Just hearing the term makes many of us cringe. File Management. A misleading and unassumingly complex term, file management is more about retrieving than it is storage. Many small businesses leave a little to be desired when it comes to the 'management' end.
While (like all things in running small businesses) there is no one-size-fits-all plan, there are ways to make file management less painful. Depending on the nature of your company, you may need large digital file storing solutions. On the other hand, if your practice is all about paper, an old fashioned trip to and office supply store is a good starting point. Color coding is a good key for in-hand filing systems, while digital- though much more portable- can be a bit trickier.
Investing in some good software is a great step for companies with large files and lengthy project terms. If your company is much smaller, or on a strict start-up budget, free cloud filing like Google Docs, Apple iCloud, or Dropbox can be a good option. Be sure you understand the security risks if you have any confidential information (like payment information, health info, or other client documentation you keep on file).
Whether you utilize cloud storage or have invested in software or a physical server, you and your team should invest a few hours into discussion to determine some good structure from the beginning. The best option no matter your structure? Consistency! Creating a blank "project folder" with subfolders and any forms you need in each can be a great time saver. Remember- file management is about retrieval, so be sure to keep info you need at a glance in a top level folder. If you bury frequently used documents in subfolder after subfolder, your 'management' system becomes more of a burden than benefit. Think more along the lines of 'display case' than 'warehouse' when it comes to digital files- minimalistic, one of its kind always in one place, and store supplemental info elsewhere (like on your personal computer if only used by you).
Be sure everyone on your team has a fair say in what folders and templates they need easy access to. If your company is project based, utilize project codes or numbers that are easy to formulate or remember, such as:
- year + first three letters of the project name- store by year and then alphabetically [ie- 2014-VER]
- year + project code letter + first three letters [ie- 2014L-VER for logo design & project]
If your company is service based (preforms the same project for each client), consider creating "step folders". If 'step one' is signing a new contract, create folders titled '1. Contract 2. Client InfoSheets', etc. A 'master folder' containing each step can be set up with blank folders, then copied, renamed, and ready to be used.
Although seemingly tedious and incredibly boring, file management should be a system that serves your company. If you find yours hindering your operations, it's time to put some serious consideration and efforts towards inventing and investing in a new system that works better.
At the forefront of all your efforts to streamline file management should be the notion that file management is about retrieval, not storage.
If you're looking for a little storage help, consider contacting your computer tech or IT professional. For more information, ideas and tips on how to streamline all your company's processes, get in touch with FIVE:thirty.
A team of nerds that lives for organization and management is just another component of how we're consulting with care.