There's a well-known saying when it comes to filing systems: Not everyone has the time to tidy up, but everyone has the time to search. To optimize digital document filing in your business, we provide tips on folder structure with, among other things, the "7-Folder System" that can help you structure your files in a better way.
✔️ General characteristics of good folder structures
In general, it should be noted that a digital folder structure should be conceptualized for long-term usage. With this in mind, 3 core properties of folder structures are important:
- Flexibility: A good digital folder structure should be flexible. This means that it should be capable to reflect changing conditions within the company. For example, new emerging topics should be seamlessly addible in the form of (sub)folders.
- Comprehensibility: Secondly, a folder structure must be intuitively understandable for all team members. There should be no need for explanation due to complexity or unknown technical terms.
- Transferability: Thirdly, a clear digital filing structure should also be transferable to other systems. What works on the PC should also work in the cloud.
Besides, some rules should be considered, which can generally be applied for establishing digital folder structures.
The basic rule is: Don't save files on your desktop. Saving files on the desktop lacks the structure and the features which folders have (sorting function by date, alphabetical order, etc.).
At most, you should use folders placed on your desktop for document storage. Folders ensure a better overview than loose files on the desktop.
Further advice is not to store files on local hard disks, but on company servers or in the cloud. This enables location-independent access to these files by all employees. It also eliminates the need for manual sharing of documents via e-mail or a chat tool.
Moreover, documents in the cloud function as a single point of truth, meaning that only one single version of a file exists. Since everyone is working on the same file online, there is no risk of overwriting files by uploading an updated version of the same file.
Folder usage types: - Minimalists, ↔️ Horizontalists and ↕️ Verticalists
Generally, 3 types represent different preferences for folder structures:
- Minimalists: the Minimalists usually use only one or a few folders. Such a folder can for example be called "customer communication".
Advantage: Low complexity of folder structures.
Disadvantage: Clutter within the folders. Often the search function must be used to find something.
- Horizontalists: The horizontalists go broad with their folder structure. If there is no suitable folder, a new folder is created on the same hierarchically, horizontal level. For example, next to the folder "Customer communication" a folder "Invoices customers" is typically created by them.
Advantage: Specific folders for specific topics.
Disadvantage: The danger of unnecessarily using too many folders
- Verticalists: Here the branch structure of known computer systems is commonly used. Verticalists work with hierarchy levels of folders. The respective folders have a set of subfolders, which usually have again different subfolders.
Advantage: detailed and well-structured filing.
Disadvantage: with too many folders on one hierarchy level it becomes confusing and the danger of quickly using the wrong subfolder becomes greater.