Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Losing Electronic Documents? You’ve Got to Be Kidding!

By Nathan Khani, CloudDocs Solution Specialist

A report in USA Today (May 18, 2011) included this shocking finding: “The average worker wastes 2.5 hours per week looking for documents missing in poorly organized electronic files.” Wait a minute. I thought that electronic filing systems were supposed to solve the problem of losing files. Now we learn that even a small office of, say, five people wastes more than a day and a half of productivity each week looking for electronically filed documents. What gives?

Here’s my thought. Electronic filing systems do not inherently solve the problem of finding files if they allow for disorganized filing methods. Worse, some document management systems actually encourage poor document filing practices. Wasted time is either a direct result of the disorganized use of electronic filing, or of electronic filing systems that are prone to disorganization.

What do I mean by disorganized electronic filing? This. If you use an electronic filing system much the same way you use a paper filing system, you will experience the same challenges in finding documents. Filing systems based on Folders, file names, keywords, and text searches are simply not optimized for finding documents quickly. Such systems rely too much on ad hoc naming conventions, free-form keywords, and knowledge of filing method best practices.

When it comes to storing and finding documents, too much flexibility and freedom can lead directly to disorganization. File management systems also depend too much on where a document is stored rather than on characteristics that make a document findable. Look. We’re not talking about storing your photos, videos, favorite recipes, old high school English papers, or music. We’re talking about documents you use to run your business. The fact is that good electronic document management requires good old fashioned standards, a bit of departmental discipline, and a document management solution that encourages and supports both.

That’s why it’s important for an organization to used electronic business document management solutions that are designed to relieve you of the burden of organizing documents by folder and file name. Such solutions are often called “structured” document management solutions, and they utilize index data to find stored documents in a way that is predictable and fast. In a structured document management system you can literally scan or upload a document, index it (manually or automatically), and forget about it until it’s time to find it or use it as part of a business process or workflow. Then, by using one or more configurable, standardized index fields, you can almost instantly find the document or documents you need. Such systems reduce the complexity of filing and (almost) guarantee that you can find the documents you need when you need them.

We would love to hear any tips or advice you may have regarding organizing your electronic files. Please share your thoughts below!

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