11 Filing and Records Management Tips
Whether your company stores physical files or electronic files, there are always more efficient ways to safely store, access and manage them. Data and file management plays an integral role in any business process.
Office documents are the go-to bank for information and details of financial transactions, reports, receipts, employees’ and employer’s data.
When files and records are not properly managed, they can be easily misplaced, stolen, or go missing entirely. Since paper used for files are made from organic material, they are biodegradable and can get torn and unreadable when not handled with care.
Stacking files on each other may accumulate dust. Moisture also forms part of the air in our atmosphere and becomes water droplets on stacked files causing them to stick to each other.
Keep your files & records clean, useable and improve your company’s file management system by following these tips.
1. Create A Backup Location
Always ensure that you create a backup location for all company folders. The backup location should not be the same as the original location, as doing so will mean that you can easily lose both storage folders.
Backups are very important for one main reason – to prevent a complete loss of data.
If your company still uses paper files, then the best thing to do is to create copies of every document to be stored at a separate location from the original files.
However, the best place to store your backup folder is with an online cloud-based service.
2. Create a digital archive
The digital archive contains a list of your documents backed up in online storage (cloud) which can be accessed anytime and in any location.
When creating a digital archive, you must use a naming system that makes it easy for you to search for and retrieve a document.
If the document is a letter, the reference number, date and heading may be used to name it. It can be stored under a folder which you can name as correspondence.
This way, it won’t be too tasking for you to retrieve a document. In cases where there are fire outbreaks in companies, a digital archive is a way to insure your documents and prevent you from losing vital company data.
3. Create a well-structured filing system
It will be chaotic when sourcing for a document in files that look like a pile of rubble or a cabinet that doesn’t have an orderly pattern of arrangement. The pattern of arrangement should follow a specific order.
For example, in a law firm, there are countless cases, correspondences, deeds of transfer, conveyance and also agreements. It would be unwise to store all of them in one place. These documents need to be kept separately in cabinets labelled specifically for them.
In the storing process, each of the files should be arranged and labelled alphanumerically or with tags for easy identification and a printed list of the files and their ID number should be pasted on the cabinet for easy retrieval.
4. Replace old file covers
A routine check on the file covers is very important to ensure that the documents retain neatness.
As file covers are biodegradable and subject to wear and tear. Old file covers can be replaced with a set of new ones and the information on them can be preserved and transferred to the new file covers.
5. Take inventory of your documents and records
You don’t want a situation where your document becomes lost, stolen or unaccounted for.
As such, every document that goes in and out of the office should be recorded. Such a document can easily be replaced if needed.
6. Always have a backup copy
This is quite important for cases whereby an issue with a particular document comes up and leads to a disagreement. A backup copy is not only essential in this instance but also necessary in cases of theft, mixups or misplacement.
Photocopy and store signed documents. To reduce the questionings that might come with regards to authenticity, documents can be scanned in a coloured format and stored for future references.
7. Use a Document Management software
You can’t have an online or digital archive without this software. One of the advantages is that it is very easy and requires no special training to use.
Besides, documents can easily be retrieved and stored. The repositories of this software provides check-ins and outs of documents that can easily be revised in the future. It also offers a tracking system.
8. Always Ensure Document management
Before you can get your hands on software to better manage your files and documents automatically, there are ways you can do it manually in the meantime. These are:
- Create a template you want all your documents to follow. Remember that everything must be consistent and orderly so that you don’t make a mistake or leave any vital information
- One or more authors might draft the files or records depending on the nature. The document might be typed or in a picture format. Create a way to allow multiple contributors to work on a record without allowing them to make changes or alterations to the work of others. Creating check-ins and outs allow them to read the work done by others and know if a change has been effected. You can also make it a co-authoring system that allows users to work on the same file simultaneously.
- Somebody else other than the authors can access the quality of the information. This includes checking for grammatical errors, wrong spelling, punctuations, accuracy of the images/pictures & tables.
This determines if the files or records is fit to proceed to the next role.
- After a complete revision, the draft returns to the creators of the content. New versions of the draft can also be created.
- An assembly is important for complex documents that require certain terms and conditions. This system ensures that the correct business terms and conditions are attached to the document.
- Approval of some documents before being stored must be signed as proof that it is an official document.
- Once the document has been approved, it can then be stored in a repository for retrieval and use.
9. Create One Secure Virtual Location For sensitive data
One of the best ways to improve your company’s file management system is to create one master location for all records or files. This is important, especially when coordinating deals with specific clients or projects.
This master file location should be safe and secure, yet also easily accessible by authorized members of staff. Once you do that, create sub-folders in the master location.
You can divide sub-folders into different categories to store specific files or data. For example, you can create sub-folders on contracts, projects, purchasing, and supply, etc.
To take things further, how about a master file location that is virtual, lightweight, secure and supports collaboration? A great example of this is within the banking and finance industry with the mergers and acquisition life cycle. It is very risky for you to store files containing highly sensitive due diligence data in a common location.
By creating a virtual data room for sensitive files and data, you will be able to enhance collaboration. You will also be able to gain access without compromising security. There are several options to choose from if you’re looking for virtual data rooms for mergers and acquisitions.
10. Use Shortcuts
Although you have created a single location for all company files, you can create shortcuts to certain frequently used files.
This helps to save a lot of time when retrieving those files. Creating a file shortcut does not mean creating another copy of the original file.
It only means creating a link icon that directs the user to the original file. This will eliminate the stress of searching through the central file location. As a result, if you delete or move a file shortcut, it will not affect the original file.
11. Choose A System To Name Files
Another way to improve your file management system is by choosing a file naming system that the whole company uses. This will make it less difficult for everyone in the company to know which file is which.
Creating a file naming system that works could be as simple as using the original name of the file, the creator of the file, or both. The idea here is to ensure that everyone who has access those files understands what the names mean.
If more than one file shares a similar name, you can use numbers or dates to differentiate them. Make sure that the whole company employs the same file naming system.
Managing files and records in the office ensure that you are not working blindly as an organization. This means you can keep track of every single detail of information you own.
Whether you’re running a startup or a growing business, you need to manage all files, records, and data properly. Your company’s data is the heartbeat of your company.
Learning and following the tips above will ensure that your documents and records are safe. You will also have them whenever you need them.