SOP Friday: Information Sharing

By Karl_Palachuk
In Channel
January 16, 2014
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Karl Palachuk / Karl Palachuk

Information is the backbone of our industry. In fact, “IS” or Information Systems used to be what this industry was called. Now it’s called “IT” – Information Technology. So what are we about? What do we do? We design, build, and support the infrastructure that makes information usable.

It seems fitting that we should manage our internal information as effectively as we manage our clients’ information systems. And like everything else, we need to document our processes.

There are many ways that teams share information. You might use SharePoint, shared drive space, or keep notes inside your CRM. Ideally, you will use some combination of all of these. In addition, you will have printouts. I know, everyone says they want the paperless office. And we use a lot less paper than ever before. But the truly paperless office will arrive shortly after the paperless bathroom. 🙂

You need policies about how your team will share information for the same reason that you need an SOP for where you will store data. Remember the article about the !Tech Directory? (http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com/2011/05/sop-friday-tech-directory.html) That policy allows everyone on the team to know exactly where to look for certain information (in this cases software and drivers).

If you don’t have a standardized policy then, by definition, everyone on the team will put stuff wherever it makes sense to them at the moment they are saving data. So one person will store documents in their personal folders, a second person put throw up spreadsheets on the SharePoint site, and a third will use the common department share on the cloud drive.

And when you go looking for that information, where will you look? You certainly won’t look in someone else’s personal folders. Will you look on the server share? In SharePoint? Or within the CRM/PSA? Unless you’re a mind reader, you will waste time looking for information – every single time you need it.

Document Types and Sub-Types

Personally, I think the easiest way to organize data is to start with the team or function. Then, within that, you can sort by project or file type. For example, your shared public folders on the server might include individual sub-folders for marketing, finance, tech support, etc. See the article on Organizing Company Files and Folders (http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com/2012/10/sop-friday-organizing-your-company.html).

Within each team folder, you can then divide documents in a way that makes the most sense. For some documents that means by project, for others it is by month. Additional sub-folders might be for clients, legal, drafts, etc. The key thing is to choose ONE organization method per team and stick with it. It should make sense.

You will know you’re successful if documents are consistently in the first place you look for them.

Team Standards

Once you divide information by teams, you need to set up standard for each team. This is necessary because teams will access information in different ways. For example, our tech support team stores most client-related checklists on a SharePoint drive so we have total access to them while we’re in the field. Because we don’t map client computers to our cloud storage, getting files from the cloud drive is a little more cumbersome.

All of our other teams work out of the office. Finance, office management, and sales are all connected to mapped drives all the time, so they have no real need for SharePoint.

Specific information is stored in the CRM/PSA. This consists primarily of information about client configurations (routers, firewalls, etc.). The PSA is hosted and therefore available from everywhere. So technicians can easily access this information in the field. Similarly, certain information from the Sales Team is also put into the PSA for each access by the technicians. For example, license documents and keys will be added to a client’s configuration information by the sales person as soon as we get it. That way the technician will have it when he goes to install software.

Team Policies

Don’t get carried away thinking this has to be a big, formal policy. One sentence for each type of information is all you need.

I recommend that you create a document for each distinct team that simply lists the kinds of information you normally deal with and where is is stored. This is basically a “cheat sheet” that new employees can use until they instinctively know where to put things. It’s also useful for documents that are rarely used, such as quarterly or annual reports.

As your mother (or somebody) used to say: “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Your comments are welcome.

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About this Series

SOP Friday – or Standard Operating System Friday – is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete “table of contents” for SOP Friday at SmallBizThoughts.com.

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Next week’s topic: Honesty, Integrity, and Teamwork

🙂

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All material Copyright (c) 2006-2013 Karl W. Palachuk unless otherwise noted.


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