Electronic filing

Four years ago I wrote about the business decision you needed to make about whether to store business information in paper format or in electronic format. Or both.  At that time a lot of mail was sent via the postal system and arrived in paper form. It was very confusing when you started to think about a filing system for your business.  You had the electronic files you created; you have stuff coming by email and other stuff coming in paper form through your PO Box and that suppliers hand to you.

This meant that if you had decided on an electronic filing system, you needed to do something with all the paper that arrived in the mail or was given to you at a person-to-person meeting.

Since then there has been a big increase in getting information electronically including invoices, newsletters. Thus the decision to store only in electronic form makes life much easier.

In many instances it is still useful, even with electronic filing, to create a filing structure with folders so you can store like with like. For example you store everything related to your business financial situation in a folder headed ‘Financial Management’ or simply ‘Money’ if you prefer. The same with all your employment information. ‘Human Resources’ is the formal term that has been used for a long time, or more recently ‘People’.

The main reason for some sort of structure in your filing system is so you can find the information you need quickly and easily the next time you need it.

Don’t be too quick to dismiss this as not important. You can your staff can actually waste an incredible amount of time looking for information; and the consequences of not finding critical information can be quite serious.

If you are super-methodical and can be assured that your filing will be consistent every time, you can use keywords or tags to create a filing system that will work by using these terms to search through all your documents and spreadsheets and other important items.

An in-between method is based on using the same base title for documents you save. Eg ‘Board Meeting Minutes day/month/year’. In this way you will find all the board meeting minutes together because they will be stored in alphabetical order.

Again you need to be very methodical and make sure you keep to this terminology for every Board meeting. You won’t be able to find all the Board meeting minutes quickly and easily if you decide one month to call the document ‘Minutes Board Meeting day/month/year’ or even just ‘Meeting Minutes’.

If you don’t have a board, try thinking about this for your monthly financial reports, or your employee records.

If you want more help, feel free to contact me for further advice. The first 30 minutes is free and can be done in person if your business is nearby or by phone or skype.

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