You know what it's like....you've been saving your product documentation and sales collateral in the Marketing folder on the company file server for years before discovering that the Engineering team have their own Marketing folder with the same kind of stuff! Not to mention what Support has duplicated in their own team folders.
A file plan solves the confusion, duplication and inefficiency this all too common situation creates by defining a common approach to organising documents across your entire organisation. A good filing plan creates context by storing information in a structure that gives meaning according to the needs and activities of the business.
A file plan explained
Essentially, a file plan describes the different types of files used in your business, how they are identified, where they should be stored and how they should be indexed for future retrieval. Its main purpose is to help manage the creation and disposal of documents, and where possible, the security of and access to those documents.
An effective file plan should be documented in much the same way as your Occupational Health and Safety or Staff Conduct policies would be documented. Having a file plan doesn't necessarily require specific document management or records management software to administer it, but they can certainly help automate routine processes and make it easier for staff to comply in their daily work.
Why do I need one?
Most of us have experienced the pain of searching for documents that we know exist, but just can't be found. In fact, studies have shown that office based staff waste an average of 8% of their working day just searching for the right information.
The purpose of a file plan is to help alleviate this pain by:
- determining where files should be stored within the larger collection of files (either physically or conceptually);
- assisting users in retrieving files;
- providing links between records that originate from the same activity or from related activities;
- assigning and controlling access rights and manage security; and
- ensuring the long-term preservation of files as required to meet regulatory requirements, be prepared for any future legal proceedings and maintain records of enduring cultural and historical value to the firm.
It's easy to see why investing the time to document a file plan is not a high priority during the exciting days when your business was just getting started....with a small customer list and even fewer staff, keeping on top of documentation doesn't seem all that hard. But as staff come and go, and the scope of your business expands, inefficiencies will grow.
Being able to pinpoint the information you need to resolve a customer dispute or pass an audit without losing hours of productive time makes the investment in developing a document management plan an investment well spent.