Traditionally, files are stored in your company’s shared drives within folders. Files that you don’t use regularly can be a little difficult to find within these folders, in some instances because they are nested within a series of sub-folders, in amongst a range of other files, or because they have an obscure filename that you don’t immediately recognise.
The above points are often not particularly relevant when working with files that you personally created and manage, however, when a team of people need to access the same files, these points can become increasingly relevant and cause inefficiencies in your organisation. To streamline your business, filling of documents should be as organised as possible so staff can access the information they need promptly.
There is a better way.
Yes, that’s right. A way that is now readily available and viable for almost every business via Microsoft Office 365’s document filing product, SharePoint. Instead of storing your files in folders, SharePoint enables your business to define a range of specific categories to file and lookup against. Let me explain…
Imagine that your company undertakes projects for clients. Your company creates the following types of files for most projects: tender, contract, variation, project image, correspondence.
The old way
- When locating one of these files in a traditional folder based filing system, staff would browse to the relevant project folder, then look through all the other files in that folder to hopefully find the contract (assuming it will be saved under the right name and will be the last updated version).
The new way
- Under a SharePoint categorised file system, files can be located by simply selecting the relevant document categories. Firstly: ‘Project Name’ or ‘Project Number’, and secondly: the ‘File Type’ of ‘contract’. The files that match those categories are then displayed. See example below:
The options under each SharePoint category are pre-defined in a central list of ‘tags’. For example, to reference the relevant project, the company would choose to have a defined list of either Project Names or Project Numbers. And, for File Type, the company would have a defined list of the types of files previously mentioned to file against – tender, contract, variation, project image, correspondence.
The categories can be fully customisable to suit your company’s requirements. For example, if this company works in project phases and has a separate contract for each phase, the company could choose to also have a third category called Project Phase. This way, they could file each contract separately against each relevant project phase within any one project.
Sounds a bit complex?
It’s actually not that hard to setup once you get the hang of it. You can easily add new categories and tag options when you need to. The best part is that category based filing doesn’t need to be used everywhere. It applies best to the structured areas of your business where you want everything to have a place. The areas of your file system that need to be free flowing can remain in a traditional folder based structure.
The good thing about Office 365’s SharePoint Online is that it caters for the whole lot. You can have simple free flowing folders in some areas of your filing system, and structured categories in others.
Many businesses make use of SharePoint’s category based storage and leave it at that. However, there are a whole range of powerful features that are also available to be optionally integrated in the future to improve the flow of your business, increase efficiency and consistency. One example is the SharePoint document library workflow rules. Your business is able to setup a series of rules to automate a whole range of actions. Here’s two scenarios:
In a project based business – When a project goes from tender stage to production stage, a workflow rule can automatically trigger in the background to restructure the project tender files for production and bring in the relevant template files that need to be completed in the production stage of the project.
In an ISO accredited business – Most ISO accredited businesses are required to review their documented procedures according to a set review period. This review process can be managed by creating a category to define the required review period on each procedure document or overall library. Then a workflow rule can automatically create a task for the designated owner of that file to review the document several months before the review date is due.
It sounds pretty awesome doesn’t it? And that’s just touching the surface of what SharePoint can actually do. Facilitate collaboration between staff and remote offices, streamline your business and implement an efficient and smooth document management/filing system for increased productivity.
How do I get started?
The first step in getting started with Office 365 SharePoint online is to review your current file structure and lay out your requirements. That may sound like a daunting process, however, you can start simple with just one category based document library. This will allow you to become familiar with the benefits and exactly how it all works.
Don’t bang your head against the wall reinventing the wheel here! We have an established process and forms to help streamline the planning. When you get help from experts to implement a system like this, it’s actually quite simple and not a large/costly project. Plus, besides providing guidance and support through project start to completion, we also to educate your internal team so you can self-administer many areas yourself going forward. Contact us today on 1300 991 351 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help.