Very Simple Document Management

However, with power comes complexity, and you may well find that many of the avilable solutions are farmore complex than you need or want.  Sharepoint, for example, is a very powerful collaboration tool, which can do far more than document management alone.  Remember also that you can get Sharepoint for 4% of it's retial value from if you have a CHY number!

Built into Windows - keeping it simple

Windows has some built-in solutions for managing documents.  It may be that a simple, well thought out directory structure on a shared drive on your office file server would suffice.  When creating your directory though, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Try and think of how the information should be organised for your organisation, not just a specific project or a specific person.  For example, is it better to have a folder for event evaluations, a folder for event promotion and a folder for event content, and to put all of each type in such folders, thereby grouping the information by type?  Or is it in fact better to group the information together per event, and each event has all the information relevant to that event, though they be of disparate types.  This latter approach is more logical from the point of view of the user and provides a more holistic view of the operations in which the organisation is engaged.  This is the fundamental concept of CRM systems too: a holistic view of the customer.
  2. When naming directories, people often get bothered and feel that they must name their directories with names which sound "clever".  People often over-think their naming and come up with stilted and complicated sounding names, more designed to impress than communicate.  A good directory name is descriptive and succinct.  It uses plain words - jargon is OK but it should be jargon that is common parlance within the organisation.  Finally, the most important word in your name should be  the first word.  By the most important, I mean: if you boil your name down to a single word, stripping out any fat or padding.  It is the word which holds the crux of the meaning of the name.  For example "The Wheel Website" is a terrible directory name.  "Website" is a good directory name.  Or even, "Website - wheelie".  People read from the left and scan down along the left hand side of the screen, so if the first word in your directory names are not relevant, it is a lot more difficult for a user to find what they seek.
  3. Finally, do not over-categorise.  A nice clear directory structure is a beautiful thing, but do not create directories just for the sake of it.  If there is only one file in a directory, is that directory really necessary?  Probably not.  Remember that Windows can differentiate between file types, so users have many options for sorting files in a directory and with date ordering, thumbnails and icons, a directory can comfortably hold many kinds of information without confusion.


Tagging - an extra dimension

The other feature Windows has is tagging.  If you create an Office document, e.g. in Word, you can add lots of meta-data to the document by choosing File>Properties.  The relevant areas in Properties are "title", "category", "keywords" and "subject".

Then, you can use a desktop search tool to retrieve your files intelligently.  You could use something like the newest Windows Desktop Search or Google Desktop Search.  Or you could even use the basic search in Windows.  You can get Windows to display keywords, categories and desctiptions, etc. in the "details" view of the search results allowing you to group your search results by a multitude of criteria.

To display columns other than the default Name/Folder/Size etc in the Details view in Windows Explorer/Windows Search, right click on the grey title bar with the column headings in it.   Choose "More" and then you can turn on or off any bits of information you desire, e.g. categories.

The downside to these search tool options is that some people complain that they take too much by way of system resources when they index all the files stored.  However, that is just anecdotal, from brief readings on the 'net.

What is document management anyway?

 The basic things people mean by document management include

  • categorising documents
  • being able to retrieve documents

More advanced features might include

  • versioning
  • change logging

Windows can handle the basic features without any extras, thereby keeping things simple.  If the more advanced features are required, then simplicity may well be lost along the way.