Here's a stat you might relate to: 60% of office professionals say they spend more time searching for documents than they do replying to emails or messages. On top of that, 81% of workers have difficulty finding urgent documents needed by a client or boss, and one in three commonly have issues locating documents they need when asked for them.
Managing paper documents and using an inefficient computer system can be extremely difficult, particularly when you need to share, modify, sign, or transfer important contracts or agreements quickly. If you're looking for an organizational solution to help manage the large volume of files and documents within your organization, start by making it easier for yourself and your team by switching to cloud storage.
With cloud file management, you can transfer your entire organization to a centralized location where your team can efficiently collaborate on content without wasting valuable time searching for files.
Organization is key
Regardless of your industry, staying organized is the most effective way to keep all team members on the same page and maximize productivity. If you find yourself constantly looking for missing documents, asking around about who shared a specific file, or trying to track down an electronic signature, you likely have a weak document management system. Using a cloud-based platform eliminates many of these issues and reduces repetitive, manual tasks like data re-entry.
Success in using cloud services largely depends on how your teams organize files and content in the cloud. While using a cloud solution can be the answer to many of your organizational problems, it’s important to choose the right one that meets your business's needs and keeps your content secure. Your company likely needs multiple ways of storing and organizing files, so choosing a cloud platform that doesn't offer this flexibility could bring you right back where you started — poor organization and more downtime.
How can you be sure you're using your cloud solution most effectively? To make the most of your cloud features, implement a consistent strategy.
Creating a document management strategy
Whether you have paper files or electronic files, it's important to have a solid management system in place. A document management system (DMS) is a strategy businesses use to store, manage, track, and control the flow of files and documents. The purpose of a DMS is to let users modify, recover, and archive documents as necessary.
This form of organization generally relies on using software to digitize documents and reduce the use (and storage needs) of paper files. By storing information in a centralized location, your team members can access, edit, share, and collaborate on documents more efficiently and quickly. A DMS oten uses cloud computing technology and cloud storage to enhance security and reduce the risk of lost files.
The most efficient way to implement DMS processes is by employing a cloud platform with scalable products and features that enable you to organize effectively. No organization is the same, and your needs will likely vary as your business grows or embraces traffic changes.
Keeping all your organizational content on a central, unified platform makes it easier to consistently view and transfer content as needed. Likewise, the right cloud content solution will grow or shrink with demand. Cloud-based document management allows you to:
- Digitize your files
- Use security controls for verification
- Enable e-signatures
- Quickly share documents, no matter how large
- Restrict access to certain content
- Use cloud backup to restore or recover data when necessary
- Enhance collaboration and accelerate workflows between on-site and remote teams
Examining your current system
The first step to developing a DMS is to examine what you’re already doing. Looking at your existing processes can help you learn which organizational strategies work and which make things more complicated.
To put your team in the frame of mind for embracing a new strategy, ask yourself questions like:
- What’s working? What isn’t?
- What files do we need often?
- Do we hold onto a lot of old and irrelevant data?
- What does our current process lack?
- How can we reduce the time it takes to share and collaborate on content?
Look at every aspect of your current system and evaluate its effectiveness. With your document management team, conduct a thorough assessment of how you manage documents in your day-to-day operations, including how they are:
While you may think the easiest solution is to replicate all your existing processes into your new cloud-based DMS, you risk transferring underlying inefficiencies to your new system. By examining how you currently manage your most important data, you can identify weaknesses, which can help you develop a more robust strategy and improve workflows when you implement a cloud solution.
A large organization like a hospital will have a large amount and variety of content to manage. Between patients, hospital staff, board members, and vendors, everyone involved in the hospital's operation needs secure, easy access to records and other important files. Each of these parties uses the hospital documents in different ways — while HR handles employee and management documents, the accounting department handles financial data. This is all content that can be organized in the cloud.
If your organization handles large amounts of data, start small by choosing one or two departments for a trial run. By first focusing on a subset of content, you can develop a more effective method of discovering how each department handles its content. Document your steps along the way to help you rule out inefficient processes and consolidate activities where you can.
After you’ve gone over everything, use what you’ve learned to make adjustments and develop a new content management system. Once you employ a cloud content platform, each department can customize how it receives, shares, and stores documents.
If your organization uses paper files, it’s important to have a consistent process for digitizing them to be stored in the cloud. Digitizing and uploading your files lets you transform your business data from a physical format to a cloud-based system. You can complete this process with a standard office scanner to create digital copies of all essential files.
Through digitization, you and your team can store, view, and manage all content on a unified platform, even if individual team members are located in different places. This transfer is an essential step. To have consistent visibility into your cloud and make the most of its resources, all paper and physical documents must be digitized.
Cloud storage provides many convenient features, like allowing you to back up your files and keep your most important data secure. Unless you keep this data organized, you risk experiencing the same inefficiencies you did when managing paper files.
As you shift to cloud storage, maintain a system for file organization. Every business will have a unique system depending on its needs, but it's important you and your team use a consistent process so it's easy to locate documents within the cloud platform.
For instance, if you need to find a specific report for a meeting, but have to sift through thousands of files in the cloud to locate it, you waste valuable time. With proper file storage on a cloud platform, you make the most of the features and maximize efficiency.
Here are some important steps to remember about file storage.
1. Develop a folder naming system
One of the first steps you should take when developing a file system is properly naming your folders so you can organize files and retrieve them quickly when needed. If your organization has many different departments, naming your folders with the department name or relevant keywords can be helpful.
While the cloud will show you the date of a file's or folder's creation, keeping information organized by name can help you and your team quickly search for a specific document.
2. Move your files
Drag your documents and files to their assigned folders. You can select multiple files at once to make this process easier. Assign a few team members to help with this task, particularly if you have thousands of digitized files that need organizing. Though you don't have to get all of the documents moved in one sitting, moving as many files as you can each day can make a significant dent in the project.
3. Assign tags
Another tip for keeping track of your files within the cloud is assigning relevant metadata tags to each one. By right-clicking on any file, you can generally select the option to add descriptors that will help you properly index your files.
Whether you add a subject, category, title, comment, or tag, it will enable you to later search for keywords within your content. This organizational feature can be useful when training new team members who aren't familiar with the cloud or trying to bring up a document from a different department.
4. Create subfolders
Managing a large number of files and documents can be stressful if you spend half the time trying to find them, so creating subfolders within your folders can eliminate this struggle.
If you have dozens of folders across your department, eventually, even these folders will become cluttered as you fill them up with more files over time. Subfolders make it easier to find a document within a folder of the same topic or assignment. Keep in mind, you should use the same naming system for your subfolders as your original folder.
Decluttering is essential to maximizing your cloud storage and preventing it from feeling like a disorganized pile of documents. By following these steps above — and adding in your own custom methods for organization, depending on your business's needs — you'll get control of it in no time.
Don’t set it and forget it
Once you implement this new DMS in your organization, the work's not over yet. One of the most important elements of organization is conducting regular checkups to ensure your content is stored where it needs to be.
Even if your content stays within appropriate folders, after a few months, you'll likely have made copies of some documents you no longer need to store. Periodic maintenance allows you and your team to go through your folders and delete old, unused, and duplicated content.
Routine checks also help ensure your team is sticking with the new strategy and give team members the chance to communicate any challenges or successes they've had after adopting the new systems.
Stick to a regular maintenance schedule of about once a month, depending on your organization and how many files you manage daily. Check that the content is stored in its proper folders and update any files with new names or tags. Lastly, delete any content you don't use so you can free your cloud platform of unnecessary clutter.
Managing access permissions
After you've developed a thorough process for storing content, it's just as important to manage who can access content across your organization. Since a cloud network allows multiple users to view, manage, and delete files, it's essential you only allow access to authorized, trusted users. It’s not that different from the type of process you’d use for physical documents. You may keep critical files in a separate storeroom or safe, only giving out keys to specific team members.
The cloud is no different. You can provide varying levels of device access permissions to authorized individuals, even if they're in separate departments or working remotely.
One of the most helpful features of the cloud is the ability to control who sees your content with features like file encryption. You can give file access to certain users with encryption keys so they can decrypt critical documents as needed. If unauthorized users or hackers try to get into your content, they won't be able to view or change the data or the file location.
You can also give your team members read-only access, which means they can view specific files but not modify anything in the document, nor make any changes. Managing access permissions is an important step to enhancing security in your cloud storage system.
General tips for cloud content organization
Now that you've reviewed how to organize your files and create a DMS that works for you, take a look at a few more tips for cloud organization that can help streamline your process.
Create standard naming conventions
When creating a naming system across your organization, keep your file and folder names consistent. If multiple team members name your company files and folders inconsistently, finding content will be difficult down the road. Using a standard naming scheme in a shared cloud storage environment lets your team know exactly how to name files and folders and how to find them.
Using a folder name like “Date_Type_FolderName” can be easy for all team members to follow and keep the structure of your document names the same — even across different departments.
For instance, if you had an annual meeting with your accounting team in March 2022, name the folder “2022Mar_AnnualConference_Accounting” so everyone on the team can easily find what they need. The following year, the folder name would be “2023Mar_AnnualConference_Accounting.”
You don't have to follow this exact format. Pick something unique to your organization, but be sure to use a simple format so new team members can implement this step easily.
Have a file minimum for new folders
More folders makes it more challenging to find specific documents, especially if you factor in unexpected issues or need to find things quickly. Clicking through folder after folder trying to locate an important file can take up much of your time, especially when each folder contains only a few files.
To combat this, set a minimum number of files for each folder. For instance, it’s much easier to sort through 100 files located in four folders than to look through 50 folders that contain only two files each.
Before creating a new folder for only a few pieces of content, try to find an existing folder to place them in, using descriptions and tags to keep them organized.
Immediately put new files where they need to go
The more you put off organization, the more work you'll have waiting for you when you finally get to it. Though your busy schedule may entice you to save or download your files and “get to them later,” this tactic can cause your cloud file storage to get out of hand. Over time, files become more difficult to find, and you have to conduct more frequent declutters.
Instead, take those few extra seconds to name your file correctly, move it into the appropriate folder or subfolder, and add any necessary tags. Putting your files where they need to go right away can save you much more time later.
Archive old, unused files
While you already know that deleting unused copies and unnecessary content is key, it's also critical to archive files that use up your cloud storage space. If there are certain files you don't want to delete but don't actively need to use, you can transfer them into the archive folder to keep them out of the way. This step can eliminate a lot of searching when users look through active files in the cloud.
Try to keep subfolders “shallow”
Along the same lines as having a minimum number of files in each folder, try not to create too many subfolders in general. The primary goal of cloud file organization is to keep everything within reach when you need it. If you have to click through dozens of subfolders within one folder to find what you need, it can make this storage system inefficient.
If you create a folder for a specific project, name each subfolder for the team responsible for the documents inside to limit the number of subfolders your team makes. As important as it is to keep your folders organized, following the same structure for your subfolders can help you avoid a headache later on.
Ensure your content is backed up
One of the most significant advantages of employing a cloud platform to help you implement a DMS is being able to back up your files. You can then easily restore or recover files in the event of accidental deletion, data breach, or leak.
If your cloud platform doesn't automatically conduct backups, be sure to back up your files frequently and encourage all team members to participate. Create a schedule for backups and assign the task to authorized users, so you always have a backup plan if your content is deleted.
However, some cloud platforms automatically back up your files — which saves you valuable time and gives you peace of mind.
Discover the power of the Content Cloud
With a single secure platform for all your content, the Content Cloud enables you to manage the entire content lifecycle: file creation, co-editing, sharing, e-signature, classification, retention, and so much more. We make it easy for you to collaborate on content with anyone, both inside and outside your organization. Frictionless, enterprise-grade security and compliance are built into our DNA, so you get total peace of mind that your content is protected. And with 1,500+ seamless integrations — as well as a range of native capabilities, like Box Sign — the Content Cloud provides a single content layer that ensures your teams can work the way they want.
The Content Cloud is a game changer for the entire organization, streamlining workflows and boosting productivity across every team. Contact us today, and explore what you can do with Box.
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**While we maintain our steadfast commitment to offering products and services with best-in-class privacy, security, and compliance, the information provided in this blogpost is not intended to constitute legal advice. We strongly encourage prospective and current customers to perform their own due diligence when assessing compliance with applicable laws.