Records can take the form of physical records such as invoices, cash books, ledgers, correspondence and the like and also records held on a computer such as files, spreadsheets, tax returns, working papers etc.
There should be a number of software programs used by the office which staff should all be familiar with and confident about using. In our office we use IRIS for accounts preparation but also use Kashflow, Sage, Sage payroll, Excel, Word, Outlook etc.,
2 servers are used one used for IRIS and one used for Sage. We are planning to use cloud based servers when our current servers become too old to use. Shared drives are also used to help storage and access to files.
Here is a number of suggestions on how to have an effective data management system
1. Use the Default Installation Folders for Program Files
Use the default file locations when installing application programs. Under Windows, by convention application program files reside under the (Drive Letter:)->Program Files directory. Installing applications elsewhere is confusing and unnecessary. We use a number of drive letters at Holland & Co.
2. One Place for All Documents
Place all documents under a single “root” folder. For a single user in a Windows environment, the default location is the My Documents folder.
In a file sharing environment try to do the same. Create a single root folder (called “Shared Documents” for example) and store all documents in sub folders inside the root folder. Having a single location for all electronic documents makes it easier to find things and to run backups and archives. We use shared files at Holland & Co.
3. Create Folders in a Logical Hierarchy
These are the drawers of your computer’s filing cabinet, so to speak. Use plain language to name your folders; you don’t want to be looking at this list of folders in the future and wondering what “TFK” or whatever other interesting abbreviation you invented means.
4. Nest Folders Within Folders
Create other folders within these main folders as need arises. For instance, a folder called “Invoices” might contain folders called “2020”, “2019” and “2018”. A folder named for a client might include the folders “customer data” and “correspondence”. We still use paper copies at Holland & Co. The goal is to have every file in a folder rather than having a bunch of orphan files listed.
Do not create complex, deeply-layered folder structures. Wherever possible use descriptive file names instead.
5. Follow the File Naming Conventions
Some operating systems (such as Unix) do not allow spaces in file or folder names, so avoid this if your computing environment is mixed.3 Instead, use the underscores as a delimiter (e.g. Doe_John_Proposal.doc.) Other characters such as / ? < > \ : * | ” ^ are also prohibited in file or folder names under Windows.
Use descriptive file names for easy identification and retrieval but don’t go overboard – file/path names have length limits which vary between operating systems.
Under Windows the maximum full path length for a file (e.g. the drive letter + folder names + file name) is 260 characters. Use common abbreviations wherever possible, such as Jan for January or Corp for Corporation.
6. Be Specific
Give electronic files logical, specific names and include dates in file names if possible. The goal when naming files is to be able to tell what the file is about without having to open it and look. So if the document is a letter to a customer reminding him that payment is overdue, call it something like “overdue_20180115”; rather than something like “letter”. How will you know who the letter is to without opening it?
If you are sharing files via email or portable devices you may want to have the file name include more specific information, since the folder information will not be included with the shared file.
For example, if your document resides in My Documents\Invoices\2017\Customers\Doe_John_20180416.doc and the file is shared or emailed all the recipient will see is the Doe_John_20170416.doc and may not be able to tell that the file is a customer invoice without opening it.
7. File as You Go
The best time to file a document is when you first create it. So get in the habit of using the “Save As” dialogue box to file your document as well as name it, putting it in the right place in the first place.
8. Order Your Files for Your Convenience
If there are folders or files that you use a lot, force them to the top of the file list by renaming them with a ! or an AA at the beginning of the file name.
9. Cull Your Files Regularly
Sometimes what’s old is obvious as in the example of the folder named “Invoices” above. If it’s not, keep your folders uncluttered by clearing out the old files.
Do not delete business related files unless you are absolutely certain that you will never need the file again. Instead, in your main collection of folders under your root folder, create a folder called “Old” or “Inactive” and move old files into it when you come across them.
10. Back up Your Files Regularly
Whether you’re copying your files onto another drive or onto tape, it’s important to set up and follow a regular back up regimen.
Good File Management Makes Finding What You Want Easy
Managing electronic documents should be part of an overall document management strategy for your business. A proper document management plan should include all aspects of handling documents, including storage, retrieval, backups, and security.
The search function is a wonderful thing but it will never match the ease of being able to go directly to a folder or file. If you follow these file management tips consistently, even if you don’t know where something is, you know where it should be – a huge advantage when it comes to finding what you’re looking for. Good file management practices will save your business time and money.
6 Tips for Organising Your Office
It is very easy to ignore good house keeping practice and to get surrounded by unwanted records all over the place. At Holland & Co we regularly carry out a purge of our record system.
- Start with a big clear out. Get employees to pitch in and help with the clear out. Don’t be tempted to schedule this as a voluntary, after work activity. Clearing office clutter is important and therefore should be done in work time. With everyone helping, it shouldn’t take long – why not schedule in half a day where everyone can get stuck in and clear out their own desks and communal office areas?
- Think practically about what items need to be kept in your office. Marie suggests only keeping objects that ‘spark joy’ in you but we doubt anyone is going to feel affection for an old laptop or waste paper bin so instead, examine each object and think ‘how is this used’. Only keep things that are used. If you have a corner full of ancient office equipment, a fax machine or broken chairs, for example, you aren’t ever going to use them again so show them the door!
- To keep things organised, make sure everything has its own home. Making a place where each object ‘lives’ means it’s easier to find things and easier to put them away. Once you have decided where things live, use draw dividers and storage boxes and then label them very specifically. Yes, even down to having a specific place for a stapler to live in a drawer! This super organised way of storing items means that it becomes more noticeable when things are becoming messy as you will find things in places that aren’t their ‘home’.
- An excellent way of keeping up with organisation is making tidying a regular activity – not something that is a one off occasion. Why not have the fifteen minutes every Friday afternoon where employees tidy desks and communal areas? It’s a quick and easy way to stay on top of clutter and it means that everyone comes into an organised workspace on Mondays!
- Talk to employees about the importance of a tidy workplace and think about introducing a clear desk policy. This will give each employee a sense of responsibility for their own workspace. A clear desk policy doesn’t have to mean a barren boring desk – why not suggest that employees can have two personal items on their desk? Sticking to a limit means objects will be chosen with more care and desks won’t look messy.
- Ensure that confidential records are destroyed.
Tidy = Wellness
Still not convinced about the health benefits of organising? There are various articles you can read online that explain how science has proven that an organised home and workplace can not only contribute to mental wellness but physical health too.