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Getting the filing right ...

Posted by Jacqui Frost on 20/07/2011

PA's are notoriously responsible for the filing, whether that is online or paper based. Keeping good records is a necessity for any business, but how those are kept varies from business to business. The most crucial thing is being able to access those records when you need them ...

however you do it, the filing has to make sense

however you do it, the filing has to make sense

Having been both a PA and an Office Manager, I have worked with many systems, and as a business owner I have had to create my own. But there are some facts that you cannot escape:-

  • Having a system so that you know where you are storing documents is essential; it will speed up the retrieval process considerably. If you don't know where to find them again, was it really worth keeping them in the first place? And make sure that crucial people within your business know where to look should they be needed when you are not around.

  • Some records have to be kept by law and you should know which ones apply to you. For example a limited company needs to keep accounting records for 6 years!

  • Moving things to an electronic system can make things easier to find and easy to maintain, providing everyone knows how to categorise and use the search functions! A secure shared drive or online/cloud storage can make documents accessible to everyone who needs them without duplication. But a defined system is still essential.

  • The hardest part about creating a system is making it easy to use. An A- Z, though traditional in paper systems, is sometimes not appropriate for your business and not well suited to electronic versions. Think about how you can group the documents together logically and what makes sense for your business. Remember that if there are several people using it the system will need to work just as well for all of you.

  • If you do choose to go electronic for your records then back-ups become essential. And in order for them not to be haphazard somebody needs to take responsibility for taking them. Even if you set them up automatically someone should check that it has been done and that all the necessary records have been included.

  • If you use a paper based system, filing as you go along is essential, or you'll have to trawl through the mass of un-filed papers in order to find the document you want. Otherwise having a system is pretty pointless!

  • Disposing of sensitive information was something of a media focus for a few years as ID theft came to the forefront in the media. With the Data Protection Act it is still important to do it properly, shredding documents and disposing of them securely. This is even more important if you are choosing to recycle your paper.

  • It is probably better to be overcautious and file everything everywhere that is relevant, even if it means doing it twice. Better to have two copies on file than filing it once and losing it. Especially if you were required to hold onto it by law!!

Remember that at the end of day you are choosing to keep hold of the document or information for a purpose. So when you come to file it away you are doing so because you want to or need to. Filing may be a chore, but it's a chore that is worth doing properly because it will save you time and maybe money in the long run!!

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