A structured electronic filing environment or a random Google-type search process

A structured electronic filing environment works better than having a ‘bucket’ of items that you search right through to find the item you want

What does this mean and what is the difference?

You may have heard people say that there is no need for an electronic filing structure because it is easy to search for documents using the search tool in the operating system (such as Windows 7 or 8) just as you would search the Internet using a Google search.

This can be fine when a business is starting up and there are not too many documents. However using the search function tends to fall over quite quickly as the business grows and the number of documents increase. It doesn’t work if people have not developed good habits about adding tags, or if the business hasn’t developed a set of authorised keywords for staff to use.

Most businesses benefit from having a structure to file electronic documents.  This may change over time as search technologies become smarter and more reliable, but meantime it is often helpful to use a simple hierarchical filing structure, at least as a starting point.  This is the traditional way of organising business information and is a well known and well used format. In my experience many team members still prefer this sort of structure to work within.

An alternative is to create a list of ‘authorised’ keywords or tags that everyone in your business knows about and understands how to use the list.  This method of organising business information works well with some of the newer technologies and applications. It is more intuitive because it follows the ‘Google It’ way of searching that is so common today.

By structuring your search around an authorised set of words or phrases however, when you search through your documents you will very likely find everything you need that is related to the topic you are working on.  Also you won’t get a myriad of hits, many not closely related to your topic, as you get with a Google search using random words and phrases and hoping you get something worthwhile.  Your business deserves better and you and your staff will be more productive and your business will be more profitable.  Simple really.

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