There is a difference between ‘storing’ your documents and ‘managing’ your documents. Paper and electronic files can both be stored, but it doesn’t mean they are being managed. Windows Explorer is a document storage system (and a good one) but here are 10 reasons that it’s costing you time and money.
1. Templates can be easily overwritten
Take for instance this scenario:
James is one of your client services support team. You have asked James to create a letter to send to your client accompanying a final notice for payment. James goes to the L: drive, which contains all of your standard templates and after browsing finds the appropriate letter. James notices that another client’s information is contained in the standard document – he correctly overwrites the name and address, but does not notice there is an amount and the name of the client contained further down in the letter. James submits the letter to his manager who identifies that the amount needs to be changed, but misses the name of the client further down in the letter. Two problems here – rework and the letter to the client contains another person’s name.
Your standard documents and templates are easily overwritten or populated with client data. How often have you witnessed a standard letter containing the details of the last client for which it was used? This is dangerous, as it is very easy to overlook replacing one piece of information. Once the template document is overwritten, it is very difficult to recover the original – if you find out in time, you may be able to recover from backup, but think of all the wasted time and effort. Has this happened to you? A good document management system would prevent this from happening.
2. Inadequate control of template versions
Is this the latest up-to-date template you are working from? Does everyone know where to access the latest template? Even if they know the appropriate shared drive on the network, often the structure can go through many sub-folders before a template is found. Lots more browsing.
Change control on templates is not adequate when using Windows Explorer. There is no control to make sure that your templates are not overwritten with client data. Word documents can contain data or errors that are quite obvious, but it is not so obvious in an Excel spreadsheet, where there can be extreme results when formulae is changed.
A good document management system will place controls on who can edit your valuable templates, ensuring every time they are used your team are starting with the correct document.
3. Lack of information about who accessed documents
Do you know who has accessed a file, modified, copied or emailed it? Or when? Generally there is very little of this information available from documents stored on a network drive. As firms work without paper and documents are created, updated and stored electronically, it is extremely important that you have an audit trail of all actions performed against any document that exists in your organisation.
Windows Explorer will not provide this level of functionality and the integrity of your documents and templates cannot be ensured. A good document management system will provide all of this information with date and time stamps for each time the file is used.
4. Lack of consistency in creating folders
What consistency is there in creating folders on shared network drives? Standards and consistency are important for any business. You can educate your team on your requirements, but human errors can be made. Users can also create extra folders, thinking this will make it easy to find documents in the future. When you have to browse for documents, you can understand why this is problematic.
What happens over time is that you have an oversupply of folders and sub-folders that become inconsistent over a number of years – it is very difficult to bring this back into a structured format. Good document management systems take care of this by having a defined set of folders that can apply to both clients and administration areas.
5. It is too easy to move or delete folders
Users can accidentally move or delete folders – search the web and see all the problems that are caused by users moving – or worse – deleting folders when they are browsing. How often have you gone to save a file or look for files and the folder is missing? Mostly it has accidentally been dragged to another location, but can be quite difficult to find. Worse, it could have been deleted.
A good document management system will not allow users to delete files without the appropriate level of access and ideally they will have a recycle bin where documents can be easily restored if needed.
6. You need to know where to find documents
In Windows Explorer, or any folder-based search, you need to know where a file has been saved to be able to find it quickly. The folder structure needs to be learnt by new team members:
‘Oh, we keep clients’ MYOB data files on M:\ drive’ ‘And client files are on S:\ drive’ ‘But past clients’ files are on P:\ drive’ ‘And don’t forget, admin and internal files are kept on I:\ drive’ ‘Got that?’
With folder-based searching, you need to browse the folders to find a document – S-L-O-W (even the word ‘browse’ sounds slow!). There are too many clicks to get to the required folder and you can only look in one folder at a time. There is limited filtering functionality and you cannot determine the status of a document just by looking at it.
A good document management system enables you to search and find documents based on a wide range of criteria (i.e. you don’t need to know where it has been filed, or which client it belongs to).
Browsing and exploring is great on your leisure time, but not so great for running a productive business. A good document management system can save 20 minutes per day on searching alone for each person in your business – you do the maths!
7. The inability to filter costs time
Because you must browse in Windows Explorer, you can’t filter on:
- who created
- who modified
- who is the owner of a specific document.
This can be of real importance when locating documents and can cost valuable time.
In a good document management system you can filter on many different options, including creator, partner, manager, status, date modified, created, added or finalised, plus the various status levels of the document.
8. Control over versions of documents
In Windows Explorer, new versions of documents are not automatically created; it requires the user to remember to use ‘File>Save As’ to create a new version of the document, if they want to be able to access the document the way it was, prior to a set of changes or edits. If errors have been made, there is nothing to go back to, unless you resort to a backed up file.
A good document management system will automatically create new versions of documents as they are edited, without any input from the user – this could literally save you many, many hours of rework.
9. Emails: a critical part of communication
When using Windows Explorer to keep all of the organisation’s files, there is no management of emails. A user has to remember to go to each folder (including sent items) and select File>Save As to ensure the emails are saved. In most organisations, it is not common practice for emails to be saved on a network drive. The usual practice is to create folders within each user’s Inbox for various clients or topics and very often “Sent” emails are forgotten, so the communication trail is lost.
The real problem with this is that an important part of an organisation’s correspondence is not shared centrally and is not available for all team members. This makes these communications as good as “locked” from the business perspective.
A good document management system will avoid this problem by prompting users to save emails without needing to remember to go back into their sent items, effectively taking away the “forget” factor.
10. No identification of saved emails
Even when emails are saved, there is no way to identify those that have or, more importantly, those that have not been saved to a network drive. A good document management system will flag emails that have been filed into the system and move the emails from the Inbox or Sent items folder into an identifying folder from where they can be deleted at a later time.
A good document management system will save you time, money and just possibly a law suit. Check out HowNow Document Management today.