The peak of my passion for documents occurs in the lead up to the self-assessment deadline 31 January every year.
At work, I deal mostly with digital documents. These are filed away and easily retrievable as part of our business processes.
At home, I leave it all to my wife, who has a strong belief in paper filing systems. I long ago discovered that my efforts to advance the digital cause only reinforced her belief in paper systems.
So I’ve let sleeping dogs lie and gone with the flow, only to regret that decision for a weekend each year when preparing our self-assessment returns.
Something to be grateful for
One of the thought leaders I admire is Peter Thomson. One of his daily routines for starting the day in a positive way is to think about things he should be grateful about.
This advice resonated this year when searching at home for documents that at work I would find immediately. In my annual trip back to paper-based misery I realise just how much I take our Document Management Software for granted.
Google has revolutionised the way we obtain information on practically any subject. We all practice search engine optimisation by setting up materials that, in Google, say “find me, find me”.
This is often not true in paper filing or many digital file share systems.
Paper-based filing systems often have personal idiosyncrasies. I feel like my wife has organised hers as a quiz designed to wind me up.
I’m of course throwing rocks out of my own greenhouse. My explorer file folders on my home personal computer exhibit similar personal idiosyncrasies. Stuffed full of duplicates and organised on the fly; what was once a sensible file structure a year ago is a mystery today.
File naming conventions are no substitute for metadata and content search. There’s a lot of manual review to ensure I’m looking at the right version of a particular document or calculation.
Just in time
We live in a ‘just-in-time’ culture. Many of us leave things to the last minute, and for small personal tasks like my tax return a bit of document chaos once a year is no big issue.
The same isn’t true for a business where efficiency, visibility and control are critical to the long term survival of the business.
Today we need the right information available at the right time. Our customers and suppliers no longer tolerate delays. Fashionably late when it comes to information is an oxymoron.
I started talking about a passion for documents. This is not a love affair: I get really angry when I have to take time to find, or worse still if I lose, a document.
If you have a similar relationship with documents in your business life you may want to consider document management software. This makes it easy to access and use the information contained within documents and see who has accessed them.
It certainly makes my life easier at work. Not only at the crunch times (like during year-end audit and corporation tax preparation) when large quantities of data are required, but also the day-to-day when responding to both internal and external enquiries.