Think about the agonising hours you’ve spent looking for a document or spreadsheet that you can’t remember the name of. What about those product images that your photographer sent over last month — are they lost in your downloads folder or still sitting in an email thread?
Spending an age looking for your images and docs shouldn’t be the norm. But for many growing businesses, file control can quickly get out of hand.
That’s why we’re here to help. ✨
In this post, we’ll break down some file management best practices. We’ll explore different methods of organising your documents, along with tips on managing image and video files. And we’ll point to some cloud-based solutions that’ll help you find and share documents with your team.
Why should you bother with file management?
Getting into good habits with your file management isn’t just about finding electronic documents quickly. A Forrester’s report shows that 54% businesses agree that document management can benefit employee collaboration, and 47% believe it’ll increase customer satisfaction too.
It makes sense: by having all your important files in order, it’s easier to be productive and get back to the work you’ve been hired to do. So for a growing brand, now’s the time to get your document management in order. Make sure you get ahead of the game before you have thousands of files on your hands. 🙌
What are the different types of file management systems?
Before diving into some best practices for managing your digital files, it’s important to understand what we mean by ‘file management.’
For a start, there are lots of different places to save your files. You’ve got your work computer with its hard drive and company server. And you’ve got solutions like Google Drive and Dropbox where all your documents live in the cloud and which you can access via your internet browser. There are also tools like Dash (that’s us) to help organise all of your visual content - but we’ll get to that later.
First, let's get into some ways you can start organising your documents.
Tips for better document management
Ready to get those docs in order? Here are some general tips to help you clear up your hard drives:
Plan your document management strategy
Whipping your filing system into shape won’t happen overnight. If you want to get serious about it, make sure you plan out a proper document management strategy. Here are some steps you’ll want to consider:
- Assess your current processes: have a look at the systems you’re using now. You could create a spreadsheet and ask your team members to note down all the places they keep their work documents. You might find out that they’re keeping everything in random folders on their desktop. Or maybe they rely on tools like WeTransfer to send important files. Getting a clear picture of your current processes will help you see where you’re wasting time and money.
- Gather your team: you’ll need to decide who’s going to help you get your file management in order. If you have an IT team, these might be the people that lead your project. If not - that’s okay - but you’ll want to gather people from different teams to help implement your strategy.
- Create a task list: make sure to assign tasks to different people in your document strategy task force. 💪 For example, you could have someone who’s in charge of archiving and someone who can research a new file management system.
- Identify your most common file types: depending on the type of business you are, you’ll likely use one type of file more than another. For example, an ecommerce brand might have lots of images and videos of their products. But a business in the financial industry might have lots of contracts and financial documents. Understanding the types of documents and files you’re using will help you pick the right systems to store them in.
Set up an archiving process
As your business grows, you’ll undoubtedly collect more and more data and files. Archiving is a way of removing unnecessary or old information that’s getting in the way of your work in progress. Note that these won’t be deleted permanently. However, after a period of time - say a year or two - you might decide that some non-critical documents won’t be needed again. This is a good time to destroy them. 🚮
Clear out duplicate files
If you use a hard drive, network server or your own desktop to store your business documents, you’ll know how easy it is to create duplicate files. For example, you might have a document that belongs in multiple folders, so you copy it multiple times across your network server.
This isn’t a crime, but it does take up space and cause unnecessary clutter. Consider cutting down the number of duplicate files in your folders.
Agree a folder structure
You’ll be all too familiar with folders. But they’re not helpful if your team doesn't use them consistently. Just picture your social media manager creating folders based on the channels they’ve been working on. Then think of your marketing lead who saves content in folders based on the campaign they’re working on. Then there’s your designer who creates folders based on different file types. Doesn’t that sound chaotic? 😫
By agreeing on a consistent folder structure, each team member will know what folder to click on when they’re looking for a certain file.
Use naming conventions
Consistency is key when it comes to good file management. If you and your team are keeping your files in a shared drive, naming conventions will help you find them again. For example, saving your documents with names like: ‘marketing plan final, ‘marketing plan v2 approved’ and ‘marketing plan FINAL FINAL FINAL’ isn’t particularly helpful. Make sure approved, work-in-progress and archived documents are labelled clearly.
Set up approval workflows
Your shared drives can quickly become chaotic if people are constantly uploading new files. That’s why an approval workflow can be helpful to make sure only finalised documents are stored here.
If you use Google Drive, you can request your team members to ask for approval. This sends you a notification whenever there’s a new document for you to sign off.
5 cloud-based tools to help you with your file management
For managing documents, images or videos, take a look at these file management software solutions that are ideal for small businesses.
The tips mentioned in this article are great for general document management. However, organising your images and video files requires a different approach.
That’s because most file management tools aren’t set up to help you search for your visual content. They can’t let you search for the actual content of an image, so you’ll often have to rely on file names and tiny thumbnails to find what you’re looking for.
Instead, you should pick a tool like Dash, a cloud digital asset management system built for growing brands. Yep, that’s us!
Here are some ways you can manage image and video files in Dash.
Use AI to identify objects
Unlike most document management solutions, Dash uses AI to identify objects within your images so you can search by keywords and filter by the information within your assets. Say you’re looking for an image that has a sofa in it. Instead of spending hours trawling through files in your shared drive, you can simply type the keyword in Dash and you’ll instantly see results.
Use tags and fields
Dash encourages you to use tags and fields when organising your visual files. This is different from the traditional folder structures you’ll see in most document management tools. It means you can save images in multiple folders, without the need for duplicating. You can also quickly whittle down your search to find the exact image you’re looking for.
Say I want to look for a calathea plant that’s easy to care for and that I can use on the website - tags help me find it in seconds.
Approve and reject image files
It’s easy to set up approval workflows in Dash, too. If you’re an admin, you can accept or reject new uploads from your team members. For example, you might want to review your freelance photographer’s work before it gets added to your Dash.
There’s loads more features in Dash that’ll help you easily manage your images and videos. If you’re interested to find out more, take a look at these articles:
- What is digital asset management?
- Digital asset management features
- Your guide to digital asset management for small businesses
You can also take out a free trial if you want to give it a go yourself.
Pricing starts at £79/$109 per month.
Box is a cloud-based tool that brings all aspects of file management together in one place. You can create to-do lists for your projects, sign off contracts using e-signatures and integrate with 1500+ apps including Google Drive and OneDrive. Box prides itself on its security, meaning you can feel confident sharing confidential files with teams all around the world. You can also access Box via your mobile devices — ideal if you need to edit docs on the move.
Pricing: starting at £12/$15 per user per month
Similar to Box, Dropbox is a great all-rounder tool to help you manage your documents. You can add password protection on your files, create sales proposals and rewind your entire account for up to 180 days. Dropbox also has a huge suite of integrations meaning you’ll spend less time switching between your different apps.
Pricing: starting at £12/$15 per user per month
If you have a Google account, you may already be familiar with Google Drive. But, for a small business, it might be worth purchasing a Workspace account to help you better manage your files. You’ll get easy access to documents, sheets and presentations at a relatively low cost. Plus, Workspace gives you extra features like Google Meets (for video calls) and Google Forms.
Pricing: starting at £9.20/$11 per user per month.
💡Already use Google Drive and want some tips on how to organise it better? You can check out our blog post: How small businesses can organise their Google Drive.
SmartVault is like the electronic version of your filing cabinet. 🗃️It lets you automate the way you collect, manage and share your documents with your team. And you can integrate with accounting, tax and productivity apps to save you switching back and forth between complicated systems.
Pricing: £30/$37 per user per month
Looking for more tools? Take a look at Barney's article which lists the top marketing apps for small businesses. ✨
Organise your images and videos with Dash
No matter what file management software you choose, make sure you’ve got a separate system for your images and videos. Dash even lets you integrate with tools like Dropbox and Google Drive, so you can easily manage your visual content and documents together.
Want to give it a go? Sign up for a 14-day free trial below. 👇