I have been tied up lately with some family issues and have not sat down to work on blogs since the fall. The work that I have been doing to help get my parent’s paperwork and files in order made me realize that this is something vital, not only for myself, but for any organization. Getting my family organized has made me realize how easy it is to do for others, but not yourself. Even more importantly, what about the organization where you work? Many times, the organization of an office and its various components is the last thing to worry about, especially if you are in festival or event season.
Now, I know many people would laugh that I am writing about this topic as they have seen my office. It has piles all over and I cocoon myself into a small area with files and papers in my own little fort. Most people might think that is unorganized, but I can usually pull a file or paper in a matter of seconds. I know where the important items are and those that are not critical elsewhere.
Even though the paper files might not seem to be that organized, where do spend the time organizing files in a consistent way is on the computer. Typically I have paper as a backup and my main filing is on the computer. Having a documented system for an organization and the file server is critical. I remember one organization where the files were listed in folders based on the employee’s name. Now, if one did not know that Mary Sunshine was the Marketing person two people ago, it would be difficult to find old files or photos.
Part of a good organizational plan is to have procedures that are written down (on the computer and not just paper) and creating file naming standards. This way, it is easier to find files and having standard naming conventions makes things easier. I have found that setting up files by functional areas can help the staff find the documents they are searching for.
Naming conventions can be set any way you desire - it is the consistency over the entire organization that is important. Once the main areas are set up, then consider sub categories under that main folder based on project, event, or activity. Finally, then there can be year files so that each year is in a different folder so that someone can find the most current files easily. One trick I learned with a medical organization was to put dates in the file name as needed with a yyyy.mm.dd format or yyyy.mm format as this helps sort files easily.
Filing standards are one organizational tool. But processes and procedures on any task in the office can be beneficial. Documenting how to use office equipment, how are files scanned from the printer to the computers or server, how new emails are set up, instructions on answering the phone, and even scripts on greeting guests can help current and new employees manage the service levels you desire. Having this information documented can be placed in an operations manual or intranet files and can be shared with new employees at their orientation.
Other standards to consider relate to computers. How are computers named on your network? Are the names the same structure? Do you inventory the computers for software and the appropriate versions? Are all the computers up to date with the same software, versions, and security software? Most importantly, how are backups done for the computers and the server? How often are these completed?
Even with a backup, you should check the backups to make sure they are being done correctly and that the backup can be used to reset the computers and machine. Yes, I had to learn that the hard way as with an organization where we had the backups being done. The server was dying a quick and painful death as it was a used server when the organization received it (something that I would not recommend, no matter how wonderful a board member might be that wants to donate it.) The backup had not run correctly for over a year and we had to piecemeal back the files and could not recover some of the files. A good summary – do not scrimp on computer equipment, IT services, backups, and a good IT strategy for your organization. Test your backups to make sure all files are included. It is worth it to put money into this important building block for your organization and your database. (Database standards are a whole other issue that will be covered in a future article.)
With your office management, it is important to set standards, document procedures, test the procedures, and maintain all of these so that your organization can keep moving and manage the day to day operations.
As these thoughts are now on paper, it is time to finish up the project to get the family paperwork complete. Then, yes, I will tackle the office, the papers, and the growing fort, as I plan to shop at a store to help me get organized (one that was an event partner years ago), and create a new, more organized and efficient office environment.