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Where o where is that reference doc I needed

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  • Where o where is that reference doc I needed

    Hi all,

    It just occurred to me that I have reference docs galore. I work at an insurance brokerage and we do business with dozens of insurance companies. Each company has very specific guidelines, rules, rates, etc. They all send out updated reference material to help us keep tabs on these items.

    I save all these materials in separate folders, but the problem is, how do I keep tabs on these materials? For instance, I needed to determine if one of our clients is eligible for a credit so I spend about 10 minutes searching through my documents looking for the eligibility table. I never find it, so I end up having to go to the insurance company's website and redownload it. As I'm saving it, lo and behold I have a copy of it but under a different name.

    Another example is when we get updated copies of rating worksheets or forms. Many times I just save them but end up having an old copy AND the new copy, which confuses our staff.

    With literally hundreds of reference materials, how do you all organize them so they're at your fingertips? How do you keep yourself from duplicating these documents?

    Right now, I basically save everything to the My Documents folder on my computer. I save it as whatever the form is titled, but the problem is when I search for the form, I may not remember the exact form's name so I end up perusing hundreds of forms looking for the right one. There has got to be a better way than this! Any thoughts?

    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    This is exactly the reason why there are content management solutions. Companies and their employees waste tremendous amount of time and money searching, filing/storing, retrieving, creating and recreating documents or parts of documents, checking the authority or integrity of documents and so much more. The difficulty is multiplied by the number of employees, business units, regulatory requirements and how many different siloes the documents are in now. There really isn't an easy answer, since even out-of-the box solutions are not quick fixes, since each company has different needs.

    Comment


    • #3
      It can be tricky. I usually start with thinking about how I'm using the reference material. If I usually want to look up eligibility tables and I don't really care which company they're from, I'd have a big folder called Eligibility Tables. If I'm usually starting with the company, I'd have everything from one company in its own folder. Sometimes it's a case where I'm doing both in equal amounts, which becomes harder. Generally I'll just try to pick one approach as the standard for the purposes of filing.

      If it continued to be really problematic, I might think about writing an index, but I haven't had anything get to that point personally.

      To some extent I find this tends to be a problem that seems worse than it really is. I can look through a folder of a hundred pages in less than two minutes, usually, so I don't really need anything with a higher resolution than that.



      Cheers,
      Roger

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks both of you. I'll see what I can do for now, maybe get everything on Google Docs so I can search quicker.

        Comment


        • #5
          I know I don't have all of the answers but your questions brought to mind a few tips that you might be able to leverage. I'll assume for right now that all you have to organize your reference content is your "My Documents" folder.

          I suggest you set up your "My Documents" folder like you would a paper filing cabinet where each folder under "My Documents" would be labeled by the dominant theme, topic, company, person or project. You can nest folders inside of them but don't go any deeper than you need.

          When you download a reference file from the Web, immediately file it in an appropriate location. I always download files to a "Download" folder and move it into My Documents once I know I want to keep a copy.

          Originally posted by Mischka View Post
          Another example is when we get updated copies of rating worksheets or forms. Many times I just save them but end up having an old copy AND the new copy, which confuses our staff.
          Instead of downloading copies from the web site, create a shortcut to the URL where the latest copy can *always* be found. Remember, you can create a shortcut to a web site or another file on your local or network hard disk in "My Documents" or anywhere else, not just in Favorites or Bookmarks. It's a great way to cross-reference. That way you could navigate through "My Documents", find a file as though you downloaded it, and double-click it and it will open the URL with the latest version.

          If the URL of the latest file you need is not static, simply update the URL in the shortcut each time you get a notification that there's a new file available. If the source does not send you notifications when things are updated (i.e. you have to go to the web site and see if there's something new), leverage a URL monitoring service like ChangeDetection to monitor URLs for updates. You'll get an e-mail notification when a change is posted.

          To avoid spending lots of time looking for files, review and tune your reference system as often as you need to and leverage the Windows Search features when walking the folder tree doesn't help. Also, make sure you use good descriptive names and even leverage file meta data if necessary (right click the file and choose properties). There are lots of helpful capabilities built right into Windows Explorer that we forget about.

          I hope that helps a little.

          Good luck,

          -Luke

          Comment


          • #6
            You could use Evernote to store all the documents, and tag them in a way that helps you get back each document when you need it.

            If all the companies you deal with have similar bits of information, it might be worth entering them into a spreadsheet, such as Excel or the excellent Google Docs. It would take some time to keep up to date but presumably be worth it, if you're having real trouble quickly pulling up the data you need.

            Comment


            • #7
              I tend to use my file names as my "organization", rather than depending on my folder hierarchy. I try to use a standard format and standard strings for file names, and I don't worry if the file names are long.

              For example, in your example, I might save the eligibility table as:

              100107_EligTable_WidgetIns.doc

              This tells me that I downloaded the document on January 7, 2010, that it's a document from Widget Insurance company, and that it's an eligibility table. I sometimes have a short list of my chosen standard strings, until I remember them or until I have enough that I can just glance at my big heap of files.

              Even if I forget one of the standard strings and, say, name the file 100107_ElTable_WidgetIns.doc, there's enough in the name to probably allow me to find it - I can search under "1001" if I remember the month when I download it, or "Widget" or "Table".

              I do then put the files into a folder hierarchy, but I sometimes think that the hierarchy is a waste of time, because I tend to find the files by searching, not by digging through the hierarchy.

              Gardener

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm another believer in creating folders wirthin MyDocuments for major topics. I then save the file with a name where I know I can do at least a serach on a partial name (as I too have trouble remembering the full name of a file).

                So for instance, as a doctor, I have a folder named "immunisation", and within it a subfolder called "Dept of Health" to hold all the reference documents they keep sending me. If I know there was a notice about side effects of MMR vaccine I'll do a search in that folder using wild cards e.g. *MMR*, which will reduce the number of files I've got to eyeball to a manageable number.

                Dates are very useful too - I always save minutes with their date in the file name.

                I also have a lot of URLs saved in subfolders in MyFavourites. A lot of the reference books I use are now online, so it's easy to click on the URL for the book, or even the relevant chaper.

                Ruth

                Comment


                • #9
                  ohwhereohwhere...

                  I can relate to your difficulty, as I have large volumes of information I need to keep track of.

                  I find that I can find documents faster if I do the following:

                  1) MAKE YOUR FILE NAMES MEANINGFUL. If you want to find a document, and you don't want to have to open a dozen of them to figure out if you have the one you need, then develop a system/convention for naming them and stick to it.

                  While I am not an insurance broker, I imagine that it is most often important to find files based on the insurance company's name (as opposed to the date you obtained the information or the title of the document).

                  For example: ALLSTATE--Eligibility Tables--2009 08 12

                  When I get an update, I will save it in the same format and (if I need to keep it), change the above file name to ZZZ--ALLSTATE--Eligibility Tables--2009 08 12. The "ZZZ" puts the file at the bottom of the folder ("Archive" would put it at the top, in the way), and let's me know this is the "dormant" version instead of the active one.

                  (Note: I use YYYY MM DD format for all file names so that they sort properly.)

                  2) By default, do not create a folder for a document or group of documents, until the number of documents becomes oppressive. It is far easier to scroll down through a long list of documents and skim for the insurance company name.

                  In essence, you are incorporating your folder hierarchy into your document naming conventions.

                  3) Install and use Google Desktop on your computer. With a tap of the hotkey, I can find documents very fast, especially if I have naming conventions.

                  **Note: you can incorporate searchable keywords by adding search terms to the end of the file name, a la "STATE FARM--Rates tables--2008 04 01--circus clown unicycle collision insurance", and any of those keywords will help you find the file faster.

                  **Note 2: this approach requires a little more time on the front end (like most of GTD) but will make you far more effective at the time that you need the document.

                  In most cases, a thousand or more documents can be stored in a given folder without any difficulty, if naming conventions are used. I find them far faster than clicking through folders.

                  JohnV474

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Mischka View Post
                    Hi all,

                    It just occurred to me that I have reference docs galore. I work at an insurance brokerage and we do business with dozens of insurance companies. Each company has very specific guidelines, rules, rates, etc. They all send out updated reference material to help us keep tabs on these items.

                    I save all these materials in separate folders, but the problem is, how do I keep tabs on these materials? For instance, I needed to determine if one of our clients is eligible for a credit so I spend about 10 minutes searching through my documents looking for the eligibility table. I never find it, so I end up having to go to the insurance company's website and redownload it. As I'm saving it, lo and behold I have a copy of it but under a different name.

                    Another example is when we get updated copies of rating worksheets or forms. Many times I just save them but end up having an old copy AND the new copy, which confuses our staff.

                    With literally hundreds of reference materials, how do you all organize them so they're at your fingertips? How do you keep yourself from duplicating these documents?

                    Right now, I basically save everything to the My Documents folder on my computer. I save it as whatever the form is titled, but the problem is when I search for the form, I may not remember the exact form's name so I end up perusing hundreds of forms looking for the right one. There has got to be a better way than this! Any thoughts?

                    Thanks in advance!
                    Would you file your 'eligibility tables' under 'E' and then sub folder 'Eligibility'? or what? What causes the problems in finding things - are there too many options when putting them away?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      honestly, I hate the concept of creating folder structures on the hard drive. Unless the person is really rigorous in their approach to processing, naming and storing their stuff, that usually breaks down and it’s way more of a hassle than its worth. I used to do it.

                      your hard drive and general computer reference filing structure is a poor choice, in my opinion, for this kind of material. I’m a BIG fan of using applications specifically designed for doing exactly this task. Since you mentioned “my documents” I'll assume you’re on a PC. I’m not sure what are the best such apps on that platform. Someone mentioned Evernote and it’s a cool app but on the Mac platform I ended up with a solution that seemed a bit more robust for my needs, called DevonThink Pro (the Office version for anyone familiar with it).

                      Just to give you an idea of how I use such an application, first, understand that is my digital reference management system. If it’s something digital that I want to save for reference, that’s where it goes. I don’t put it into my Documents folder. I keep stuff there that I'll want to work with.

                      If I go to a website that has a page I want to save for reference, I can click an icon on my bookmark bar and it’s instantly saved as a web archive into DevonThink Pro (I’ll abbreviate with ‘DTP). That way if the site goes away or the link changes, I still have the content permanently. If I have a document I want to save for reference, I can select to have it print to a PDF in DTP and it’s automatically imported. Email I want to save with respect to a specific task or project or subject? I can select a script from the menu bar and it’s instantly imported into DTP. I can stash images, movies, bookmarks, text documents, websites, audio files, whatever.

                      And I can either create a general filing system within that app or I can use its search functionality. Most of these kinds of apps will have impressive search. So I can search on the content of the document or the website, a phrase, put together a boolean search term, I can search by date, by tag, by name, by file type, whatever. I have a database with probably close to 10,000 items in it and I can type a word into the search field and within 2 seconds see every document in my database that has that word in it. Evernote has a very cool capability where it can actually search on the words in pictures, which is pretty amazing.

                      So in your example, I would’ve just typed “eligibility” and I'm guessing you would’ve easily found the document within a few seconds, even if it was stashed amongst thousands of other documents.

                      Were I in your situation I'd add a project to research and select an information management application to download and demo. I think it will make your life a lot easier compared to trying to create, maintain and remember elaborate folder structures on your computer.

                      Comment

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