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Back To Basics: Document Management Best Practices

from Matt Peterson, President and CEO of eFileCabinet

Finding effective solutions for managing business data is one of the biggest obstacles businesses encounter in reducing costs, improving service, increasing productivity, and meeting regulatory requirements.

Here are some tips to better manage your documents:

1. Consistent Folder Structures.

Most businesses have a large problem with staying consistent with the way folders are named and structured. Folders are mislabeled and forgotten when creating new folder structures.Document management software allows you to create templates for consistent creation of file folders for each of your clients so that the appropriate folders, and ultimately the appropriate files can be found.

2. Consistent Naming of Documents.

People constantly name files the way they want, which creates a major headache when searching for the files. Like any type of clutter, files can accumulate to the point where you find yourself digging through chaos. Be consistent in your descriptions and naming schemes so that you can easily find files when you search for them later. Use specific names for your files that include not only the topic, but the media type and the date when the file was created.  Avoid using names that are overly cryptic. Use a specific order in how you name your files. For instance, you can list the type of document first, the client it is intended for as second, the date as third, and the date the file was created last. Developing a formula makes it easy to quickly pull up files when needed. 

3. Maintaining Multiple File Cabinets for Your Business.

You are probably using more than one file cabinet to store all of your business documents, one cabinet for accounting/tax, one for investment client data, human resources and other business administrative documents. Your electronic file cabinet should emulate your physical file cabinet, from the cabinet down to the drawers, folders and files.  Creating individual file cabinets for your accounting clients and investment clients is especially critical when it comes to having an audit. This allows an auditor for the investment side of your business to only view the investment files and not the other files that pertain to your business.

4. Granting Access to Documents and File Permissions.

As companies grow so does the amount of confidential data they store.  This, of course, leads to an increasing number of threats to confidential information from both external and internal sources.  Utilize role-based security within your document management system to pre-set access rights to groups and individual users.

5. Setting Appropriate Document Retention Policies.

Each industry has rules and regulations on how long you must maintain a copy of documents. Utilize document retention features in your electronic document management system to set the retention policy on all documents.  Files will be locked down and prevented from being deleted or modified until the document has reached its maturity date.

6. Sharing Files Securely.

Transferring information with social security numbers, birthdates, full names, etc. is no longer secure through email and therefore generally prohibited by securities firms and businesses. Mail and FedEx can be expensive and unreliable in arriving to its destination on time. It is important to find a document management system that offers secure and immediate file sharing between clients, vendors and employees.

7. Securing Data in Transit and at Rest.

On top of using complex passwords and a secure network get a firewall, a software or hardware-based network system that analyzes data packets from incoming and outgoing traffic. It then decides whether data should be allowed through or not. It’s essential to keeping your information from getting intercepted by the public.

8. Internal and External Audit Compliance.

Maintaining compliance with strict record retention rules requires tracking all actions within your document management solution. This means having a document management system that tracks actions such as viewing documents, editing files and deleting or purging documents.

9. Managing Unstructured Data.

Companies have tons of data that has been and is completely unmanaged on their desktop, documents folder and email.  These types of documents include emails, Word and Excel documents and even pictures.  Document management software will help manage both active and archived documents.  This  also ensures that your company is working off of the current version of the document, not the version that was created five years ago.

10. Eliminating Dual Entry Errors.

Of course it is common that companies use a wide variety of different software solutions to help better manage their data. This commonly creates a process of having to duplicate the input of information for the client, vendor, or employee. It’s important to find a document management software that integrates with other software your company uses (i.e. QuickBooks). Information keyed into QuickBooks is transferred and linked to documents with the simple click of a button. This information includes, but is not limited to, data such as vendor name, invoice number, amount due, addresses, phone numbers, etc. Most companies have to enter this type of information multiple times making them inefficient, wasting valuable time and subjecting the data to error.


Matt Peterson is the CEO of Lehi, Utah-based eFileCabinet, Inc. Founded in 2001, eFileCabinet, Inc. began as a cutting-edge tool to digitally store records in accounting firms. As it grew in popularity, eFileCabinet developed into a full-fledged electronic document management solution designed to help organizations capture, manage and protect their data.





This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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  • Pedro Cadete Pinheiro

    This can hardly be referred as a document management article:

    File Storage is one thing, Document Management is something completely different:

    It’s related to efficiently capture, index, store, and distribute documents (or electronic records) in a given organization.

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