As your business continues to grow and evolve over time in line with the changing needs of your customers, so too will the way in which you need to manage, store and share information internally. How many times have you asked a colleague where a certain file is stored and they tell you “It’s on the shared drive!”. They usually vanish before you can ask the obvious follow up question “Okay but where?”.
If this is happening in your workplace it could be the result of numerous factors. For example:
- Lack of training and awareness in relation to company expectations, rules and guidelines for storage of documentation and files on individual and group platforms
- Lack of staff engagement and morale which can lead to an absence of a ‘duty of care’ when it comes to correct, efficient and professional information storage procedures and practices
- Staff being provided with an overload of information on a regular basis which can result in short sighted solutions for placement of documents and files on individual computers (C drive)
- Quality management and procedural control not being enough of a focus and priority for management which can result in disorganised files, poor folder creation and ineffective document storage activities permeating throughout the company
- There may not be a dedicated role in place which focuses on the maintenance and consistency of documents and files across the company, resulting in the vast amount of content being created each day to be stored sporadically and randomly.
With the proliferation of folders within company file shares, it is likely that team members will recreate content if they can’t find it. This typically becomes a problem when a staff member leaves your organisation, especially when this happens unexpectedly. Where are those files they were working on? Where is that important information which he saved on his laptop? Has the file vanished from existence completely? Maybe those files are on a flash drive in the drawer of his desk? Can someone check to see if it’s there?
Do these questions sound familiar to you?
In the world of the file share, your staff will create folders if they can’t find an appropriate one. With the vast amount of content that is created every day, it is unlikely that your staff can find the right locations to store their information. Humans crave structure, whether they like to admit it or not, in some form or the other. It provides purpose and security and belonging. This is the same for document and file storage as well.
The easiest and most effective way that you can introduce, reinforce and maintain a culture which values and practices the art of effective document management is to develop and communicate a “one company” approach in this regard. Furthermore, this needs to be supported by individual accountability for each staff member to diligently follow the company’s articulated approach. There is no better way to make this important than to measure each staff member’s performance on this basis as a key performance objective. As the adage goes, what’s measured is what matters!
So, you may be wondering what are some simple tips and hints to get started on your company’s journey towards effective and sustainable information management. If you do nothing else initially, FiveP recommend you considering the following non-negotiables:
- Avoid succumbing to the principle of “This is complicated so I’ll look into it another time”. There is no better time than the present to focus on this critical business activity. The longer you leave this, the more files and documents have the potential to be lost into the abyss of the personal drive on someone’s computer
- Establish folders which are easily understood and recognisable by all staff members. A folder that’s not labelled properly or is in the wrong place is just as bad, if not worse, than files placed randomly on your computer
- Ensure there is a common platform and destination for all shared files so that staff members don’t have any issues locating whatever they need at any given moment in time. Every minute spent looking for a file on the shared drive is a minute of lost productivity. This can really add up over time if a common problem across your company
- Organise your files by category that make sense to your staff. This may be via customer segmentation and common information files. As long as it is logical and is easily understood by your staff then it’s fit for purpose
- Engage your staff in the process of establishing an effective shared drive set up. Your staff know better than anyone the files they need to access and how documents need to be stored so don’t be afraid to consult with them and ask for their views. What better way for staff to feel engaged than making their voices heard and listened to
- Organise files by date to ensure that documents can be easily tracked and located, especially when an individual staff member or team are working on a long-term and / or core project
- Be careful not to create too many subfolders! This is a common trap which many companies fall into. Establishing neat and clean directories but when you click further there are a whole bunch of random subfolders which have been established
- Be short and clear when naming your files and folders. Make them easily understood and have consistency in your naming protocols
- Be mindful of duplications of files and folders being established over time
- Establish some centralised accountability for regular and continuous review and monitoring of file and document structures. This is quality management 101.
With the right level of focus, discipline and care, your company can embrace a simple yet effective approach to storing and managing data. Keep it simple!