Locating buried documents?

Subject: Locating buried documents?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "Parrott, Kathleen E." <kathleen -dot- parrott -at- ngc -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 10:16:39 -0400

Kathleen Parrott wondered: <<Can any of you kind folks tell me how you have resolved the problem of users being unable to locate documents? Our online system is huge and the options are endless, but it seems no one can find what they're looking for...>>

Teaching your colleagues where things are stored is a useful solution, but hard to implement for large systems, particularly if you have high employee turnover or if the storage system is at all chaotic (most are unplanned and grow spontaneously); managers tends to forget to train new people in such environments (they have other priorities), and old pros tend to forget the training and remember only the documents they routinely use. When it comes time to find something new...

The better solution is to create something like a portal page in a corporate intranet. Based on an understanding of the categories of documents and why/when/how users try to access them, you can create multiple portal pages (one per user type or user purpose). Because the portal pages gather information together into a logical hierarchy, they're also a great solution when there's little or no control over where documents are stored: it no longer matters where they are physically located because the portal avoids the need to know this information.

This approach also lets you assign one person to keeping those portals up to date, responding to reports of problems, and making improvements. Adding an online index of keywords is also useful and effective, but far more work. Of course, maintaining such an intranet can easily become a full-time job, and people responsible for creating new documents must be somehow coerced into making the intranet manager aware of the new files so they can be added to the hierarchy. Not a trivial task sometimes.

A search engine is another possibility, but current technology is no substitute for careful consideration of the needs of the users, and clever design to support those needs.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Locating buried documents: From: Parrott, Kathleen E.

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