated July 2021
The way we work is changing, and digital documentation is a vital part of that evolution. From virtual meetings to sales pitches, how we share information today is almost as important as the information itself. And that has led to some amazing innovations in document sharing software.
These innovations present businesses with a ton of advantages and opportunities to improve their workflow. And in this article we’re going to look at seven of the most exciting ones.
But before we get into that, let’s explore exactly why document sharing has evolved:
Five Reasons Document Sharing Is Changing
1. Businesses are more aware of the benefits
The ‘digital workplace’ has been talked about for years. Yet realising it has proved extremely challenging for most organisations. Most have only dabbled so far, slowly getting their workforces used to the notion of ‘going paperless’. But as they fully embrace the concept, demand for sophisticated solutions is growing.
From saving on printing to sealing deals faster with digital signatures, businesses are waking up to the benefits of digital-first documentation. And with that comes the need to share those documents more quickly, more securely and more easily.
2. B2B deals have become more complex
As Gartner shows, the typical B2B buyer team has increased in recent years; now they average between 6-10 people. But this isn’t the only change: there is a greater emphasis on digital content and self-directed research, and the process has become far more complex and nonlinear, with decision makers circling back to earlier stages in the buyer journey more frequently.
The upshot is B2B sales teams have a far greater range of document sharing needs, as understanding their prospects becomes more difficult and their content becomes more important.
3. Remote working is the new normal
During the pandemic, remote working has been enforced on workers across the globe: in the USA, the number of people working remote went from 5% to 60% in just a few months. But as restrictions lift and offices reopen, experts expect remote working to remain a permanent fixture.
Along with the increase in remote working will come a broader expansion of workplace flexibility: more complex teams, a greater concentration of contingent workers and an increased emphasis on the ‘digital workplace’. All of which points to a need for more sophisticated document sharing capabilities, so that teams can operate without the friction traditional solutions have created.
4. Security is on everyone’s mind
While security has always been essential, recent years have seen awareness of the risks of online file sharing increase dramatically. Cybercrime has reportedly risen 600% during COVID-19. And file sharing services are a common tool for phishing scams and credential theft.
But security is not just about IT – it’s about usability, too. Making secure file transfers should be simple, and even highly sophisticated security options should be intuitive for team members without technical backgrounds.
5. The big players have failed to innovate
For about a decade, a handful of brands have dominated document sharing. But as tends to be the case, this has led to a certain amount of stagnation. Much of this is to do with a basic assumption: that document sharing had reached its limits, both technically and in terms of what users would want to be able to do.
The reality, however, is the first few decades of online file sharing has just been the beginning. As we’ll see, the possibilities for improved user-experience and document optimisation are numerous. And as a new crop of platforms begins to innovate, unlocking these possibilities, the existing big players too will be forced to adapt or die.
…And now for Seven Absurdly Useful Features of the Future of Document Sharing:
The Technical Stuff
Digital document sharing has come a long way since its inception in the 1980s. Yet most popular platforms still present a number of technical challenges today, making integration, security and usability perpetual issues for businesses.
These legacy solutions have dominated document sharing for many years. But as they are usurped by more innovative challenger platforms, we will see some huge technical improvements:
1. Seamless file conversion
Let’s be real: the average worker doesn’t know the difference between different files types; most think CSV is a TV station. And that’s totally fair enough. Why the heck would they be across this nerdy stuff? The only thing is, file type does matter: it impacts the size, shareability and quality of your documents.
As teams rely more on digital documentation, this problem is exacerbated – causing all kinds of problems for IT. Plenty of employees will download unvetted, potentially harmful conversion softwares. And even relatively simple processes – like converting Docx to PDF – will take up time and slow down collaboration.
Increasingly, software automatically enables file conversion and combination. Without any specialised conversion software or technical knowledge, workers can input their document – whether it’s a sales deck, a contract or a spreadsheet – and get exactly the file type they need.
File conversion used to be time-consuming and technical, but modern document sharing software makes it seamless and speedy.
2. Integration made easy
As digital documentation has evolved, the number of platforms and programs related to collaboration and sharing documents has grown enormously. The average organisation will use several of these, but that creates a technical challenge.
See, not all platforms, programs and file formats can be easily used together. In some cases, it’s down to a technical oversight; in others, it’s a strategic decision made by a platform not to allow integration with its competitors.
Regardless of the reason, the difficulty of integrating business softwares gives IT a headache. But it also slows down the workflow, frustrates individual workers and makes teams less productive.
More and more platforms are enabling integration with important adjacent platforms, such as CRMs and video conferencing apps. But that isn’t the end of it: they’re also removing technical hurdles, so that integration is as simple as the click of a button.
Getting different programs to make nice used to be tough. But today, integrating platforms is not only easy and efficient – it requires very little technical know-how.
3. Personalised document security
The average organisation shares documents with 826 external domains, including business partners and personal addresses. And while link sharing is not inherently damaging, it creates all sorts of privacy and security risks – especially when sharing documents that contain sensitive information.
The majority of employees do not have the time or technical knowledge to fully consider the security risks they create when sharing a document; they tend simply to trust the recognisable brand names that provide their document sharing software.
Security risks don’t always flag in the way we imagine they will: 92% of companies have their credentials for sale in some capacity on the dark web, in large part thanks to thoughtless file sharing. But few will realise this until much later.
As cloud-based solutions mature, security is becoming more complex – yet more user-friendly. Encrypting documents with a password and creating personalised security measures is now as simple as uploading the file. So employees don’t have to learn a whole new set of skills to keep their documents safe.
Secure file transferring is vital in tons of industries, and software companies are making it easier and easier for the average employee to keep their documents secure.
Improving Your Workflow
According to research from Perforce, 83% of people who use computers to work lose time every day because of difficulties with document sharing: 73% waste time looking for files; 57% are confused as to which is the right document; 48% email the wrong version to their colleagues; and 47% end up working on the wrong version.
But this will soon be a thing of the past. With cutting-edge document sharing platforms, you will be able to radically streamline your workflow and find tons of unexpected efficiency gains:
4. Open alerts
There’s nothing worse than uncertainty, and sharing files can produce a lot of it. With most document sharing solutions, you could send a link today and not be sure whether it has actually been received until next week. For managers, this makes syncing your people’s workflows more difficult; for workers, it produces stress and miscommunication; and for sales teams, it creates an extra level of tension and uncertainty.
Documents and links can be tagged and tracked without compromising security. This enables Open Alerts, which tell you in real-time when a document has been opened – enabling a smoother collaboration and taking some of the uncertainty out of the sales process.
With the right link sharing platform, you can now receive a notification when a recipient opens your document – so there’s no more second-guessing whether it actually sent.
5. Intuitive document organisation
Collaborating using cloud-based apps is efficient, but that’s all for nothing if you can’t find the document you need. Legacy solutions enable you to organise your documents, but their interfaces are generally not very intuitive and it’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth of folders and sub-folders.
Ultimately, teams waste time searching for files and checking that they’re using the right version – which totally undermines the whole point of agile, digital collaboration. And as confusion over documentation grows, collaboration becomes harder and less appealing.
Cutting-edge solutions provide consumer-grade experiences. That means organising, sorting and filtering your digital documents is now intuitive and easy. You can also attach custom status and tags to files, making sorting quicker and simpler.
Organising your digital documentation is getting easier and more user-friendly.
Historically, making your documents more engaging and effective has been a matter of guesswork. From sales decks to internal stakeholder documents, improvements were made by writers and designers based on little more than their intuition.
Increasingly though, document sharing platforms are providing real, actionable data on how users interact with your documents. And that data enables you to unlock new levels of impact in your collateral:
6. Read time tracking
When a link is shared, it is fundamentally out of the sender’s hands. We don’t know whether the recipient has even opened it, let alone whether they are fully engaging with it. And that means all sorts of issues with the document may go unaddressed.
From clarifying your message to removing unnecessary information, organisations are at the mercy of feedback – and that feedback can’t always be trusted. Few recipients will outright tell you they skim-read most of the document, or that they couldn’t really follow the logic of your proposal.
Organisations are being given the power to see exactly how people interact with their documents. By tracking read time, you can see which pages hold people’s attention and which they skip – enabling you to alter and optimise your documents to create more compelling and persuasive collateral.
Sizle enables you to track how long users spend looking at each page of your document – generating vital data to help you improve your documents.
7. User analytics
Whether you’re a sales team prospecting or a growing business looking to secure investment, generating analytics is essential: it helps you sharpen your approach, strategise for a follow up and target your messaging to specific individuals.
Sharing a document is not the end of the journey: the recipient may pass it onto colleagues, refer back to it at later points or any number of things. But traditional document sharing platforms offer zero visibility of any of this activity.
Teams are able to see real-time analytics on their document recipients: from how often they open the document to the number of email ‘clicks’. This provides insight into not just the document but the recipients themselves – so that teams can better understand their prospects and adapt accordingly.
Sizle generates real-time user analytics, showing you who is reading your document and how they interact with it.
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