As we discussed in Part 1 of this Filing series, individuals with the most modest means can now afford to buy and maintain the storage to hold an overwhelming amount of information. This is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is we are able to store enormous amounts of information. However, storing huge amounts of information becomes the curse when we can’t find what we stored.
We must have an effective filing storage system for retrieving the information in the future. Without a reliable system, filing for retrievability becomes an impossible task. At some point, we will not be able to find what we are looking for. All our efforts to save information will have been fruitless.
Overload is Inevitable
We live in an age where information is coming at us fast and furious, like a constant deluge. Everyone has too much information to manage, so at some point, everyone’s filing system becomes overloaded. New strategies are then needed to accommodate for these information explosions.
For example, if we keep dumping information into a big bucket, at some point the bucket begins to overflow. Weighed down with so much information, it becomes impossible to find anything in the bucket. Therefore, any filing system we establish must anticipate massive, bone-crushing data volume.
Implementing an effective filing system, one which supports filing for retrievability, is vital for storing and managing the information crush. With a good system, we can quickly and easily retrieve what we need, when we need it.
Despite the fact we live in such a technologically advanced day and age, with so many wonderful tools at our fingertips, there are still many companies and individuals who don’t do a very good job of storing their information. This constantly amazes me. How can a company or individual afford to spend the time and money to re-establish poorly filed or lost information day after day? The truth is, nobody has that kind of time or money. Still, many companies and individuals neglect to establish these vital filing systems.
Companies who are extraordinarily efficient in their information storage and retrieval practices eventually outstrip their competitors, mainly because they never have to spend the money and the time to recreate information. Such companies who are efficient at storing and retrieving information continue to aggregate data, adding new knowledge to their previously found knowledge. As a result, all efforts to create and store information become additive versus repetitive.
Anyone who works all day trying to re-establish poorly stored, irretrievable information, will be constantly struggling with workflow issues. We all know impeded workflows cause loss of time and loss of money, which, in turn, can lead to customer loss. People lacking a reliable filing/storage system, end up having to spend all day on reestablishing lost news and old history, instead of spending time on moving the company forward with new initiatives.
Filing for Retrievability
What exactly is the most important element in filing? Retrievability! We must establish filing for retrievability. If we want to be able to quickly and easily find and access the information we are storing, it must be stored in a retrievable fashion. Anything thrown in a box with a lid on it or put on a shelf without some record of the storage location is basically, lost information or material. If we don’t save our computer work / electronic information files by assigning logical keywords in the file names, this information will also, more than likely, end up lost on our hard drive.
All we really want to do is store our information in a manner where we can lay our hands on it, quickly and easily, with the least amount of fuss and bother. The more information we have to store, the more essential filing for retrievability becomes.
The Name Game
What is the first step in developing an efficient, retrievable filing system? Effective file naming. Names are vitally important in filing for retrievability. So, what exactly makes a file name effective? File names function as clues and are really the name of the game when it comes to the task of locating saved information, whether physical or virtual. We need to give ourselves as many chances to find something as humanly possible. This is very similar to leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in the woods so we can find our way back home. If we insert our breadcrumbs or clues into a file name, those clues will help us find our way back to the information when we need it.
Usually, when I am looking for something, I often have to try three, four or five times before my search yields a useful result. This means I try several different search tactics and search methods. Most often, I am successful locating what I previously stored. I am successful because my filing habits include the strategic placement of many clues, enabling me to recapture the thread and unearth the document in the future, anytime I need it. In short, I create multiple opportunities for myself to find the documents I need. I do this is because I don’t know exactly how I will search for a document in the future. Therefore, my filing system needs to support multiple search tactics in order to be functional at a maximum level. This is why I put both keywords and date stamps in my file names. Please note the sample of my file naming convention in the image below.
It’s Just that Simple
Our information is valuable. Our time is valuable. If we don’t take preventative measures to ensure the safe storage of our information, then it’s not just the information we end up losing.
Information loss is a common, every day occurrence for companies who lack effective filing systems. Workers find themselves having to constantly re-establish or recreate lost information because they can’t find the original versions they saved a month ago, a week ago or even yesterday! They suffer daily. Workflows are impeded, time is lost, money is lost.
An effective filing system, whether physical or virtual, is nothing more than implementing a process, which safely stores our information, allowing us to retrieve it quickly and easily. It’s just that simple.
Stay tuned for more as we dive deeper into filing systems in the weeks to come.
Andy Pattantyus, CPIM is president of Strategic Modularity, Inc., a systems engineering consulting firm that works with clients on process oriented Lean Transformation projects, including initiatives to improve administrative workflows. Andy is also an active member of APICS-SFV and The ACA Group. If you would like to get in touch with Strategic Modularity, Inc., contact Andy here.