Originally published 1 July 2010
In most companies, there is a wealth of unstructured textual information. There are documents of many kinds found in many places. There are reports. There are articles. There are spreadsheets. There are contracts. Intuitively, the organization knows that it ought to be doing something with these documents. Trying to find a document six months after it has been written is no small task. Trying to gather documents for a cost justification or for litigation support is not trivial. Yet documents are like small minnows in the water. They keep multiplying, and they are slippery.
Trying to manage corporate documents is like trying to catch the wind. Most corporations have never even attempted to try to manage their corporate documents. Yet some of the corporation's most valuable information is found in documents.
Not all corporate documents need to be managed. Many informal documents and presentations do not warrant the attention of management, but many documents do need management. Many corporate documents represent official pronouncements and statements of obligations and expectations by the corporation.
A good first start for an organization to proactively manage its documents is to create a corporate document inventory. In creating an inventory, the organization looks at and catalogs its existing documents. In some organizations, there are literally hundreds of thousands of documents. Building a “card catalog” of the documents that belong to the organization is an excellent start to managing the corporate collection of documents.
Libraries have long used card catalogs to great effect. Libraries know that looking through an entire library with all of its books is a colossal waste of time. Realistically, if it were not for the card catalog, libraries would not be in existence. When a person is looking for a book in the library, the most efficient way to look for the book is to use the online card catalog. With the card catalog, the reader can quickly scan through all the possibilities. Upon finding the one or two books that look the most promising, the online card catalog then provides the reader with directions to the location of the book. And it is no different with the documents that belong to the corporation.
What should an inventory of corporate documents—a corporate card catalog—contain? Some of the likely contents of the corporate card catalog should be:
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