Best practices for setting up the document file structure

The following are some best practices to consider when setting up and managing the FileHold Document Management System. Before you start creating your document hierarchy, you should plan out how you are going to organize the structure. Use the FileHold Library Hierarchy Planning template as a guide.

Understand your documents and users

It is recommended that you obtain relevant samples of all documents, templates and records that your organization wishes to store in the repository. Take careful note of the documents and talk to the users that are working with these documents on a daily basis. Ask the following questions:

  • Is it easy to understand the documents intent and contents at a glance?

  • Size of your legacy repository in terms of numbers of documents?

  • Are you going to only import the most recent version of legacy documents or all versions?

  • Do they have cover sheets, common styles and naming convention?

  • Do some documents change more often than others?

  • Should some documents be treated as records?

    Records typically never change and are stored as a snapshot in time of a particular transaction or event. (Marriage Certificate, Land Title Document, Birth Certificate, X-Ray Image, etc)

  • What is the best kind of information or data can be used to classify a document by its type?

    For example, if the document is of type Purchase order, the purchase order number and purchase order date may be the best data that can be used to distinguish one PO from another.

  • What kind of information would users want to search for documents by?

    This will help the library administrator to set metadata

Organizing documents for user access

Plan out which users are going to be able to access the documents in the different areas of the Library. Ask the following questions:

  • What kind of key information do groups of users rally around?

    For example, does everyone in engineering talk using part number code while users in accounting frequently make referenced to customer ID or invoice number. This sort of information can quickly form the foundation of what metadata should be associated with documents.

  • Divide the documents into logical groups based on who will need to access the documents.
    Many times this is accomplished by organizing the files by either function or department. It is also important to note any of the common metadata documents share.

  • Which groups of users should be able to access which types of documents?

  • Which groups of users should NOT be able to access which types of documents?

Documents from outside to be added to FileHold

Determine how documents will be added to the Library from outside the FileHold software. Ask the following questions:

  • Will files be added to the document management system from 3rd party systems?

  • Do these systems have the ability to export the documents along with metadata for the documents?

  • Do you have a collection of documents to be scanned before bringing them into records management system?

  • Do you plan to use imaging and scanning systems?

  • Are scan stations configured and running?

Setting document retention and disposal policies

Determine how long documents will be stored in the Library and after a period of time, should be deleted.

  • How long does each type of document have to be retained by the company before it is first archived then disposed of.
  • Is your company public?

    If so, depending on where you are in the world you may be subject to Sarbanes-Oxley or other regulatory requirements that mandate various behaviors and accounting practices as well as strict policies towards information management and record and document retention.

Organizing documents and configuring the library

Plan your file structures, document schemas and controlled metadata vocabulary before building the system. Use the spreadsheet included in this guide to help plan out your structure. See Creating the Library.

  • Configure document schemas and metadata fields and build a categorization system that works. Keep the document schemas simple. A simple schema would contain a single drop-down menu to further categorize the type of document and a comments field. You can make them complex to provide for the management of a legal contract and its complete lifecycle. It is recommended to keep the number of metadata fields to a maximum of 5 per schema.

  • Determine the key metadata fields common to all schemas. These will provide for a powerful search when added to the appropriate schemas. For example, searching using the customer name metadata fields across Purchase Order, Invoice and Contract document types.

  • Keep the system as simple as possible. When rolling out a document management system it is important to make the schemas easy to use and stick to a few key fields.

  • Use required fields sparingly. In aerospace, financial, medical, healthcare, or legal environments, required fields may be mandatory and will used heavily because the data about the document is important.

  • Stage the document management solution in a rollout. Take it one step at a time and be realistic. Start with one group or document collection at a time to avoid being overwhelmed. Work with the people who have the most pain with document management first, make that implementation a success then move on.

Time and system requirements when setting up FileHold

  • Make sure you allot enough time for document scanning, classification and migration.

  • Make sure you allot enough time for system training.

  • Even with very simple technology, the move to electronic document management systems comes with some very specific requirements. Training users is paramount in making the move to a paperless office smooth and successful.