Your First Electronic Filing System
Your leaders want it, your employees are ready, now is the time to get your electronic filing system in order. You apprehensively make the call. “HELP! How do I do this?”
I am going to give you 6 pieces of advice to help you get organized.
1. Enable Leaders to Speak About Their Truth
You need to include your leaders early and often. Let them try it out. Get them to experience how the new system will work. Allow them to upload a document, enter metadata keywords, search for the documents, email an attachment instead of a file, as many of the steps as possible that they might have to do on a day-to-day basis. These are all essential basic steps that enable the leader to lead by learning. Once they have done these things, get them to speak from their perspective. How was it to add a document? Easy or frustrating? Was there a big learning curve or is it just something that needs to become a habit?
Is there anything missing? Did it cover all of their needs? Making sure your leaders are able to do what they expect their team to do is huge! It is really important for the leaders of your company to gain personal experience using the new electronic filing system.
2. It’s All About the Information Architecture
It would be fun to talk about reporting, work flows, and automatically taking an email attachment and filing it in a certain spot, notifying someone else enabling them to track it, and so many other things. However, we must start with the basics. The foundation of how your content is organized, how your documents are catalogued, indexed, which content you want to keep, the ability to control versions. You want a central repository where everything is organized. Operating files, reports, project files, templates, research, and knowledge, all the basic things.
Your information architecture should strike a balance between 3 things:
- Operational Needs
- Document/Records Management Requirements
- Tools and Technology
Let’s start with Operational Needs. It has to be accessible to the business quickly, in a way that makes sense to how the business works. Nomenclature, structure of their files, it has to make sense for the business and how the team creates, consumes and shares information on a daily basis.
Documentation and records management requirements are things like version control, record retention, and best practices that come along with collecting and managing records through their lifecycle.
The third key point is tools and technology. Regardless if it is a filing cabinet or an electronic repository – knowing how it works and what it’s limits are. The way that it annexes and catalogues files, the way it searches and how the system reports these things.
Let’s take an example of a business that has 100K HR files, representing current and past employees. The central repository would take forever to load if it had to load all 100K files. You would want to leverage the technology to apply load limits. Something like viewing limits on pages so it only shows 50-100 results per page. The business will also want to make sure that the folder and file indexing capacity will work for that volume, and if not, it could be that the documents need to be divided into more than one library. There will be a need to combine how the technology works with how the business works to classify and organize itself.
All three things need to work together for a proper solution to your information architecture.
3. Future Phase Everything Else
Once the users start touching a system in a test capacity, searching, indexing, using the ability to leverage views or build cool dashboards, things like that, all kinds of creative automations, integrations and continuous improvement ideas that you can do with the system will emerge, if they have not already emerged. All these things are included in your business’s future phase. They will be ranked, prioritized, and given an estimate of how much time, effort, duration, and cost it will take to execute those future phase items. All this happens after the initial launch of the information architecture (electronic filing system).
4. Power-Users Are Your True Champions
No matter how big or small your organization is, you will want to have power-users in every part of it. You want the people who are trusted, respected, and who speak the language of the teams that they already work with. Those people are your champions, and they are extremely important and special. They are the Pioneers, they are learning themselves, but also have to lead and teach others in some capacity or another. The power-users are essential. They are part of testing, gathering and specifying requirements, and their truths are important. They have the ability to advocate, including implementing the new architecture at the meetings where their teams meet. They are like an open window to the rest of the constituency. They will tell you all the issues that arise from the teams themselves. Use them in the beginning of your project, during testing, process validation training, day 2 support modeling, and ongoing sustainment operations. Make them your decision makers. Make them part of the team, and keep using them throughout the electronic filing solution implementation process because they are the cornerstone that will drive adoption across your group over the long term.
5. Ensure the Help Desk is Up-to-Date
If your support desk doesn’t know who to go to, or what kind of tickets or incidents might arise, your experience will not be rounded out and there will be problems. No one wants a crappy help support line. By making sure your help desk is informed with possible incidents, knowledge-based articles, reference material, rubrics on what to say and how to respond to phone calls, emails, or system tickets you will have a smoother and faster response time. So really, spend a good amount of time in the beginning setting up a frame for incident response on different levels, such as:
- Tier 1 – Initial Triage (composed of business users)
- Tier 2 – Help Desk (used for login, new accounts and basic system functionality)
- Tier 3 – System configuration enhancements (light coding, workflow support and configurable reports)
- Tier 4 – System development (typically full on project resulting from a ticket or incident request becomes a custom development. Examples include system integration custom programming)
Setting up knowledge articles for your help desk staff so they know what to expect and do on Launch day and day 2 onwards is extremely helpful to everyone.
6. Share one document via a link versus an email – Communication
Have staff practice something simple, like sending a link to a file as opposed to emailing the file. If you can get the team to do just this one basic step, this will open the window to all the other facets of a core documents records management filing system. Through communication and advocacy, you can have your team well on its way to implementing the new system, one step at a time.