Secrets for a Successful Shared Drive

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For a lot of people, just the idea of developing a system for organizing their own files is daunting enough. The idea of developing a system that multiple people need to use for different purposes? Well, that seems downright impossible.  

It’s true, developing and maintaining a system for keeping shared folders and files organized is challenging. But it’s doable, and worth the effort, because the potential risks from not having a centralized and orderly shared drive are far worse when you have multiple people involved than when it is just one person. Can you relate to any of the following stressful workplace scenarios?

  • You just spent 4 hours working on a report only to find out that the version you worked on was not the most current version, so you have to start all over again.

  • You go looking for a contract that you know you saved in the client folder, only to find that your colleagues moved (or maybe renamed or deleted) the folder somewhere else?

  • You miss the deadline to pay an invoice on time because the invoices was still sitting in your assistant’s inbox – he forgot to save it to the account payable folder.

These are just a few examples of the waste, stress, and damage that can happen. I could name dozens more from just the examples I’ve witness in my career!

A few weeks ago I shared the 4 steps to organizing your electronic folders and files to help you find the items you are looking for within seconds. The same basic process goes for creating a system for structuring folders and files in shared drive, only with a little more planning and analysis in the early steps.

Here are the critical questions you’ll need to consider to determine what kind of system will work for your team:

  1. Think about different user groups: What information does each need to access? How do they use the information? How does the ease/difficulty of accessing the information impact their ability to perform their job?

  2. Do different user groups use different terminology for the same types of information?

  3. Do different types of users need access to different types of information? What security and access limitations are needed?

  4. What administrative resources are available to help with implementing and maintaining the system? This may include providing ongoing support to make sure people use save and name files in the right place.

  5. How adaptable are your team members to change? Would it be better to make incremental changes over time to get people to gradually get used to the new system? Or will they be on board for a one-time big change?

One final tip: it’s always easier to get your team members on board when they are included in the decision-making process. Forming a small group of team members that represent the different user groups to develop and test out the new organizing system ensures that the new system will be equally beneficial to everyone. And universal buy-in is a must for any effective, sustainable shared file organizing system!