How to assess your physical filing practices and identify any issues

Posted by TAB on

The following questions are designed to help evaluate how your organization uses and stores physical information. This will help you identify challenges and gaps in order to:

  • devise an optimum filing system
  • determine how your current system meets the needs of users
  • identify how your current processes, filing equipment, and supplies contribute to meeting your filing objectives

Filing process

  1. Describe the internal process for locating, retrieving and re-filing a record or file. Identify the steps focusing on who, where and how.
  2. What are the major measurable benchmarks or guidelines for your filing system? (For example, file turnaround time, number of missing files, content accuracy and duplication).

Records needs

  1. Who within your organization typically retrieves files? List all who apply. If necessary, track all activity for one day and record.
  2. How long, on average, do they require the files? How frequently?
  3. Do users do their own re-filing?
  4. Do you have “filing backup” – i.e. large stacks of un-filed records or papers that accumulate around the office or near / in your file room? If so, what is the primary reason for this happening?

Retrieving information

  1. Within your current file organization model, rank the effectiveness of your file retrieval:
    • we are always able to find files (95-100% within reasonable time frame)
    • we are usually able to find files (75-95%)
    • we find files most of the time (50-75%)
    • we frequently can’t locate files (35-50%)
    • file retrieval is a major issue for us (0-35%)
  2. What are the check-in and check-out standards for your paper-based filing system? Check all that apply:
    • the honor system
    • charge out guides
    • file tracking software in place
    • other
  3. How are lost or misplaced files currently identified as lost?
  4. What typically happens when a file is lost or goes missing?
  5. What percentage of files is typically found and how long after they are required?
  6. At any given moment, how many files would not be locatable within a reasonable time frame?

Critical file collections

  1. What are the most important documents in your files?
  2. Who generates those documents?
  3. Who needs access to those documents?
  4. Outline where those files might travel within your organization.

Filing system setup

  1. How large is your filing system? What is your organization’s total current number of:
    • active records:

      • onsite
      • offsite
    • inactive records:
      • onsite
      • offsite
  2. Who is responsible for creating files?
  3. Are your records currently filed top tab or end tab?
  4. Does your file storage include multiple locations?
  5. Do files have to change sites for storage retrieval?
  6. If you have offsite records storage, do you have an accurate picture of exactly what you are storing in the facility? Do you have to recall multiple boxes to find the information you are searching for?

Why all this matters

Lost files are a symptom of larger filing deficiencies and these questions are designed as a starting point, a way for you to gather information that will help you match solutions to your needs.

Next Steps

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