Restructuring Your Electronic Filing System

by Laura Yoshitani, Consultant with Catalyst Consulting Group, LLC

Are your company’s electronic files in a state of chaos? Do you groan at the thought of trying to find a specific document on your shared network? If so, you’re not alone. When fully implemented, a restructured electronic filing system increases knowledge sharing, gives users faster access to information, and encourages more collaboration across offices.

 

One of Catalyst’s clients had implemented new technology that allowed their five offices to access files from a common network. However, collaboration across offices had not improved because the file structure was not organized to take full advantage of the network. Electronic folders were still managed by each local office, resulting in a haphazard structure with duplicate and outdated files with inconsistent naming conventions. Catalyst researched best practices for organizing a shared network for the client’s industry and recommended changes to the their electronic folder structure that enhanced information sharing and data integrity.

 

Below are some do’s and don’ts for organizing electronic folders into a meaningful structure. Such a structure can reduce search time, shorten document names, and help create a culture of information sharing.

 

Electronic Filing System Do’s:

1. Create an electronic folder structure that facilitates the culture you want to achieve.

Our client wanted to increase collaboration among the five offices, so we recommended eliminating the use of a separate electronic folder for each location. Main-level folders were changed to reflect work categories common to all locations.

 

2. Limit the number of folders to a critical few, especially at the highest level. Think in broad categories:

  • Policies
  • Customer Service
  • Human Resources
  • Technology

 

3. Folder titles should describe the contents of the folder in meaningful terms commonly used in your organization.

For example, folders could be named after your company service or product lines.

 

4. Use a hierarchy of folders that starts broad and gets more specific.

This will give staff fewer main folders to sort through:

  • Employee Resources
    • Benefits
      • Insurance
      • Retirement
      • Vacation

5. Create folders that will persist over time.

Names of folders should make sense to all users now and in the future, not just the current folder creator. Use titles that are clear but not so specific that they will become outdated.

 

Electronic Filing System Don’t’s:

1. Don’t allow staff to create a random folder structure.

A filing system’s structure should follow a standardized protocol; otherwise, folders will help individuals rather than the whole organization.

 

2. Don’t allow staff to create catch-all folders.

Folders with names like “Miscellaneous” or “Other” are vague and will confuse users.

 

3. Avoid naming folders or sub-folders after people.

Instead, use subjects, department, or job titles.

 

4. Don’t use acronyms or proper names.

This information may become obsolete and confuse future users.

 

To learn more about how restructuring your electronic filing system can improve your organization’s productivity, contact the experts at Catalyst Consulting Group.

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