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Organising Business Files and Folders

Rachel Tilley Author: Rachel Tilley

Organising business files and folders can be tricky, especially in a large office with multiple departments and high volumes of staff.  Documents can be saved across a variety of locations including lever arch folders, filing cabinets, network folders, SharePoint, OneDrive and email inboxes can turn simple searches into lengthy tasks.

Ever find yourself asking ‘where did I save that file?’, followed by lots of wasted time looking for it?  If so, we can help.

Like designated sections in a supermarket, organising business files and folders in a structured way reduces frustration, increases productivity and improves efficiency.

Make any new system or process you implement easy to use so everyone can find the business files they’re looking for.  If it's too complicated, adoption will be low and work will become chaotic again.

Here are some tips or how to better organise business files and folders.

Store Business Files In A Shared Location

Employees across the organisation can’t access business files saved on individual desktops and there's a risk of duplication and a lack of document control.  Business files should be saved on a server, network drive or a in a document management system.  Servers and network drives are backed up, unlike individual desktops.

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Group By Category

Work out what categories make sense for your business:

  • By department – HR, Finance, Operations, Sales etc.
  • By clients – a separate folder for each client with structured sub-folders, all following the same naming convention
  • By product – a folder for each product with everything you need relating to that product – road map, marketing, description, images, technical notes etc.

Group By Date

Many business activities are reoccurring so organising by year or month means everyone knows the latest folder.

Organising business files by date

Use Sub-Folders

After organising business files and folders into categories, use additional layers to help you narrow the content down further.  Do this by using subheadings but only use as many as you need, try and keep it as simple as possible to avoid confusion.

Use Final, Draft And Archive Folders

Use subfolders for the different stages of a task:

  • Final - for any documents that are completed and approved
  • Draft - save work in progress or any revisions along the way
  • Archive - use the archive folder to store old materials for reference, like notes, research, scrapped ideas, etc.  It may all still be useful to refer back to, but the information won't get in the way as easily.

Create Folder Templates

Once you’ve designed your folder structure, create empty folders as a template so you can keep it consistent and make all new starters aware that this is how business files and folders need to be organised.

For example, if you organise your business files based on client name, you’ll probably want to use the same file structure over and over again for each client.

Organising business folders

Don’t Float Folders

It can be easy to create a folder with a '1' or '_' in front so that floats to the top of your folder list. Try not to, it defeats the purpose of the organisation you're trying to implement.

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Everything outlined above can work well initially, and can work well enough for organisations that don't process high volumes of documents and emails.  However, many of our clients initially came to use because of document chaos, even when structured network folder rules were put in place. 

They found that inherently, employees slipped back into old ways of working, saving business files is a way that worked for them, rather than the organisation as a whole. 

By implementing a dedicated document management system, it becomes the only place to digitally and securely store documents.  Documents can enter the system via a scan or directly from an inbox making it easier for employees. 

With strict naming conventions, business files can only be saved in a certain way, following business rules.  When storing, employees will select how to save the document via drop down select lists that are set upon implementation of the software.

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No duplicates can enter the system and searching for business files is simple as results are brought back in seconds.

Organising business files and folders can be time consuming, especially if you've been working in a dis-organised way for some time.  If you're still struggling to get a handle on the overwhelming number of business files your business is creating, get in touch to discuss how our document management software will help.

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