Where did I put that document?
One of the most pervasive problems we see in technical consulting firms is how they organize the information in their business (or rather, ‘disorganize the information’). Despite many modern systems promising to make it easier and the range of easy to use consumer focused applications, you would think this problem would be easy to solve.
Well, it's obviously is much harder than it seems as most teams use a variety of tools, augmented by their own personal approaches that organize only a certain portion of the information, lack meaningful version control, and make it generally difficult to find project documentation. The reason? Because despite all this ‘new’ technology, the primary constructs we use to organize information haven’t changed since computers were invented.
One of the first things I learned as a computer scientist were the file systems that computers used to store files and information. While at a system or network level there may be different approaches, in order to make it simple for users the primary construct used is folders. Easily understood due to their real world namesake, these virtual folders represent the easiest way to organize files in a way humans can easily understand.
Folders, of course, have limitations. The most notable is that they are mutually exclusive – you can put all your proposals in a single ‘Proposal’ folder or put each individual proposal into its appropriate project folder – but not both. Well, you could do both, but you’d be doing double work and you’d double the amount of storage you need. Not to mention that managing changes in those documents would be (is) a nightmare.
The other issue isn’t a limitation of folders per se, but in how they are used in larger teams where sharing – and not sharing – information is important. Hence the use of folders on the shared server, folders on your desktop or laptop and maybe even folders in an online sharing tool like Google Drive or Dropbox. Pretty soon you’ve got files everywhere and the only way to thwart everything coming off the rails are strict policies on how to handle documents.
Don’t even get me started on email and email attachments! Think about how much information and documents are stored in your email system – different versions of things spread across different users, each with their own (you guessed it) folders to organize information. Not to mention the information contained in the email itself.
A Better Way
When I set out to build EVX, one of the key issues I needed to solve for was this disorganization of the information in our consulting firm. I wanted to make it easy for us to store and organize information without having to worry about the issues that I was seeing with folders. Enter categories.
As many technical people are aware, databases don’t (usually) organize information in folders. While there are many different types of databases, the one concept they share is the idea of metadata or what we call categories. Categories are how you classify the information in a database and there’s no limit to the number of categories that a file or piece of data can be associated with. The proposal I mentioned above could related to a specific client, a prime contractor, a project, a type of project, a type of client, a project manager and many other things. But in the world of folders, you can realistically only choose one place for it.
With EVX, all information you store, including documents, is classified to the appropriate category (often automatically). They guide access permissions and make it really easy to find anything and everything you need. The categories in your EVX installation are completely customized and specific to your firm and your processes. Now, that proposal document can be categorized as a proposal, classified to a specific project, to a type of business, a project manager, etc. So when it comes time to find that document, you can simply click on the category or categories of what you’re looking for and voila, there it is! All the information in the system is organized this way – documents, files, project information – even your email (it really does make finding communications and attachments easy).
This unique approach to organize information is unlike anything else you’ve used before and amazingly powerful. Our clients love it and almost all have reported significant efficiency gains after switching to our platform – largely due to how we organize information. This new way of managing information goes beyond just documents and greatly improves your ability to centralize, organize and share all of your business and projects information.