Spring cleaning in the office usually means giving your monitor, mouse and keyboard a good wipe and dusting off your desk’s collection of pictures, plants and bric-a-brac. But there may be a bigger mess right under your nose: your digital files and assets.

Organizing your company’s files increases efficiency and reduces stress. It may seem like an overwhelming task at first — kind of like cleaning out the refrigerator — but once it’s done you’ll love the results. This kind of heavy-duty cleanup requires a plan of attack.

Spring Cleaning: Organize your digital files

Audit files to get a sense of the problem.

Before you can create a coherent organizational structure for your files, you need to know what files you have, how they’re being used, and where they’re currently being saved. There are a number of ways to audit your digital assets. You can use a DAM (Digital Asset Management) software, hire an expert third party, or perform an audit yourself using a template. A note about DAM software, other than its euphemistically humorous name: it is only as effective as the naming systems you create. Therefore, before you use a DAM, you’ll probably still need to audit your files.

During the asset audit, you will want to record:

  • Current name of asset.
  • Current saved location.
  • Asset purpose. To what project(s) is this asset related?  
  • User access. Who needs to access this asset?
  • Status. Is this asset redundant? Is it still relevant?

You will also need to create a list of your current folders and subfolders, with the same criteria as the asset audit. This task can seem tedious, maybe even boring, but it is essential to restructuring your digital files with a clear and consistently applied strategy. With these two audits complete, you can begin the work of removing redundant files and creating an asset management system for the future.

Establish file naming conventions to bring clarity.

Creating a universal naming convention for all digital files for your company takes a bit of forethought and a lot of alignment from the team. Too often, departments become silos, each saving work in its own folders and with its own file names. But this creates the opportunity for chaos and redundant files when multiple departments need access to a particular asset.

Bring your team together and discuss the importance of a shared naming strategy.

Your file names should be:

  • Logical to your team. This may be the hardest part, but once your team sees the importance and the benefits of a shared naming convention, they’re less likely to go rogue and save random files.
  • Unique. Several files may share a denoting prefix, but every file gets its own name.
  • Indicative of its contents. The file should state its contents clearly.
  • Searchable. One of the main reasons people duplicate files is they can’t easily find something when they need it. Make sure your files names are easy to search.
  • Easy to index by alpha or numerical. Whether you add a prefix by project or a department number, it’s important to establish a prefix convention that makes the files easy to index.
  • Consistently applied. This is similar to the first bullet. Once you have your naming convention, your entire company is responsible for utilizing it consistently.

Create an asset library, rather than a vault.

Now that you have swept out all the redundant assets and adopted a naming convention for your remaining files, it’s time to put everything in its proper place. This means creating a folder structure that makes sense for your organization’s workflow. Common folder organization is by asset type, or by project. The latter is particularly helpful if several team members across departments use the file.

The important part about your asset storage is that you treat it like a library. Well-organized and open to everyone. Whether you use Cloud technology or a server, make sure everyone (including remote employees) can find and access the files they need.

Check in and tidy up throughout the year.

Ah, a clean office. And a clean asset library. Time to sit back and enjoy a pint of something local, right? Sure, but don’t wait until next year to check on those files. Get your team in the habit of regular mini-audits to keep your folders clean and your files well organized. You may schedule these after every project, or at the end of each quarter, or whenever makes sense for your team’s workflow, but make sure they’re a task on everyone’s calendar. Cleaning up files should become a regular habit. It’ll save your team members time and no small amount of frustration, and save you the headache of a full-scale audit next year!

Ready for a little more spring cleaning? Check out our post on sprucing up your Google Analytics this season.