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Digital Document Organization – Got Folders?

This post expands on a previous post, but the topic is important, so here you go. Does your company store all of its digital documents in folders on a shared network drive or in static SharePoint folders? If the filing method is by folder, how was that folder structure designed? What are the rules for creating new folders or changing the names of existing folders? Are there any requirements before a file can be saved to a particular folder? How is security managed across the folders? Why all the questions?
These are important questions when your company is trying to figure out how to be profitable and grow based on a critical business asset – Information. After all, if your employees cannot find the information that they are looking for, the business is likely in serious trouble. Given those goals and the explosion of digital documents, how are companies designing these file storing structures? Is a folder based method the preferred method? Designing the structure can involve the assistance of a records manager or library sciences professional that have a background in taxonomy (a scheme of organization) and records management. These professionals can help look at the types of documents and information being used and generate a logical storing and naming scheme. Some common high level organization methods use a structure based on department, functional area or document type. Other methods involve storage by project, job, employee, property, patient, etc. Most likely the end result will involve some mixture of these methods. A document management professional can also help look at the current filing methods to see what is working and what is not working. Interviews with all of the departments will usually dig up the problems. Sometimes the problems are plainly obvious when looking at the randomness of the folders on the network. Sometimes the issues aren’t problems as much as lost opportunities. Keep in mind that a nice neat filing structure is not the ultimate success. The ability to have information provided dynamically or proactively is just as important. That ability requires intelligent folders or no folders at all, as in the case of database driven document management system. It is more effort to classify a document before it is approved for filing, but the end result far outweighs that effort. Think of it this way. The extra time for one person to properly classify one document is far outweighed by the value of that same document being instantly available to many users across multiple departments. As an example, think of the new customer contract, it is used by sales, accounting, customer service, audit and the legal department. Storing documents in network folders is not optimal due to the limitations mentioned above. Look at a database driven document management system for superior information access or at least use intelligent folders. The end result of the effort to convert will be quickly realized and very likely lead to an explosion of opportunities to improve your business.

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