Often times, documents that are created in your organization are of the digital variety—as opposed to a real, paper document. It’s certainly useful to transfer your hard copies into a digital copy; you can enjoy all sorts of benefits in the realms of security and ease-of-use. But what do you do with your digitally created documents?
It’s just as important to have a process for something that you put together in Word or Excel as it is to track a document that you’ve scanned from a hard copy. Everyone’s process is a little different, and yours should accommodate your organization and the way you work. With that said, you can put together a process to organize your digital documents in four easy steps.
When you create your document, you’ve got to indicate how important it is to your overall process, for the sake of the next person to get access to that content. You can do that with the title, metadata (which you should set up when you first make the document), and where it’s saved. Think about the format of the document, too. The format that you use is an indicator of the type of file it is as well as the quality, and thus how important it is.
You acquire the document by incorporating it into your virtual archive. There are two general elements to this phase, the first being your collection policies. That defines what you decide to archive, how much of the document or collection to archive, and the like. The second element is the gathering procedure, which might dictate if you will archive the documents by hand or if you are going to use some kind of program to archive them all indiscriminately.
Cataloging properly will make it easy for an archivist to manage the documents over time, using the procedures that you set up for your organization. Using tools like metadata, you will be able to better manage your archive and have access to it when you need it. Of course, the best specific practices depend on how you use your archive and data access tools, and so cataloging may be different between organizations.
Remember, technology for data management is constantly evolving. What may be state of the art today becomes a paper weight in the next decade. That’s why it’s important to migrate your archived documents every four or five years to keep your archiving procedures current. Preserving those documents is not only about keeping the content safe, but also the look and feel of the whole document.
How are you integrating your digital documents into your document management plan? Do you use these four points? How does your plan work for you? If you’d like more information on how to best manage your digital documents, check out our section on document indexing. But if you’ve already got a procedure that works for you, share it in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you!