5 steps to improving your company’s digital filing system

Companies can waste a lot of time on admin, and in today’s fast-paced office environments, it is crucial to save time when processing documents, and here are 5 steps to improving your company’s digital filing system that will help you do just that.

Making changes to your current inefficient processes is achievable, and will ensure that you keep your clients satisfied and your business remains competitive.

You want a filing system that will:

  • Reduce your organization’s dependence on physical paper documentation
  • Make the best use of digital resources
  • Manage, distribute and store digital files
  • Save time
  • Be clear and easy to use

Benefits of using a digital filing system

Some of the benefits of using a digital filing system over a paper filing system include:

  • Instant file retrieval

If you want to pull up the entire folder for a specific client or employee, you don’t have to rummage through your filing cabinet; you just have to enter their name into the system. And there you will have it – their file at your fingertips.

  • Improved security and compliance

You need to ensure that your documents are kept secure and protected.  This can be from file corruption, flooding, fire etc.  You definitely want to make sure that your business critical documents will be stored safely.

  • Save paper and money

You get to save the environment as well as your pocket by storing the documents on your computer rather than printing them out.  You save time as well, especially when you need to find the document later.

Read more benefits of a paperless office here:

The truth about electronic document management and the paperless office

How to organize your files

You need to create a folder structure that reflects your business, and how your employees work.

You want to ensure that your electronic files are stored in an organized structure, with thought and logic behind it.  What you don’t want is to store all of your documents in a single folder, which is similar to storing all paper documents in one file cabinet drawer, with no hanging files to categorize them.  Not only is this a mess, it takes time finding what you need.

The best file structure would be easy to use and intuitive to everyone who is looking for a file.  So it should work for everyone in your organization, not just the person creating it.

The ideal file structure would be created in a logical hierarchy that can store all files that are easy to find.

Where to store your documents

The best place to store your documents would be in a shared location.  You want other people in your company to find and use these documents.  So you need to save your files on a service, network drive or possibly in a cloud account.

Another great thing about a shared location is that it is on the server or network drive, and the IT department will back up these drives.  So your documents will be safe.  They won’t necessarily back up your C drive.

Create the digital filing system

Before you can have all of your files stored electronically in an organized fashion, you want to first think about how you are going to group the documents you deal with on a regular basis.  You want to first put these documents into categories.

Categorise

Define what categories to use that will make sense for your business, and how it is organized.

You could group your files by:

  • Customer – create individual folders for each customer
  • Product –organize your folders by the products your business sells
  • Department – such as HR, IT, Finance and Marketing

Naming conventions

You should name your files in a clear and understandable way for easy identification.  Use descriptive file names so someone doesn’t have to guess what is in the file.  Some tips on naming your files:

  • Keep it short
  • Use underscores or dashes rather than spaces
  • If using dates, keep to a consistent date format like YYMMDD, this way the dates, and files remain in chronological order

Use subfolders

Make use of subfolders to keep your many documents organized.  Subfolders help create logical groups within your categories.  For example in a Client folder you can have subfolders for each client, and then a folder within this for contracts and projects.  When the number of documents within a folder goes past the length of your screen, you might want to create another subfolder.

Create subfolders for different versions

Finding the correct version of a document can be tricky.  Use a Final folder for completed documents.  Place work in progress in a Draft folder and old work in an Archive folder.

Add metadata

Metadata is data describing context, content and structure of documents. With each document you can add-in metadata which includes words and properties to a document to help search for it in the future.  This is generally found in the properties of the document.

All that needs to happen now is you need to begin.  Hopefully you don’t have a huge pile of documents to wade through before creating your electronic hierarchy.

Other things to consider adding to your digital filing system

  • If you are still receiving documents in hard copy, you can scan them in.
    This means you might need a scanner, or alternatively, you can use your smartphone to make copies of your receipts and other documents you want to be stored electronically.
  • It would be a good idea to use your email folders to facilitate your electronic filing.
    Set up folders in your inbox to correspond with your file categories to make it easy to drag and drop from your email into the appropriate folder.

    Get into a routine of dealing with your documents when they arrive in your inbox.  You don’t want to get into a situation when you have 100s of emails to sort through.  So when the email arrives, move it to relevant folder straight away.

  • Encrypt sensitive files.
    You might want to encrypt any sensitive information that you wouldn’t want anyone getting their hands on.  So if your computer is stolen your sensitive information will not be easily accessible.

    Password protection, version control and secure file sharing are also features that you might want to consider.

    If you are disorganized, then you probably won’t be doing this.  If you are a procrastinator, schedule time once a month to organize your important documents.  It is best to keep any paper documents you still need to organize in a file, and in a folder that is clearly marked on your computer that still needs to get sorted.

Alternatively, you can make use of professional software like ExecQDocs from Qualitas.

ExecQDocs

ExecQDocs allows you to efficiently manage all documents and processes in an electronic format.

With ExecQDocs, you can:

  1. Index any electronic document (Images, Word, Excel spreadsheets, emails and attachments) or paper-based document.
  2. Retrieve documents using a number of user-defined search criteria.
  3. Encrypt your documents with 128 encryption keys. ExecQDocs provides full security at user, group and document level.
  4. Automate the documents to be sent out via email to internal or external people.
  5. Define your business processes in a step by step fashion so that you have electronic control of them.

These are just a few of the features offered by ExecQDocs that can assist you with your digital filing system.  See more here: http://www.qualitas.co.za/products/execqdocs/execqdocs-features/

Keeping organized

Now that you have everything categorised, filed, stored, saved, backed up – don’t let it slide.  You need to keep on it, or let the professionals handle it for you.  You don’t want to revert back to your disorganized ways.

There are so many advantages to keeping your files organized, and once you have created that file structure that suits your business, hopefully, you see the benefit of your digital filing system.

This is inspiration enough to keep organized.

Sources:

  • simpleliving.com
  • computerorganizing.com
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