Every company that proactively manages risk, safety, quality or compliance has a love/hate relationship with documents (mostly hate). Audits, assessments, incident reports, checklists, management reports, corrective action, the list goes on. These complex processes produce unprecedented paper trails leading to a stockpile of documents that need to be organized, stored and easily accessed.
With the rising prevalence of online storage from Dropbox to Google Drive to Microsoft Onedrive, it may seem that online documents are becoming the norm. In the U.S., however, companies still spend more than $120 billion a year on printed forms, most of which outdate themselves within three months’ time. Over the years we have had many conversations with organizations that are struggling to find efficiency under a mountain of documents and often come across this great debate…
Which is better Folders or Tags?
In regards to organizing your files, especially when those files need to be accessed on a weekly or daily basis, we can all agree it’s important to be organized. But what is the best way to go about this organization?
We’re breaking down the pros and cons of managing your documents with both folders and tags to see which is best for your organization.
- Organize files by location, date, project, type, etc.
- Comfortable, familiar
Most notably, Folders are the most intuitive way to organize your files because that’s how they are organized on everyone’s computers.
- Everyone has a different idea of ‘organized’
- Takes longer to gather and relate multiple files across folders
- Multiple copies and versions of the same file can reside in different folders
- Can become overwhelming in large organizations with many users/documents
Where You’ve Seen This
- Dropbox – very popular for cloud storage and document sharing, Dropbox allows you to create folders, share documents, and collaborate with other users
- OneDrive – also uses folders for personal and corporate document organization
- SharePoint – utilizes ‘sites’ and folder structure that closely resembles the familiar Windows file experience
- Your company shared drives – we all have them – the network ‘Z:’ drive mapped to our computer
TIP: be sure to implement a guide to naming conventions, especially if you are a larger organization. For example, if you conduct an audit or inspection in Chicago, IL on February 27th, 2015 and another in Tempe, AZ on October 11th, 2015 be sure to set guidelines on how they are entered in the system (2-27-2015_SafetyInspection_Chicago_IL | 10-11-2015_SafetyInspection_Tempe_AZ)
- Associate single or multiple custom keywords with related documents
- Export files spanning multiple tags
- Keep master files up to date
Tags provide an easy way to associate one file with many categories. This is ideal for reporting and gathering data on common incidents. It also prevents
- Not as intuitive as folders for users
Where You’ve Seen This
- Twitter – The reigning champ of tagging. Although twitter didn’t invent the concept of organizing similar content through tagging, the platform has shown the incredible value and ease that tags can provide for serving up related information.
- Facebook – tagging friends creates a page that collects all activity between two people and when using geo tags, Facebook automatically organizes your pictures into locations
- Microsoft Office – though your documents are organized in folders in Windows, you can tag Word Documents, Excel Spreadsheets, and PowerPoints to easily locate when searching keywords that may not be in the file name.
- WordPress – we use WordPress for our website, check out the tags below this blog post’s title
TIP: Similar to folders, it is always good to approach the use of tags with consistency across the organization. Outline the tags provided and what they mean in detail to avoid confusion or mis-tagging. Also, having the ability to filter documents by date and file type have been noted as a key feature for some organizations.
We Would Suggest…
While initially planning out our file repository here at CompWALK, we assumed all files would be segmented and organized by folders. After consulting with our customers, it was soon clear that tags would provide a more efficient and comprehensive organizational strategy regarding reporting, master documents, and the sheer volume of documents.
Tagging documents saves time when gathering and reporting on compliance and safety audits and risk assessments. If you have an incident that is an OSHA violation, cited under the fall protection subpart, and resulted in an employee injury, you would want it to show up when you search all three of these categories (OSHA, fall protection, injury.) By ‘tagging’ documents you have the ability to associate multiple topics to one document and export the data, preventing you from digging through tons of folders.
We have also found that our clients prefer tags for the upkeep of master documents and forms. This is especially helpful when dealing with government or company mandated regulations. It is critical that the entire organization is utilizing the most up to date forms to audit or inspect against. Copies of these forms can get buried within folders, making it unclear which is the master. With tags you can see each version listed and update, delete or archive the outdated documents.
If you have a large company with many users on conducting hundreds, even thousands of audits in a year, keeping these files organized can seem nearly impossible. Whether you prefer folders or tags, it is important to have a cohesive strategy to document organization in writing. Outline the hierarchy for folders or list out the tags everyone will use and be very specific on naming conventions.