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Document Management System - Is Yours Really a System?

Updated on May 18, 2013

Do You Waste Time Looking For Files?

Nothing wastes time more than a bad filing system. Say, for example, you need to look up a file on an insurance matter Do you look under “I” for insurance, “A” for Allstate, or “C” for claim. After 15 minutes, you have finally retrieved the document.

Everybody Has an Opinion on Where Documents Get Filed

There is no hard and fast rule that determines where stuff gets filed, although business schools have recommended methods. The fact of life is that each person in your office who files things uses his or her intuition. So the person who filed the insurance claim information did so because he had a gut feeling that it should go under a certain category. That is the problem with most filing “systems;” they are not systems but whim-driven opinions. Unless the person looking up the file is driven by the same whim as the person who filed it, you are in for a time-consuming journey.

The Problem of the Former Employee

When a person whose job included filing leaves a company, that person’s filing system goes with him. “We have our annual meeting next week and I can’t find where Joe filed the attendance list.” Have you ever heard something like that? Former employees are often scorned because nobody can find where they filed stuff. They shouldn’t be. They were just doing what most filing systems demand: file by whim.

Because most of our documents are now in digital format and are filed on a hard drive, the problem is less severe than it was a few years ago. Anything that is sent out from an office exists somewhere on the server or a local hard drive, and is therefore searchable. But the problem still exists for incoming documents. Some companies have a policy of scanning all incoming papers. The problem with scanning is that a good high- speed scanner is expensive and, for digital searching, you are at the mercy of the current state of optical character recognition—one smudge, and the document may never be retrievable. Even without smudging, a scanned pdf document is seldom searchable.

A Solution—Attach Keywords to Paper Documents

When I owned my own company my employees did the filing. What I never realized, because I didn’t have to, was that I had absolutely no talent for filing. After I sold the company I still had many business interests and activities. I set up shop in my own house. Filing was a nightmare! I was so bad at it that I took the path of least resistance: I didn’t file but just let stuff pile up in boxes. Then came the day of reckoning: I had to retrieve a document. I spent the day doing just that. This is poor time management. With the right filing system you are not just managing time, you are creating more time.

Pure serendipity saved me. As I was struggling with my increasingly chaotic office I received an e-mail solicitation for software that promised that I could find a document in “five seconds, guaranteed.” I ordered it immediately. That was 10 years ago; the software is The Paper Tiger; I use it to this day and can’t imagine doing without it.

How The Paper Tiger Works

First, be assured that you don’t need to learn a new theory or philosophy of filing: it’s a lot simpler than that. Once you’re done setting up the new system you can find any piece of paper in “five seconds, guaranteed.” They promised that 10 years ago and it’s true to this day. Here’s how to do it:

  • Numbered files replace alphabetical files. First you go out and buy a lot of hanging files, along with the clear plastic file name stickers. You then open the file drawer and start with the first file. Let’s say it’s called “Abernathy Fuel Company.” You replace Abernathy Fuel Company with the number “1.” Now you go to the software screen where you will be asked for the LOCATION of the file. You simply type in “First cabinet on south wall” or whatever appropriate descriptive name you come up with. You then type in a name for the file. You then go to the next screen—and this is the killer part of the software, and you list as many keywords as think may be helpful in retrieving the file. So with the Abernathy file, now known as file #1, you would put: fuel, oil, Abernathy and maybe utilities. When you want to retrieve the file just type on any of the keywords and you are told to go to file #1.
  • Local or cloud based. You can buy the software just for your computer or get a network version.
  • Does it take work setting up the new system? Yes, it does. It took me three full days converting over to Paper Tiger. For a company, depending on the size of course, it may take a week or two. It’s best done with two people. The Paper Tiger people will give you a list of consultants who will manage the project for you. But once you’re done, you’re done. If a new matter shows up that needs a new file, just pick a location and you will be told that the next file is, say, 322.
  • What about computer files? Paper Tiger now has a module that enables you to connect your Paper Tiger Online account to Google Docs. You can still index your paper files and other physical items such as books and manuals into Paper Tiger Online. Then you can use Google Docs through a Google or Gmail account for your digital file storage.

In a recent article I wrote about saving time by letting your desk clean itself. The paper Tiger makes this time management chore a breeze.

I have no business relationship with The Paper Tiger: I just love their stuff. Their website is extensive and informative. Check it out. (Don’t forget the “the”).


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    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      The great thing is that it requires little or no thought, which is a great thing in my case.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great suggestions! I may be one of the worst filers around; Bev does our filing and thank God for it. I will pass this on to her, and will use it myself.

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      I spent a number of years in administrative positions (I also worked for a company that sold filing supplies and systems) and in each job, I invariably revamped the previous person's filing system to suit my needs. The Paper Tiger eliminates the personal preference method of filing and makes files easily accessible to everyone in the office. Great product and Hub!