The simple and affordable option
Information assets essentially include all electronic files and paper documents within the organization. These are valuable assets/resources because they are intrinsically tied to daily operations. It is therefore extremely important to ensure that they are easily retrievable at all times by all stakeholders that must rely on them. Many enterprises invest an enormous amount of time and money to render their electronic information assets retrievable. Unfortunately, the results can quite often be rather disappointing relative to the investment and effort. An affordable and effective option is to simply employ structured folder/file naming conventions for each business activity in the enterprise as a means of managing the applicable electronic information assets. This can be used either as a complementary or alternative strategy depending on the situation on hand.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The simple and affordable option
The need and value of naming conventions?
No matter the value of a treasure, if it is buried and you can not find it, it is of no value at all. The same holds true for electronic files. Well organized computer files are more readily retrievable and are very valuable information assets but if the files are in disarray they can actually induce undue operational costs.
As time progresses everyone will have to increasingly manage more electronic documents, therefore increasing the likelihood of losing control, unless some basic organizational precautions are taken. The solution is quite simple! It is just matter of diligently naming files as per a well structured naming convention and storing them in pre-designated folders. The premise is that that if you name it properly and store it properly as per the accepted standard anyone will be able to find it and unlike buried treasures electronic files must be easily found by all interested authorized parties without needing a map.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
The value of email attachments
Business emails and in particular, the documents that are received as email attachments are information- assets that belong to the organization. They should therefore be properly named, stored and rendered accessible to other staff members that can potentially benefit or require the information for operational use. Attachments are of significant importance to the enterprise because these may include documents that are:
· Transactional - e.g. sales orders and invoices
· Legal - e.g. contracts, policies and notifications
· Informational - e.g. specifications and drawings
In the paper-based world such documents would possibly be reviewed or processed by several people and filed in departmental filing cabinets. In the electronic world, it is incumbent on the receiving individual to either forward the email or file these documents in the appropriate repository so that coworkers may access them for immediate review or processing. This is extremely important due to potentially serious consequences. For example: emailed electronic invoices or sales orders that have been improperly handled may not be processed until a supplier or client complains. These situations can be easily avoided through proper filing with the help of structured file naming and storage.
What is structured file naming?
Structured filenaming consists of a file name that is composed of a minimum of two descriptive segments plus the file name extension. To illustrate this concept, we may look at the following file naming example:
In this example, it is quite clear by the file name that this document is an invoice numbered P76328 from a supplier, Global Lighting, which was issued on January 29, 2009. The file name can be improved further by taking advantage of abbreviations (IDs) that will make the file name more concise. The result would look like: GLOBAL_P76328_INV_090125.PDF
Once a document has been assigned an information-rich file name such as the above, it becomes easy to search for, retrieve and identify. This will result in increased efficiency and overall productivity.
Some possible pitfalls
In principle, a structured file naming strategy and storage policy is easy to implement. The difficulty lies in the fact that it requires collective discipline and patience. When several people are involved it can be a major challenge to maintain file naming and storage policy adherence. Depending on the structure it could involve a fair amount of typing and an increased chance of transposing segments and misspelling or mistyping pertinent data.
A semi-automated solution
It is worthwhile to consider automating the process as much as possible so as to minimize manual input when entering the storage destination and the filename. The user should be able to simply drag and drop the document in a general purpose viewer. Skim through the document if necessary to decide under which business activity to classify it under. Choose the business activity profile and let the application semi-automatically populate the structured file name and destination using minimal input. The eXadox filing system facilitates this mode of operation by enabling a company to define a structured file naming and storage standard that each department or business unit must adhere to. To eliminate improper entry it uses smart lists that are created by importing data from the business system. These lists are used to ensure that only valid entries are accepted. The same lists can be used to perform precision search and retrieval of stored documents.
For more info visit http://www.exadox.com or refer to: eXadox White Paper: Semi-Automated Structured File Naming and Storage
Friday, June 12, 2009
Although "structured file naming" may be an unfamiliar term for some, many computer users actually employ the practice without realizing it. If you are naming your file with two or more descriptive segments and are making a conscious effort to be consistent, you are applying a structured file naming strategy.
To better appreciate this concept, we may take the following structured file name example: GLOBAL-LIGHTING_P76328_INVOICE_2009-1-25.PDF
In this example it is relatively clear by the file name that this document is an invoice numbered P76328 from a supplier, Global Lighting, that was issued on January 29, 2009. The file name can be improved further by taking advantage of abbreviations (IDs) that will make the file name more concise. The result would look like: GLOBAL_P76328_INV_090125.PDF
Regardless of the method, it is important to always ensure that all the critical descriptors relating to your document are included in the structure and that you consistently adhere to it. Ultimately, your productivity and efficiency in retrieving and identifying documents is a function of how well you executed your own naming policy. If you were diligent you will be able to avoid having to open a slew of files to identify the desired document.
Information-rich structured file naming helps improve your efficiency immensely. You will no longer have a heavy reliance on complex multi-tiered hierarchical folder structures. Nevertheless we still recommend that you maintain a sub-folder for the primary filing entity (e.g. client, supplier, employee, project, etc...). Conversely, if you have dedicated sub-folders for each entity we also strongly recommend that you continue to include the name of the entity as a prefix in the structured file name. In other words, although you have a sub-folder dedicated for Global Lighting Company, the company name GLOBAL should still be present in the filename.
Here are a few reasons why:
• It minimizes search result ambiguity.
• Misfiled documents can still be located.
• Mobile documents can still be easily identified.
• Searching is more direct and precise.
A general purpose file name structure that could work in just about every situation is as follows: SUB-FOLDER NAME_REF ID LIST_REF-ID_DOC TYPE LIST_ DOC NAME_VERSION. EXTIn this structure SUB-FOLDER NAME is synonymous with Primary Entity Name (e.g. Supplier Name/ID). LIST implies that the entries are based on a finite predetermined list of possibilities. It is not a free text field.
To illustrate how this structure can be used, please refer to the following examples:GLOBAL_GENEXPENSE_P76328_INV_090125.PDF SMITH-J _SUNLIFE_367450_POLICY_EXP120215.PDFLAGOCONDOS_PPELEC_5786_SUBCON_H&L.DOC
How many segments and which segments you opt for is strictly your decision unless you need to work collaboratively as part of a business unit. In this latter case, consensus is required with coworkers or failure is likely.
Other reasons for potential failure in manual structured file naming could be:
• Segment order is unintentionally compromised.
• Inconsistencies in what is entered.
• Repetitive tedious keying of file name entries.
If you work alone and you could manage with a very simple file name structure, chances of success are good. If several coworkers are involved in the naming of shared documents, take a look at a semi-automated structured file naming tool to ensure integrity, policy adherence and overall success.
For more info visit http://www.exadox.com or refer to: eXadox White Paper: Semi-Automated Structured File Naming and Storage
Structured File Name
A structured file name consists of multiple segments where each segment provides specific information about the document. The quantity and type of segments employed is dependant on the type of documents and the business activity.
A general purpose file name structure used within eXadox that can handle most requirements consists of the following segments: SUB-FOLDER NAME_REF ID LIST_REF-ID_DOC TYPE_DOC NAME_VERSION_[TRACKING]. EXT
The following are some examples showing how this structure can be used:GLOBAL_GENEXPENSE_P76328_INV_090125_[BOX4].PDF SMITH-J_SUNLIFE_367450_POLICY_EXP120215.PDFLAGOCONDOS_PPELEC_5786_SUBCON_H&L.DOC
In the examples above, each segment can convey different types of information based on need. The following provides some insight on how to exploit each segment in the structure:
SUB-FOLDER NAME is the primary entity (e.g.: clients, suppliers, employees, projects, etc...) for which/whom we are filing documents. A sub-folder should be created for each entity name. If the list is available from a CRM or business system, eXadox could auto-create all the sub-folders instantly. The sub-folder name can automatically be injected by eXadox as a prefix for easy document identification. This segment is especially important if the documents are mobile.
REF ID LIST is a list of possibilities that can logically categorize the primary entity or perhaps the type of department, employees may be divided based on work classification or perhaps department. An insurance brokerage firm may offer insurance protection by different companies based on the type of insurance required. The resulting list is used by eXadox to ensure consistency and to help auto-populate the segment.
REF-ID - is a free-text segment used to help identify a specific document or a group of related documents. For example in an accounts payable department this segment can be the supplier invoice number. A legal firm may use it to input a case number as a provision to enable the grouping of case specific documents.
DOC TYPE is a list of possible document types (e.g.: invoice, letter, contract, policy, accident report, etc.). Because this is a list, eXadox uses the entries in the list to auto-populate the segment as per user needs.
DOC NAME is a free-text segment used to provide specific information on the document content or purpose (e.g.: type of statement, invoice date, type or purpose of a report, etc...)
VERSION is a free-text segment that is used for version control. The entry gets auto-incremented when a document with identical name exists in the same folder.
[TRACKING] is a list driven segment that can be used to track the status of the document or where the physical document is located (e.g.: BOX 235, SHREDDER, PAID). eXadox uses the list to auto populate the segment and/or embed the tracking info into the PDF.
SOME GENERAL TIPS
• Focus on the part of the business that is the most paper burdened and that could bring the most value.
• Start with current incoming documents immediately and work on old documents as time permits.
• Make a decision on whether you wish to save or destroy your physical documents. If you wish to maintain them you may pack them chronologically (based on scan date and time) in numbered banker boxes destined for storage.
• Use suitable structured file naming conventions for each business activity.
• Get consensus with coworkers on a suitable file name structure in collaborative work environments.
• To maintain policy adherence, accuracy and minimize keyboard input, consider semi-automated structured file naming.
For more info visit http://www.exadox.com or refer to: eXadox White Paper: Semi-Automated Structured File Naming and Storage.
Why so many paper documents?
• In spite of technological advances, wet signatures continue to be required on most official documents. Wet signature is synonymous with paper.
• Supporting documents or attachments (e.g. certificates, permits, and receipts) are generally on paper unless a scanned copy or PDF version exists.
• EDI has been around for over twenty-five years but it is quite expensive and has not had widespread adoption. As a result: invoices, shipping docs, POs and payments are still predominately paper-based.
• Banks, public agencies and utilities communicate using their de facto standard means: "paper".
As a rule, we should make an effort to generate less paper; but we may have little or no control over paper documents from external sources (e.g. suppliers, clients and government). To minimize the negative impact of inbound paper documents, the solution is to digitize them ASAP. They may be scanned in the mail-room entry point, in the business unit or at the departmental level. Once scanned, they should immediately be indexed to facilitate search and retrieval. They will thereafter be transformed from a paper burden to a valuable digital document asset.
• Improve business processes workflow.
• Increase productivity via document sharing.
• Eliminate filing and searching for paper documents.
• Protect important data through encryption.
• Ensure disaster recovery and business continuity.
• Adhere to regulatory compliance.• Save office space, reduce storage costs.
Many already benefitting
Most of the larger enterprises have been scanning and indexing there paper documents for years. They were early to recognize the benefits in productivity gains and reduced operating costs due to higher efficiency. They were able to realize a fast ROI thanks to shear volume in spite of high initial investment costs as early adopters.
SMEs should get started
Today, imaging solutions are within easy reach of the smaller businesses also. This is in large part due to substantial price reductions and vastly improved scanner hardware technology. Document management software is also more affordable because of competitive pressures although sometimes still unnecessarily complex. One must still be careful because there can be significant additional costs due to demanding infrastructure, installation, customization and training. These costs can present a source of business practice resistance due to a more significant investment and risk.
Seek an affordable and simple approach
The truth is that for most business operations there is no need for highly complex or sophisticated document imaging and management software. What most of the smaller firms or departments require is a convenient means of scanning their paper documents and an intuitive method to store and retrieve them. Digital document filing should be less complicated than paper filing! It just has to be extremely flexible, efficient and most importantly less error prone. No matter what the solution it is best to take advantage of packaged solutions that involve a fix cost that includes a scanner, software, installation, training and personalization.
A low cost effective alternative
Document indexing can be accomplished in several ways. Most conventional document management systems commonly require manual entry of metadata or keywords for each document. An innovative and simpler approach is to use structured file naming as a basis of document indexing. The concept involves structuring the filename into descriptive segments that provide all the information necessary to search, retrieve and identify the targeted document.
For more info visit http://www.exadox.com/ or refer to: eXadox White Paper: Semi-Automated Structured File Naming and Storage.