I am going to go out on a limb and say that most companies, outside of highly regulated industries, use a combination of shared network folders and individual user folders on the network to store and manage files like spreadsheets, Word files, scanned documents, reports and presentations. The companies that have moved away from that approach may have adopted SharePoint, Google Documents or Box. The beauty of all of these approaches to file management is that it is easy to create a filing structure and it is easy to add new files. Users can copy, paste, add and cut their way to nirvana. For a while, it is nirvana. But at some point, it turns into a confusing mess that is impacting efficiency and potentially putting the company at risk.
You may have noticed that in your company or possibly in your own family, not everyone has the same idea about organizational structure. This fact of life inherently results in a filing system that doesn’t look anything like the original plan. Throw into the mix a continuous stream of new employees bringing methods from other companies or no method at all. Don’t forget users that make copies of shared folders and files for their own use and then they tuck those folders away for safe keeping. Add into the challenges the ingesting of a filing structure from an acquisition. These circumstances generally do not result in an optimal structure and it is certainly not nirvana.
So while the accumulation of all these files may have been easy, using and finding the right file and the correct information when you need it is now harder than ever and maybe even impossible. The solution?
The solution actually involves two parts. First, the existing collection of files needs to be cleaned up, re-organized and possibly migrated to a document system. Yes, that is correct and yes that will require an initial investment in time, money and effort. The second step is to implement some controls to prevent the situation from occurring again. These controls can be a combination of documented rules and procedures, digital workflow tools that force rules to be followed and a document management and imaging system that imposes a minimum set of required information for all new files added or generated.
The rules don’t have to be draconian and the required information per file can be relatively minimal and you will still have a significant improvement. These steps will improve employee efficiency and company profitability as employees no longer have to spend hours trying to find the right file. When the right information is accessible quickly, decision making is better and the risk of mistakes or decisions based on incomplete information is reduced. That is starting to sound like nirvana.
If your company has a shared drive that is only sharing headaches, please contact us. We have helped many companies get to a better place.