A few days ago, some of the senior leaders within our team got together to set out some "standards" for how we capture and manage information in our organization. Specifically, we decided to share information more effectively by storing the files and information we create for various consulting opportunities in a file structure that will make it easier to find and use information. Rather than each person creating and managing their own filing structure and guiding others to information, we're trying an agreed, standardized file structure based on a "taxonomy" we pulled together over a few hours.
This effort raised some interesting questions. First, we needed to redefine the goal. Why were we creating a standard set of folders? Everyone agreed that finding information is valuable, and should be easier. But was speed the main goal, or was context important? If so, what context was valuable? WIthout everyone agreeing on the goal for the data organization, it would be hard to agree on the remaining questions.
Then we needed to think about how to organize the data. By function, by client, by timeframe, by methodology phase, by deliverable? Depending on your perspective of the data, any one of these could be an important and valuable first cut at the data.
Then, we needed to split some hairs or have better definition. For example, we create PowerPoint presentations for webinars, conference and other speaking engagements and for client sales presentations. We had formerly divided this into two folders, one specifically for client sales presentations, and every other type of outside presentation. Was that still appropriate, or should we simply have a "presentations" folder with subfolders based on the audience or purpose?
In some cases, we need meta-data about the documents, deliverables, plans and so forth. If I include a project plan that we used to manage a project for a client, but I don't include the facts about that client and what made that project plan specific to that client, it's possible someone else will use that plan but not understand the constraints under which it was written. Creating a structure to help people find information is not enough - that information needs context so that it can be re-used properly.
As we work with this new structure I'll post some things we learn about its use.