Do you ever marvel at the number of choices available in the bottled water aisle at any grocery store or online market? There are dozens of options to choose from. How about barbeque sauces, bourbon, pizza or crackers? There are far too many choices and it gets frustrating and time consuming to make any kind of decision.
This has some similarities to the frustration many people experience when they are searching for a file at work. They may find a copy of the file duplicated in multiple places. Determining which copy is the final version is both time consuming and frustrating. The process of de-duplicating is not an easy task, but reducing our choices has obvious benefits and it can be done.
In document management terms, de-duplicating is the process of eliminating redundant copies of files. In this digital file dominated era, file copies can be in many places including cloud storage, network drives, local drives and even as email attachments – cc’d to many people. Making sure that all employees are looking at, and making decisions on, the same file is very important.
The challenge is two pronged; 1) figuring out how to clean up the existing mess and 2) preventing it from happening in the first place. Cleaning up the existing mess involves a combination of technology and labor. The technology can be as simple as finding all files with the same filename and properties (date modified, file size, creator, number of words, etc.) to actually comparing the content of the files. For full comparison, some files may need to be opened and reviewed, especially scanned documents.
After the duplicates are identified, the technology takes over to separate and re-file the known, record copies into a new, organized structure. Preventing the duplicates from happening in the first place starts with a well organized and easily understood filing structure or taxonomy. Eliminate rogue silos of files being kept by employees and merge the silos into a single document management system or as few storage locations as possible.
Then to really cut down on duplicates, institute cloud based file sharing or use a cloud based document management solution. Actual files don’t need to be emailed around, just links back to the single, record copy. Also look at using workflow to capture the creation, revisions, approval and ultimately the archival of the final version of the documents. Don’t put your employees in a situation where the choices are a burden – start to de-duplicate.