First there are three types of files every business should have and they are "Long Term files" which are the memory banks of the company. This will include permanent tax files and any financial records. It can also include things like your business plan. Then there are "Short Term files" which are your primary tools in everyday workflow. These can be checklists, projects in the works, pricing quotes etc, etc. Last there are "Support Files" which supports everyday workflow. The materials used in these processes are created temporarily and are used to get the job done only.
No matter what kind of files you are working with, the following 8 tips should make things a lot easier for anyone to set up a good system that works well:
1. File "alpha-numerically", by "subject" or "chronologically" by date. (Be careful to chose which makes most sense in long term and short term before deciding)
2. Create a "Information Map" showing layout and the logical relationships between various file sections. (Keep this handy for all to see)
3. Use "Visual Helpers" such as colour coding, well labelled cabinets etc.
4. Separate unnecessary information so that it doesn't become stored.
5. Active files should be routinely purged and Inactive to be archived. (Use a well established system and archive consistently using that system)
6. Don't let "To Be Filed" piles grow, never more than a week should go by before the pile is completely filed correctly.
7. In large offices there should be a card placed in files place when a worker removes the file. This way anyone else looking for it will know where it is.
8. Break down larger files into manageable sections. (for example a large project may have several sections like, payment records, scheduling, correspondence, floor plans, contacts list etc.)
Now that you have the tips to create an easy to use system that works here are a few things you should try to avoid when it comes to filing.
-"To Be Filed" stack to pile up
-Keeping materials past their need date
-Keeping files "Just in Case"
-Failing to review and purge on a regular basis
-Filing duplicate information
-Not communicating filing procedures clearly to all employees.
I hope that helps shed some light on the subject of filing and files systems for you. As a home and office organizer I know that the task of setting up a good system fast can seem daunting if you haven't done it before.