At their best, networked shared drives cut down on filing cabinets, multiple copies and versions of documents, and frantic conversations about where a record copy is. Shared drives can provide a communal space that increases efficiency and collaboration. They also help with version control, access control, and keeping records backed up to a server. However, shared drive is a term that can also strike fear and anxiety in the hearts of many government workers. It’s easy to lose minutes of productivity clicking through unclearly-titled folders and mislabeled drafts. Time and space are two commodities that a properly-organized shared drive can save for you and your colleagues. How can you optimize your shared drive to make sure it’s working for and not against you? Here are some strategies to improve your shared drive today.
Before you can make your shared drive work for you, you have to get prepared. The following steps will help set the stage for a successful “shared drive renovation.”
- Get buy-in
It’s important that you have a team behind you if you’re going to tackle something as big as a shared drive. Present the current problems with your drive, the benefits of changing it, and project goals to both coworkers and management. Create a team of liaisons who will help with this project.
- Conduct an audit
Ask employees to find a few items on the shared drive and time how long it takes them. Compile this information to help document why you need this project and to act as a benchmark for search time after the restructuring is complete.
- Inventory the shared drive
This may sound daunting, but that’s why you assembled a team in step one! Divide up the sections on the shared drive and list current folders and documents with descriptions, dates, if it contains a record copy, and the retention period.
- Get rid of etrash
With the knowledge of IT and your coworkers, delete things like duplicates, blank documents, superseded copies –or anything that isn’t fulfilling a business or retention need.
Create a new structure
Now that you’re prepared, it’s time to get started. The scope of your file structure should start wide and then narrow. We recommend using “big buckets” – folders that align with divisions in a department or general departmental functions. For the Records Management Assistance Division at TSLAC, our biggest buckets are labeled:
Within your preliminary folders, nest folders that relate to activities or functions of the position or division. A good way to brainstorm these activities is to look at job descriptions and reference the inventory of the old shared drive.
Most importantly, a shared drive file plan should be retention conscious. Within your “activities” folders, we suggest subdividing by record series and year. That will make maintaining a regular disposition schedule easy! In our shared drive, we even label folders with the record series number for added ease.
Some other tips:
- Have naming conventions and share them with your staff. That could mean always including a date (year, two digit month, two digit day), labeling working copies, which terms can be abbreviated, and more.
- Build a crosswalk. This is a document outlining where documents were housed in the old shared drive and where they are kept now.
- Assign responsibility. One person should be in charge of making sure orphaned or misfiled records find their correct home in the new shared drive system. This person should always alert the user who created the record where it has been moved. They are also responsible for taking out the etrash.
Perhaps the most important element of creating a new shared drive system is training. Once the new system is in place, provide a guide to the shared drive, with naming conventions, crosswalk, filing procedures, etc. Perform an evaluative audit measuring how long it takes to find files in the new system, and include the findings with your guidelines to help facilitate buy-in for the new layout.
For more information on shared drive best practices, check out our archived webinar.