There was a time when all important company information was on a shelf or in a file cabinet. Well organized companies could be fairly satisfied that people could find legal documents in the legal department and accounting files in the accounting department. And with photocopiers and overnight delivery services, documents could even be shared. When the department appointed a czar to manage their stash of documents, it all seemed to work even better.
But we all know how the story ends. The czar retired, the company bought four other companies, people forgot the alphabet and this new-fangled computer thing arrived. Then people weren’t so happy. Documents weren’t easy to find. However, with email and the internet, documents did become easier to create and share, a bright spot. So no, file rooms are not making a comeback, not really in a physical sense.
What worked in that old process is the czar made sure that the final signed copy, the “record copy”, was where it was supposed to be. Even if there wasn’t a czar, basic company procedures routed final documents to the shelf or cabinet. Not perfect but mostly good. Nobody worried about the drafts that were typed up or even the supporting information. That information was the domain of the producer and the producers team. If the producer was well organized, then even this supporting information was readily available.
What didn’t work in that old process isn’t that there wasn’t a czar or the producer isn’t that organized. The problem is that there was no longer a designated place for the “record” copy. Everything is digital now so file, aka document, storage is all comingled. Dozens of drafts and many other files clutter the same folder as the final version. Sure, we all know the solution – Documentname-final.pdf or wait, maybe its documentname-final-final.pdf, shoot, I’m not sure.
Ok, it’s definitely better now that we don’t have to use a typewriter or photocopy and overnight documents. Yes, it’s better now that these files are accessible while I work from home. Yes, workflow can help designate the final version. But think about the one part of the old way that still makes sense – keep your final versions separate from the producers working files – a system of record. You can easily go one step further and appoint a literal or virtual czar over your system of record archive. Simple but effective. And compliant. And secure. And easy to back up. And easy to find. And share with auditors. And on and on.