Business Writing 2020-04-17 00:00

Managing Large Virtual Documents among Team Members and Knowledge Management

Today, almost everything is done digitally, including any documentation and collaboration. Sometimes, the documents involved are massive. The thing is, despite their size, every document must be handled by the team members efficiently and securely.

For this, the team leader and members must familiarize themselves with document management, which is the process of proper handling documents for creation, sharing, organization, and storing purposes. Such documents must be stored in a way that they can be found and used with the least effort as possible and as secure as possible. Let's discuss it now.

First things first, use a cloud-based storage space for keeping all master and reference files.

Google Drive, DropBox, and OneDrive are three of the most favorite cloud spaces out there. They're handy for storing files of any format. Derivative files, which are edited, revised, and rewritten files, can also be stored with under specific naming rules, such as with creation or last opened dates. This way, every single change can be adequately recorded for future reference, which is the umbrella philosophy.

Second, use a project management app for managing projects with a large team.

Asana, Trello, and Basecamp are three of the most popular project management apps for project management. With these apps, team leader and members can immediately see who's doing what, individual and group milestones, and the overall progress. Some apps provide a free demo, and each comes with its specific functions and dashboard.

Third, use document management software (DMS) for teamwork.

Frequently, a team's data are scattered between digital and paper documents. In this case, use a reliable document imaging system to convert all documents to digital format. Such software is known as DMS (Document Management Software), which is designed for handling of digital files efficiently. Some examples of DMS apps are Xait (with Salesforce integration), Docuware (various document tasks and mobile), and Zoho Docs (management and storage of all business files, including sharing ability), which each has its own unique features. Thus, it's recommended to give them a try with free demo accounts.

Fourth, use a teamwork chat app for on-going communications.

Sure, Slack is the go-to chat app for on-going team communications. However, there are also other apps, like Google Hangouts, Chanty, RocketChat, and Microsoft Teams. Having a chat app window opens whenever team members work on remote locations would boost morale and give a sense of belonging. It also allows for immediate interaction and instant problem solving, whenever needed.

Fifth, use a compressor app for sending off large files.

For sharing large files, consider using software like 7-Zip. Zipped files allow for lossless data compression so that you can save space on cloud-based storage, hard drive, and bandwidth when sending them off via email. Most operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Linux, can process them. For added security, create a password for extra security.

Sixth, use online service for sending large files with a web link.

When you need to send large files with a link to other stakeholders, consider uploading them to online services like Jumpshare or Securely Send. Jumpshare provides free service for 250MB worth of files and 2GB of space. Securely Send allows for 1GB file size limit for a monthly fee. The best thing about such services is that you can send files to anyone, including those who don't have accounts with them. It's very convenient for projects that also involve freelancers, so they can work with the large files without having to join the confidential team members' cloud-based drive.

Seventh, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for privacy and security protection.

A VPN is a service that protects your data and privacy when you're online by rerouting your connection through their server. Thus, if you and your team access cloud drive multiple times a day from various locations like public wi-fi, it can protect you from hackers and other harmful elements. If your ISP (Internet Service Provider) use broadband traffic management, using VPN would be extremely beneficial, as it would prevent the provider from stopping you from sending off large files. However, to be on the safe side, using a Zip compression would assure intact delivery.

Now that we've discussed the creation, sharing, organization, storing, and security of team's large files, let's discuss the four file management steps to ensure team members are in sync with all the tools and with each other.

First, the rules for document creation.

Every project is different. Some projects involve business workflow activities and other specific products or deliverables. Whatever the documents are, categorize them in a manner that's easy to recall and manage. Examples of categorization: master documents, subdocuments, standalone documents, and additional documents.

Create folders that include information on content types and purposes. If each is assigned to a team member, include their names or initials for convenience as well. The key is to have rules for file and file name creations. Also create a master reference, which can be a spreadsheet, that contains information on the names, file types, contents, creation dates, creators, and other information as needed.

Second, the rules for document storing and archiving.

Storing involves costs, so the more digital files you keep, the more you'd need to pay. Create a system that the oldest files are moved to a less-costly storage system, like on an offline hard drive. Retain only files that are being used by team members on the cloud-based storage.

However, how do you determine which files to be archived? Since you've put dates on each file and marked "completed" after it has been used by the team or approved by the management, you can take proper action on them. However, you'd need to update the status of each file continuously. Every couple of months, move some sunsetted files to the archive.

Third, the rules for document retrieval.

Retrieving files can take time if it's not managed correctly. The accumulated minutes and hours involved in retrieving files would cost a fortune year after year. Thus, naming and placing files must follow strict rules. Ideally, each team member is briefed on how to name (standard canonization and dating), place (folders to choose from), and retrieve (specific steps, including recordkeeping) files. In short, create an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) document for reference purpose.

Fourth, the rules for document security.

Of course, the physical aspect of the hard drive must be secured as well. This being said, the office must be locked, and the hard drive must be secured with an appropriate security system. Use powerful antivirus software to keep important files secure. Randomly check for viruses in addition to scheduled scans. Moreover, create rules that limit user access to certain documents and folders on shared computers.

Thus, it's recommended to treat all documents as historical knowledge, even the most trivial ones, because sometimes we can find overlooked hidden treasures for solving future problems. So, keeping those files in a way that allows for optimized content management would increase the overall efficiency of the organization.

The process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using information (or "knowledge") is called "knowledge management," as coined by Tom Davenport in 1994. The Gartner Group created another definition of knowledge management in 1998 as a "discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise's information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers."

In a digital environment, most files are parts of the so-called "content management" in addition to "knowledge management." Content management itself is made possible with virtual dashboards, portals, and CMS (content management systems) on the company's Intranet. The ability to shift functionality is, thus, key, despite already using cloud-based storage space.

At last, managing large documents virtually with a team involves more than having clear rules on who did what and when. It requires a strong commitment to making things work securely. After all, according to Norton Antivirus, in 2019 alone, four billion records were breached. Fighting for document security has been the latest challenge that makes large institutions nervous.

Any virtual file containing information is a treasure to protect, which requires digital and analog security. In the end, the humans who're involved in the day-to-day handling of the documents matter the most. Team members with a strong work ethic would weight in gold.

In conclusion, here are the takeaways of handling large documents among team members:

  1. Use a cloud-based storage space.
  2. Use a project management app.
  3. Use a DMS (Document Management System) software.
  4. Use a team chat app.
  5. Use a compressor app to save bandwidth.
  6. Use online service for sending large files with a link.
  7. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for security.
  8. Create rules for document creation.
  9. Create rules for document storing and archiving.
  10. Create rules for document retrieval.
  11. Create rules for document security
  12. Treat all documents (information) as historical knowledge.
  13. Use the best practices in knowledge management for content management.
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