Depending on what industry you are in, your company may handle dozens to thousands of files and paperwork everyday. It can be a challenge to keep up with all of the paperwork and electronic documents that travel through your business.
How much time do you spend each day looking for documents? If you can’t immediately find the files that you are searching for, it can be frustrating and a major productivity killer. It’s also a sign you need to invest in a better file management solution.
When it comes to storage, one of the greatest costs to many small businesses is time wasted looking for documents. This is in large part due to the lack of an organized and consistent system.
Whether you are handling invoices, expense sheets, receipts, customer service tickets, internal strategy and other business documents, there should be a system in place. If you don’t establish one, the files will pile up, which not only hurts your productivity but puts your business at risk.
Today, over 90% of a business’ records and documentation are in electronic form. It is important to have a reliable document management solution that can store large files in a secure and easy-to-use cloud-based system. Two file sharing and management systems that we use and highly recommend to our clients at 10twelve are Dropbox and Box.
The cloud-based service Dropbox now has more than 500 million users and handles an average of 1.2 billion daily uploads. According to a study by IDC, organizations save 2,722 hours every year when they collaborate with customers, employees and vendors with Dropbox. The study also claims that it increased productivity in sales teams by 6%.
Box was launched in 2005, and has built a strong user base. In fact, a report by Computer World claimed that Box was the leading cloud-based file sharing service in terms of data uploaded. An estimated 23% of corporate data on the cloud is uploaded to Box.
Benefits of Dropbox and Box:
● Ability to share large files - Most email has a strict size limit. Gmail’s limit is 25MB for attachments. With Dropbox’s standard business package, you can upload up to 2TB or 2048GB.
● Allow and restrict access to certain folders - Manage user controls for compliance and privacy protection.
● Restore accidentally deleted files - With Dropbox Business, you can retrieve documents up to 120 days after accidental removal.
● Access files remotely - Cloud-based storage and sharing has changed how we work. People are collaborating more and working remotely.
These features are not just beneficial for company data management, they can have a positive impact on the workplace.
Increased worker productivity and collaboration.
A recent Gallup poll found that Americans are working remotely at increasing levels. According to the report, 43% of the workforce spent time working out of the office in 2016.
They are also working remotely for longer periods of time, with the amount working four to five days a week out of the office growing from 24% in 2012 to 31% in 2016. Establishing a file management solution not only protects your company and customers, it can improve employee engagement and productivity.
Tips for Efficient and Secure File Management
Selecting the right cloud-based document management solution is only half the battle. You also need to develop practices and policies that support a more organized and secure document workflow. To help you develop a strong system, here are some tips:
1. Establish a consistent naming system.
Organizations should use a certain folder structure and naming convention, and make sure that everyone is clear on the format. Employees need to know how to name folders and files, where to save them and how to find them when needed.
If you still have paper files, your digital filing should mirror it. You can organize by project, by client, or alphabetically. Some naming practices recommended by Stanford are:
● Format dates to look like YYMMDD. This helps you organize files chronologically.
● Limit the length of names. Long names can cause issues with certain software.
● Do not use special characters in filenames.
The key is to organize your documents based on what makes retrieval the easiest. You need to be able to find the files you need, when you need them. Otherwise, you’ll waste valuable time hunting for them later. The preference depends on your business needs, however, consider carefully. The method you choose must stay consistent.
2. Make security a priority.
You are responsible for protecting data that customers and employees share with you. If you do not have an organized and secure file management solution in place, it leaves you vulnerable to data loss and privacy breaches. When handling confidential documents, you should have the right security measures in place. Restrict who can access files and set up password-protected gateways to entry, so that only verified users can gain access.
3. Move to paperless.
If there is any way for you to make your business less reliant on paper, it is worth it. For instance, you can save money on paper invoices as well as increase turnaround time for payment.
For files that can’t be sent electronically, but are permitted to be stored digitally, then invest in a digital scanner. Once a week or daily, scan in paper versions to store in your electronic document management system. If your office doesn’t have a secure place to store paper records, then consider a document management provider.
4. Develop record retention policies.
Often businesses are unorganized because they are practically drowning in paperwork. A large portion of it could be records that they no longer need. Before you can establish a file management system, you need to know which records to keep and how long you need to hold on to them. The length of time that you need to hold on to certain records depends on business purposes as well as legal obligations.
A written record retention policy outlines guidelines and rules to help employees sort the files they need from old ones that are creating clutter.
5. Routinely purge and archive documents.
You should schedule routine “spring cleaning” for your business documents. Even with a record retention policy, clutter can build up. Scheduling a routine clean up to sort and purge digital and hardcopy files is a double measure to ensure your system is maintained.
6. Dispose properly.
When it is appropriate to dispose of documents, businesses must have a disposal process in place. This is extremely critical for data that contains confidential information that would put people at risk of identity theft and other privacy violations. The Federal Trade Commission requires that every employer comply with their document disposal guidelines. Paper documents should be shredded and electronic records should be destroyed.
7. Train employees on best practices.
Even the most sophisticated file management services will not help you organize your files if you don’t establish best practices and train employees. Include file management practices as part of the onboarding process and refresh employees on practices every few months.
If your file management system is outdated or simply non-existent, it will wreak havoc on your business operations. Working with a cloud-based file sharing service, developing a document management plan and educating employees are key. To find out about other tools and strategies that can help you grow your business, reach out to 10twelve today.