Blog Post 6-24-13

Are Your Employees Spending Too Much Time Finding Information?

A federal agency had 35 various shared server drives for their organization. Each drive contained between 50 and 300 file folders in the first line, each office of the agency did not have access to information from other offices, and there was a great deal of duplication of files, documents, images and graphics. Employees, exasperated with the time it took to access needed files, were keeping some files on their own drives and thus making them inaccessible to anyone else in the agency. And worst of all, when employees left the agency the IT department would wipe the hard drives on their personal PCs and important files were lost forever.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Developing organizational skills and tools has never been more important, now that agencies are being asked to do so much more with so much less manpower. One of the highest returns you can get in your office efficiency efforts will come from organizing documents and files on the shared drive. The Gartner Group reports that workers spent on average between 30 minutes and two hours daily just searching for documents in 2008. A 2011 study by Social Science Research Network found that effective use of data and analytics correlated with a 5 to 6 percent improvement in productivity. Here are some steps for getting your shared drives organized:

1. Assess and analyze the current system by talking to key stakeholders and your IT department. How is the current system organized, and what are the pitfalls?

2. Determine a master structure for your new system. Usually the top line is determined by management, with user input on the lower tiers.

3. Create consistent naming conventions for your new file structure, and ensure that all stakeholders become familiar with them. Include conventions for naming versions of documents, and a system for dating files.

4. Create an archive area for files that no longer need to be accessed regularly, but must be retained for legal or regulatory reasons. Consider placing these on a separate drive.

5. Discuss and determine who will be responsible for maintaining the new system. Implement an annual system of review and purging.

For many larger organizations, restructuring your shared drives can be a project of monstrous proportions. Consider hiring an office efficiency expert to help you, or at least designating an employee who can work on the project on a full-time basis until it’s done. Make sure to research best practices for file taxonomy and naming conventions within your industry or federal department. The time you invest in managing information effectively will pay large dividends in employee productivity and future use of cloud-based document management systems.

Need help? Contact Ben Hassinger at CI for information on our office efficiency consulting services. 303.679.6335 x103