Does anyone have tips regarding information organization?

Home Forums Program and Project Management Does anyone have tips regarding information organization?

This topic contains 11 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Dennis McDonald 8 years, 11 months ago.

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  • #175320

    Hello GovLoop! Happy New Year!

    One of my first tasks in 2013 is to organize documents, information, and folders on part of our Intranet. And there is A LOT of data that needs to be moved around.

    Does anyone have any ideas, tips, or resources they might be willing to share?

    Thanks so much!

  • #175342

    Dennis McDonald

    If your group has access you a librarian you might want to talk with him or her for some advice. One thing I learned about similar situations is that, the more complex you make the organizational structure, the less easy it will be to instruct others in how to use it.

  • #175340

    Steve Ressler

    Couple ideas:

    -Need naming conventions for files / folders

    -It’s hard to ever keep it perfectly organized (think of how hard to organize your personal folders – I always fail) – so I think key is to have a good search so easy to find docs (and some sense of naming convention so know what to search for)

    -If you can, I like to limit to having only 1 copy of final document or somehow a separate folder for final docs

  • #175338

    Ben Hassinger

    Hi Dorothy,

    If you scroll to the bottom of the below link they outline an overview of a process/ best practices to organize a shared drive:

  • #175336


    Great resource! Thanks 🙂

  • #175334

    L P O’Neil

    As others have mentioned, build a set of KeyWords or Meta terms. Use the language your users prefer and build in redundancy by also using the official terminology.

    I’ve learned not impose my own language choices, nor to rely entirely on officialese. Look to how the users search. Work with your Enterprise Search team and know their tags or meta terms.

    It’s never perfect, but crowd sourcing and testing the terms you use in storage hierarchy helps people over the transition of reorganization.

  • #175332

    Bob Magarity

    You didn’t indicate the purpose of this task but it is critical in identifying the best course forward. I’ll assume the purpose is to make the information more consumable for your end users. In this case, a key question is do you believe your end users will benefit from browsing or searching the information or both? If you simply need to make the data searchable, then you don’t need to spend too much time developing a taxonomy which can then be applied to folder naming, etc. A good search engine will simply surface what the end user is using.

    If you are organizing for archiving, this creates an additional need for librarian skills as recommended by other posters. But you did say this was for an intranet so I assume this is not your focus.

    Imagine for a moment that the Internet did not have any search engines. Instead, to navigate, you could only browse through a taxonomy of topics. What if some documents should live in two places in that taxonomy? If you only give end users browse ability, they will miss documents stored in other parts of the logic tree. There is a point where this approach does not scale–it becomes unreliable and expensive to maintain. This is why search is the go-to approach for situations like this.

    What you need is a good combination of browse and search. Take a look at how most search engines work these days:

    For example, look at You do a search for flights and you get a ton of hits based on your search parameters. What you also get is a series of navigation filters so you can filter down to a flight (or hotel etc) that you may want. Building those filters is easier when the data is more structured. But if you have a lot of word, powerpoint and pdf files, it’s not as easy but it can still be done.

    Another factor to consider is how much data are you attempting to organize. If you have a few thousand files, this is not a big task with tons of time to spend planning. But if you have over half a million files, you’ve really got to plan for how you want your users to experience their data. Here’s a good example at National Archives:

    Notice all of the navigation aids provided in addition to a simple results list provided for the query term ‘sequestration?’

    In your agency, those navigation aids may be built upon organizational departments, program divisions, etc.

  • #175330

    Thanks so much for all of the helpful ideas, thoughts, and info! I have to start this afternoon, so this has been an awesome resource!

  • #175328

    Mark Hammer

    Whether one is labelling file folders in your own cabinet, or generating an electronic filing system for an entire organization, one of the enduring challenges is that the categories one generates on the basis of today’s priorities, may not mesh so well with next year’s priorities, such that very few folks will know to look under a particular heading. (That can also be an enduring challenge with systems where employees have to indicate their hours spent on task categories X, Y, and Z, and the unit’s activities keep changing).

    The “holy grail”, then, becomes one of determining, at the outset, a basic tree structure of major categories that will continue to remain valid for as long a time as possible. Sub-categories can be added at a later date, as the stored information accumulates, but they will be under major categories that folks will feel ought to be pretty safe bets for finding the particular target.

    In some respects, what you want to start with, is a sense of the intuitive/implicit organization of information that the various organizational units and occupational groups have, so that the major categories can be established with some degree of confidence. In truth, what you want to end up with is a tree structure that corresponds to the thinking of the information seeker, rather than the parameters that your I.T. people might set out for “efficiency”.

    Finally, an on-line dictionary of what can be found (and ought to be stored) under what headings, ain’t such a bad idea, since one of the other enduring challenges with an ever accumulating information/data-base is that the finer-grained categories will start to “bleed” into each other, with ever more material needing to be sought under multiple headings and subheadings. This is something I see with hobby-related forums on a frequent basis. New people join, with a limited sense of what ought to go where, and stuff gets posted under multiple sub-forums, as well as sub-forums where it is not optimally placed. I don’t want to underestimate people (or overestimate the churn/turnover in your organization), but it really IS something one needs to police a wee bit, to make sure that several years from now people can actually find what they want.

  • #175326

    We have shared drives, but I see people put a folder out there to share something with someone and never remove it. We don’t have any rules about cleaning it up. Some of the info should be archived because it can’t be deleted for legal reasons, but a lot can and should be removed. People need to remember to remove obsolete or duplicate info on a regular basis.

    Best to assign a specific place for sharing/temporary files so it can be cleared from time to time and that data doesn’t clutter your organization. Maybe an automated email once a week reminding people to remove files that are temporary.

    We also use SharePoint, which avoids this issue. It seems people don’t put things out there that are temporary.

  • #175324

    Bob Magarity

    I agree with much of this post. I’d like to add to it by mentioning that within information management best practices these days, the ability of giving end users the ability to tag, comment and rate documents is providing a new way to navigate data. Tag clouds are an example of this but it can go well beyond that with ratings. Think of yelp….what are the best restaurants near me based on user ratings. The same can apply to documents. If I query for ‘water’ what are the best documents based on end user feedback which include the term ‘water’?

    What I’m trying to underscore here is that the relationship between an organizations’s data and its mission is evolving for the better. Search engine technology combined with social networking technologies are making data more discoverable which results in it being more useful/valuable.

  • #175322

    Scott Kearby

    Dorothy … thanks for starting this discussion, and thanks to all the people who have responded.. I am getting lots of ideas & resources that could improve the way we do this where I work.

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