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Document management can often be something of an afterthought in many office spaces, but the importance of a good system really cannot be overstated. Regardless of the size of your business, it is likely you’ll have a significant amount of documentation from various areas of the company. The most common types of business documentation include:
- Business plans
- Compliance documents
- Policy documents
- Meeting minutes
How you store, sort and organize these documents can make a massive difference to the efficiency of your business and individual employees – people need to know where to access the information they need when they need it. As office manager, the onus is on you to develop, implement and monitor the document management process and make sure that it is fit for purpose.
Managing Extensive Digital Documents
Know What Is Necessary
One big mistake businesses make with documentation is storing things they don’t really need – this can take up precious space and make it harder for employees to locate and access the documents they actually need. Only documents that are truly necessary to keep your office ticking along efficiently should be stored, and anything else can be sent to the recycling bin. As the office manager, you will know which documents are key to doing business well and which are superfluous; trust your judgment and cut away anything unnecessary.
You should also keep in mind that some documents you might be legally required under local or international regulations to keep hold of or dispose of after a set period. Ensure your understanding of the law is thorough to stay on the right side.
Use Color Coding
Color coding is one of the best ways to help your team remember your organizational system. People are more likely to remember and identify the correct spaces to keep documents if they are easy to pick out at a glance. Even the best-organized spaces can be easily misidentified if all the folders look the same. Avoid using too many colors, which could end up having the same detrimental effect as having all folders or file types in the same uniform color.
Sort By Date
For many busy offices, you might receive a significant number of documents each day relating to a wide range of areas in the business. In these cases, it can be a good organizational rule to sort documents by the date they were received. Within each sub-folder of your document storage system, you could include date folders that will allow your employees to immediately track what they need to the correct spot.
Keep Backups Of All Digital Documentation
Cloud storage has revolutionized document management, but it is not without its risks – you should have a plan in place if something goes wrong. Glitches, errors and cyber security threats can all present significant dangers to the documents you store on the cloud, and the loss of any essential documentation could be catastrophic even for your small business. It is wise to make regular backups of the documents you store digitally, which can be securely stored offline.
Reduce The Size Of Digital Documents
Storing digital documents costs money – the more memory is used in your cloud and hard drive storage systems, the pricier it will get. As mentioned above, limiting the documents stored can help to keep precious memory free for essential documents, but for businesses with a lot of vital documents to store, this is not enough to keep storage costs manageable.
One excellent solution is to reduce the size of your documentation; many types of digital documents can be compressed to free up crucial space in your storage. There are excellent tools available to help you compress the different document formats you work with. Smallpdf is a fantastic example of a PDF compressor tool that will allow you and your team to minimize the amount of space each PDF takes up. Their great tool also compresses different document types and provides high-quality TLS encryption technology so you can be confident your business documents are secure.
Find A Quality Cloud Storage Provider
Cloud storage is an essential tool for any business in the modern age, but the provider you use can make a massive difference in how you manage your digital documents. You should use a reputable service provider with top-notch security features and storage plans to suit the amount of documentation your business must keep. It is worth paying extra for the most reputable and dependable storage space– the cost of the loss of documentation due to service provider error will far exceed any savings made using a lower-quality cloud storage provider.
Standardize File Naming
You’ll need a standard practice for naming files that allows your employees to easily search for the document they’re looking for. How you choose your file naming standards will depend on the type of work your business does and the documents you store. If you have a lot of documentation coming in daily, then it could be beneficial to name them with the date first. You could then put other identifiers in the name of the document, such as a customer name, the type of document it is, or the project it relates to.
Some examples include:
- Date, client name, type of document: 01.01.23 -J Smith-ID
- Date, project, type of document: 01.01.23-Project A-contract
Train Employees On How To Use Your System
A document management process is only useful if it is followed uniformly by all employees. Proper training should be given to employees to ensure that there is consistent use of the system. Of course, mistakes may still be made – it can be tough, if not impossible, to remove all human error from a process – but they will be fewer than if employees are left to figure out the organizational system on their own.
The training process should include a breakdown of the different categories and which documents fit in where; it may help to include a test at the end to ensure the training has done its job. Including a cheat sheet that employees can reference in the future could also be helpful. You should provide training at different stages, including:
- During onboarding
- When changes are made to the processes
- On a quarterly basis
Not every employee needs to be able to access every document; indeed, it is often essential for security and data protection purposes to ensure that only limited people can access certain documents. You should set up permissions for the different types of documents your business works with and restrict access to only the people who will need to use them in their day-to-day jobs. Pay particular attention to documents that include sensitive information such as customer banking details, and ensure that access is only given to trusted necessary employees.
Document management systems can take time to get right, but the benefits for your business’s productivity and efficiency will make it well worth the effort. Organizing a whole process and management system can feel daunting, so it is worth taking the time to draft and revise your system, getting advice and ideas from your team along the way. Once you’re confident the process is fit for purpose, you should implement it consistently across all areas of the business and provide training to your team on how to work within the system. There will likely be a few kinks to work out at first, but keep at it and watch productivity grow.