Let’s Get Organized! Setting up your Electronic Files


>>Thanks for joining us for this
Web seminar recorded in March, 2014. Donna Reed is a senior records
analyst for the National Archives and Records Administration Office
of the Chief Records Officer. As part of the records management
services agency assistance team, her job is to help Federal agencies
with records management issues in all formats and media, with a
focus on electronic records. She provided records management
training classes, hands on technical consulting for implementation of electronic
document and records management systems, scheduling and other records
management assistance. Donna is a certified records manager,
a certified document imaging architect and AIM electronic records
management specialist and enterprise content management practitioner. And she has a BA in business management. She currently serves as the president of the
board of the Florida Gulf Coast chapter of the Association for records managers and
administrators, and she’s a member of the Society of Florida Archivists,
Florida Management Association, ARMA and AIM.>>I think that Paulette covered it all in the
bio and I don’t need to add any more to that. The topic is getting organized and the
focus is setting up your electronic files. And this is the result of a lot of work that I do with other agencies
where I see this as an issue that people just don’t address sufficiently. So let’s get organized. The first thing you have to do is sort of define or recognize what constitutes
a lack of organization. Obviously this is the definition, the official
definition of what a mess is, you know, a state of affairs of confusion or something
that’s full of difficulties and I can tell from doing training and working with agencies
that this is often the state of affairs when it comes to electronic records within
federal agencies, just full of difficulties. That picture, by the way,
in the slide deck is — was something I took here at my house with my
own collection, [laughs], of paraphernalia. Anybody anywhere can make that. But what does it mean to be organized and neat? Obviously you’re putting things together
in an orderly, functional, structural hole. You want it to be and you want it
to work the way that it should work. So, why do we care whether
our stuff is organized or not? That’s the big question. Two reasons. One is operational efficiency and
the other one is that it’s the law. So let’s talk about operational efficiency. What does that really mean? It means we have what we need to
get the job done, deliver things and services and in a cost effective manner. There was a statement many
years ago that someone said he who has the best information always wins. Well, if you can’t get to that
information it’s not very efficient and you lose that operational efficiency. And then there is this thing
called the law which is 44 US code, 3101 says that agencies must
maintain an active continuing program for the economical efficient
management of the records of the agency. So there’s two good reasons why we should
care whether things are organized or not. So what does it really cost to find information? A lot of people will tell you that records
management is what they call a [inaudible], that you can’t attach dollars to it. And that’s not actually true. The — on the international did a survey back in
2009 and that’s obviously been a few years ago. Average employee wastes $5251.00 a year just
looking for their stuff, for their information. For their stuff, for their
information, for their records. For the data that they need to do their job. Employees spending three and a
half hours a week just looking for information that they usually cannot find. So this is a real cost. There are actual hard dollars associated
with this lack of operational efficiency. Does it matter if you say, well,
I’m just going to keep everything. I don’t need to — to apply any records
management principals or I don’t need to clean things out, I’m just going
to keep it all and search on it. Well, it does matter. And once again there is cost
associated with this. The Sedona Conference Group, and if you’re
not familiar with that I suggest you look them up on the internet, assumed review costs
of $200.00 and hour for an attorney and the estimated cost to review
one gigabyte of data was $32,000.00. So if I have to respond to litigation when
I’m involved in something where I have to hire an attorney to do
review of my documents, there are hard dollars associated with this. If it exists you have to produce if
for litigation and for [inaudible]. If you’ve got it you’ve got to produce it. So the larger your digital landfill, the more
difficult it is to locate the right information. You’re looking for that needle in
the haystack and it’s not simple. Even with the really good
tools that are out there and not every agency has
good tools, searching tools. Even with those you may get a hit that
has, you know, 500 or 600 documents and you’re only after two of them. And that’s would be even a small result
from a lot of agencies are holding. So how would you feel if your
Social Security files were lost? You get ready to retire or
you’re already retired and all of a sudden your checks
stop coming because, oops, we misfiled your Social Security records. How about all your personal
identification documents destroyed? No birth certificate, no
photos, no property records. This is exactly what happened in Katrina. People lost all record of their identification. They had to take them at their word
that their name was what it was and if they remembered their Social Security
number then that’s what their Social Security number was. They were just wiped out. Everything they had. The records were in basements, the
records got washed away and destroyed. What if your medical records
couldn’t be located and you were in an emergency situation and
somebody needed something? What about the rescue workers
that are in a building. And let’s say they are looking for you
and they don’t have maps or floor plans. These are all things that we steal if we
can’t find the records and the documentation that we want to put our hands on. So these are very real problems. Now we have the way it used to be. Think a while back. Information was easier to control. You have gatekeepers, those
wonderful secretaries. They know about file plans. They know how to create them and use them. They knew how to put the
information in an orderly fashion so that they could retrieve it later. Only special people could
create business information, those were the ones with the typewriters. Everybody didn’t used to
have access to a keyboard. The boss never did any typing. He dictated a letter, the secretary
typed it, there was maybe one copy made with a carbon sheet of paper and
that was the one kept in the office and the original went out the door. They had a very limited volume of
records and information being created and it was highly controlled
in the best of worlds. It wasn’t always perfect though. No one actually took responsibility,
then the records would get misfiled, neglected or, as you can see, worse. So, you know, we had imperfection in those
days too but it was still easier to control when all I had was paper
that I was dealing with. And that’s what people remember. Unfortunately we’re stuck in the
1980’s because the 1980’s came along and Pandora introduced this great
box in everyone’s office and said, oh good, now you have a computer. You can do all your own work. Management thought, well, we must
not need secretaries any more because everybody can be their own secretary. So they either let the secretaries
go or repurposed them into other jobs and when the secretaries were no longer there as
the gatekeepers then that knowledge base on how to manage the information wasn’t
there, it wasn’t available. No one was telling anyone how to set things up and how to manage all the information
that now everyone could create. So the old way was replaced
with electronic chaos. You had information that
has distributed ownership. I could have people all across the world
entering data into a single data base. Gatekeepers are a thing of the past. Everybody is like, I don’t have
time for that, that’s not my job. That’s your job. Everybody with access to a computer
or any mobile device is out there. They can all create business
information and records. We can all delete, we can all
distribute, we can all alter. There is no control. For the volume is out of control, it’s unlimited
and by the way, it’s growing exponentially. It’s really getting huge. Some statistics on how it’s growing. Doubling every two years
the wealth of information. Over the next ten years the number of
servers in the world will increase 10 fold. And by the way, there are costs
associated with all of those servers. They have to be cooled, they have to be
backed up, they have to be maintained. Everybody thinks, oh, server space
is cheap, just add another server. Once again there are direct
costs associated with that. And the amount of data managed by data
centers is going to increase by 50 fold. And here is a piece. 7.9 zedabytes will be created in 2015. And you’re like, what are zedabytes? Well, there’s one zedabytes
equals a billion terabytes. Right now the estimate for the
Library of Congress is ten terabytes. There’s just more information being generated
than you can possible shake a stick at. So where did we go wrong? You know, a screen like this,
not exactly a good filing system. Hopefully that’s not what
anybody there is looking at. There is looking at. We forgot to equate this, your filing
cabinets and your filing systems. The way of doing business with paper. With this electronic world we forgot to say, if
we did it this way over here than we know need to do it this way over here
in the electronic world. Here’s a sample of an uncontrolled share drive. Probably a familiar environment to most of you. You’ll note that there are folder
names with no meanings to anyone. The 2001117 I know it’s an Excel spreadsheet and that’s pretty much all I
know unless I’m the author of it that came up with that cryptic name. And then I’ve got a GBWAVE. Bmp a bitmap. I’ve got meetings. What kind of meetings? These names mean nothing. I’ve got loose documents,
not even placed in a folder. They’re just loose. And if you click on the high level folder and
you’ve got, you know, another 50 documents that aren’t placed in the folder, that’s
the equivalent of opening a file drawer and just jamming paper in anywhere. And if you didn’t put it in a folder
what are your chances you’re going to find it when you need it. It’s no different. Electronic files should be
structured like filing cabinets were. It’s not hard. Honest, it’s not rocket science. So if I have an old-fashioned
filing cabinet with folders and my pads have metadata
information on them, budgets, finance, facilities than my computer
folders should have the same names. There’s no difference. The biggest difference is that instead of
cleaning out my physical folders every year or every fiscal year or calendar year or
at the end of the project, I need to go and clean out my electronic folders. And to make it easier in the
electronic world I may want to add names after budget and I may want to put, FY 2014. I may want to put the calendar
year that something closes. I may want to include that in the folder name. We need naming conventions in our offices. There doesn’t seem to be a common
practice of naming conventions with any agency that I work with. People will call their folders stuff, things. And they’ll put special projects. Well, what kind of special project? Just because it’s in the records of
management division doesn’t mean I know that — what that special project is. Now I have to open the folder to find
the names of all the special projects because I don’t have enough
metadata in that title. And I love the one [inaudible]. Like everybody is going to
pay attention to that. When we name our folders, we need to give
them names that reflect common sense. We need to give them a name where, if
somebody comes along to take your job when you’ve won the lottery and
you’re not coming back to work, they could actually know
what to find in the folder. They should be able to open this up and
say, oh, okay, here’s what I’m finding; I’ve got internal training
and individual development. I know right there I’ve given
myself enough descriptors to know what I expect to find in that folder. Naming conventions are really important when
you’re trying to manage your electronic records. They were important when you
were managing your paper records. You had naming conventions then. You have a folder, a filing cabinet
that was all the finance department. You had another filing cabinet that was all HR. We use those tags to identify what went where. These are agreed upon formats, you
know, names of folders, documents. If you’re going to do a date, than what’s
the format in your office for the date? Is it year, day, month? Month, day, year? Day, month, year? There’s not that one is right and
the other is wrong, it’s just — make sure that everybody is on the same page. So that when you send documents
around and you have a date in it, everybody knows what to expect to find. What about subject lines for your emails? That’s a great place to use naming
conventions to create metadata that helps you know what you
need to do with this email. When I get an email and then the
beginning of the subject line it says FYI, I’m not too concerned with it if
I don’t get to it immediately. If I get another one that says
urgent, I’m opening it right away, somebody needs something from me immediately. So you can use the very first word in an email
subject line to create these naming conventions that help govern how the
email itself is classified. Do you have a pre-existing numbering system? Can you use it in your naming conventions? Are you going to use alpha or numeric
identifiers or combination of both? These are things that you need to sit
down in your office and figure out. Because everybody does business differently. Here’s just some examples. I’m in a group and we have reference material, we have correspondence, we
have products we produce. So we use these three letter words or codes at
the front of the name so then as the files fill up all the products are together
because it’s sorting alphabetically. We have the date at the end
so it’s all done by the year. And it sorts just as it should. It enables the sorting of the subject and
the dates are in order within the subject. So these kinds of things help us as we
try to manage these electronic records. I’m circulating a document and it’s a draft and
I know there is going to be multiple versions because everyone has an opinion, right? So I’m going to call it training template
and I’m going to put the word draft in there and I’m going to put D1 and
then I’m going to put the date. The next time it goes around I’m
going to change that D1to D2. I’m going change the date. I want to make sure that when all is said
and done, and I’ve gone through 15 versions of this document that I get to
the last one and it says final. It no longer says draft. But I can go back and I can erase or
delete every single one that says draft. Because I know what the final one is and I’ve kept my naming conventions
going as I went through the process. Don’t name a document with
just alpha numeric code. You know, its AC26.2012. Okay, it’s probably the year 2012 other than that I don’t know anything
at all about that document. There’s not enough information there. You know, you need a decoder ring to figure
out what the cryptic names are filed on. That’s once again left over from the beginning
of the computer era when we were limited to how many bytes or how many
characters you could have in a file name. Those limitations are not there anymore. You can have, in most cases over
200 characters in a file name. Call it what it is so that you can
find it later, so that somebody else who needs to find it can find it. They don’t need special training to
interpret the file names in your office. So where do we get this file
folder structure from? Well, it should be coming from your
file plan which is your decoder ring. And some of you may say, file plan? What is that? Well, the file plan is simply a
subset of your retention schedule. A schedule that only covers
your area of responsibility. If I’m working for an agency and there
are 35 different divisions in the agency but I only work in one office in one division,
my file plan is just going to cover the records that I create in my office within that division. I don’t need to know what everybody else in the
organization is creating; I only need to focus on the types of records and documents that I
am creating within my area of responsibility. Let’s take an example here. This is the general record schedule. These are just some of the records
here that are listed in the schedule. There is what? I think 27 listings right now, 27 chapters. And I just threw some of these up here
and we’re going to focus on number 14 which is the information services record. That’s the schedule within the general record
schedule that you can find on our website. And that particular series
includes for your records. And within that series it actually has this
numbering system, 14.1 acknowledgment file, 14.2 information request
file etc. And it tells you in the description what the
retention is for those types of files. So if you take that retention and they
can see some of these are three months, one 14.4 is one year, 14.11 and .12 both have
multiple retentions within that one series because it’s talking about there
are different things you have to do. It depends upon when you get it and what
it is so you have to read that information. But I would know if I put
documents in there that hey, I need to check this folder
and see what the retention is. But if I know for a fact
that everything that’s going into acknowledgment files has
only got a three month retention, well I can put that in the folder name. So that I know by looking at it, and looking
at the dates, oh, I can get rid of this. I can delete this. This is, I apologize just a little bit of a
fuzzy image but you can see, I took the GRS and I put those items that
I have on the previous slide and they are all listed here
on the left hand side. Audio visual records, GRS 21,
civilian personal records, GRS1 and there’s the information
services records, the GRS 14. Now you may decide, if you’re
going to set something up that you would want the GRS numbers first
so that it would put it in numeric order. These are in alphabetical order. Depends upon how you want to do business. And you can see under GRS 14 that
I have two fiscal year folders. One is 2013 and one is 2014. Under 2014 I have the listing of those same
file names that I got from the series itself. So you start parking things
where they need to be. If it’s by calendar year you put CY. If you have a project that has a closed date
you’re going to find another way to identify it. Just like you would if it had been
back in the days of the paper world. How you do business is how you
determine to set up your files. Your business is your driver. Use your organizational chart to determine
your functional areas of responsibility. How — why do we reach for our file plan? You know, if your records and documents are
managed by the calendar year then you can set up high level folders by the calendar year. You can duplicate the folder
set for the new calendar year and then you’ve already got everything in place. Same thing for fiscal year. But let your business determine
the level of granularity. If you’re an office that has 7000 employee
requests in a year, and I know one that does. Then you need a lot of granularity at the
folder level to manage the records that go in those folders for their specific retention. But if you’re one of those offices that maybe
gets 8 folder requests in a three year period, you don’t need that level of granularity. But you still need to manage
the records appropriately. What if you already had some
software tools in place? Because some agencies have been
able to purchase software tools that help them manage their records, purchase
searching tools, all kinds of things. Well, no software is plug and play. It doesn’t make any difference how much
money your agency has spent on software. You still have to have some sort
of file structure determined first. The software needs to know where to map the
data to, where to make the divisions at. So that it isn’t searching the entire
data base looking for something. Maybe you use Share point. In that case you really need
governance or a gatekeeper. I have seen multiple implementations
of Share point. In some cases there was no gatekeeper assigned
to it and the pages just look like a mess. They were a digital landfill in
electronic, you know, the essence of a mess. And then in other cases where they assigned
someone the gatekeeper responsibility, someone who made sure governance was in place. Then the Share point site
becomes useful to everyone. People can trust the documentation that’s on it. What you’re seeing here is a screen shot
from the commercial [inaudible] at NASA and they took their records series and
they created this Share point site, they have governance rules in place, they had a governance configuration
management government document that they created before the
Share point site was built. They sat down and mapped out
how they wanted things to look. They did it right, is what it boils down to. And it’s much easier to do it right before
you actually stand up your Share point site than it is to go back and
try to clean up a mess. So cleaning out the files. You know, the file structure, whether
it’s fiscal year or calendar year or it’s just new case files,
you still have to clean it out. We have a tendency to leave it in place because it’s not a physical filing
cabinet that’s taking up real estate. But it’s taking up space on the
server, it’s taking your time because you can’t find something and maybe
you find three versions of the same document and you really don’t know which
one is the right one, you know. If you’re going to do this, like I said
earlier, just copy your file structure from how you set it up previously. You can change your case names
or put new dates on the folder. If you have a folder that has everything
in it from, you know, calendar year 2010 and it’s only got a three year retention,
then when that document in that folder, everything in that folder has met its retention
I can delete the entire folder and its contents. Because if everything in that folder
only has a three year retention than I can delete it in that. I’m not going in and hunting for individual
documents that have met their retention. So to summarize why it matters,
you know, we know why it matters. The records matter to everyone. They are important. There are costs associated with
the improper management of records and information and these are hard dollar costs. You have to be proactive in
managing electronic data. You know, in the old days when all
the records were in paper format, you could afford to ignore them
for extended periods of time. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a perfect example. There are sections of them that
are still readable by your eyes. You didn’t have to worry about
migration of data and things like that. But now in the electronic world we have to
be mindful of how we’re managing our data at the front of the life cycle
and not the end of the life cycle. You have to put filing structures in
place, you really need naming conventions for both manual management of you’re e-records
and for the use of systems and you need to clean out those files, as much as you may not want to. Anybody is welcome to contact me, I’m on
the agency assistance team and my job is to help agencies with their records. So I’m more than happy, I’m on the road a fair
amount of time so sometimes I’m not as quick to answer as I would like to be
but I will always get back to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *