Four Steps for the Evaluation of a Filing System

We are having fun presenting our workshop, “From Filing Cabinet to Desktop PC: Organizing Your Digital and Paper Files,” to local and state records managers around North Carolina. For those records managers who missed the workshop, here are the four recommended steps for the evaluation of your current filing system:

  • Step one: “Clear the decks.” After your board of commissioners has approved the current records retention and disposition schedule and any amendment (you can check here), record the present state of filing in your office, and, concurrently, destroy those files that are eligible for destruction under your approved records schedule. Use one of our three suggested methods for the analysis of your current files:

Inventory

  • Step two: Assess the situation. Using the information collected in the analysis, write a report that describes your current filing systems for paper and electronic files. In the report, note any space and equipment needs, growth expectations, and usage problems, such as frequent trips to retrieve older records stored off-site. Include suggestions for improvement. Include anecdotal and quantitative evidence of these problems (such as the number of trips per month).
  • Step three: Document the file plan. A file plan shows the logical order for a new filing system and the arrangement by which all files may be identified, stored, and retrieved. It will also include office filing standards, such as how electronic records will be named or how paper files will be color-coded. Your file plan is the culmination of hard work and careful thought, and is the central authority on how your all records will be filed going forward. Get the file plan into the hands of all staff who work with paper and electronic records.
  • Step four: Care and feeding. Any file plan is only good if it is current. Periodically check that your records are being filed according to the file plan. Listen to your staff and track anecdotal and quantitative evidence of any issues. Upgrade the file plan when needed, recalling that a file plan is a living document.

By following these four steps, you can avoid the dreaded “messy office syndrome.” To hear more, please attend one of our workshops on files and filing for local and state government records managers. We looking forward to seeing you!

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