The challenges of project-based file management

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Project file management poses some unique challenges, and some very specific opportunities where document control measures can improve the situation with project files. Project managers, especially those at construction and engineering firms, are well-familiar with the challenges. But “project management” extends across many other industries and roles as well.

Regardless of the project type, some of the common issues that arise center on how well is information is organized and structured, how accessible files are for sharing and collaboration, how all the changes and approvals are recorded, and how secure the information is held.

When starting out, many people will try using shared network drives to manage project folders, and then email or FTP to transfer files. There are some real drawbacks, however, when attempting to manage project files in this way. Shared networks have no control for collaboration. Folder structures have no consistency. There’s no version control. People usually start making up their own versioning schemes that make no sense to anyone other than themselves. Before long, nobody can find anything.

Email and FTP make the situation even worse. Emails, for example, are important project communications that or are often left completely separate from all the documents and drawings and other files related to the project.

Here are some things to consider when looking at way to manage project documents more effectively.

Folder consistency is key

  • A system that maintains a consistent folder structure across projects, so that with each new project everything is organized from the start, is important. There’s no such thing as an efficient project with messy organization.

Don’t lose the versions

  • A versioning system is a way to automate the capture versions and every change. It improves collaboration because everyone knows which is the most current version of a file, and avoids the ad-hoc versioning schemes that don’t work.

The ability to search everything

  • It may seem obvious, but it is essential that all the content be fully searchable (including by project descriptors). This includes not only digital files; search should also be an option on digitized scanned documents as well.

Include email with related project records

  • So many critical project decisions, approvals, and transmissions are conducted by email these days. The ability to store and file email records along with their associated project documents and drawings is critical.

Sharing and collaboration

  • A more organized way to exchange files with others, especially when they are outside the office, is to offer a method for them to self-retrieve and upload their own information. A web-portal with the necessary security to determine who gets access to what is key.

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