How to Develop File Hierarchies to Organize Computer Documents

When developing a file hierarchy to organize electronic documents it is important to consider if a structure requires multiple lines of sub-directories. If so, it is best to encourage the use of short folder names to stay within the Microsoft maximum file name and path size of 255 characters. It is also important to be consistent with type cases. Some organizations might prefer all file folders in caps; whereas, others usually make the first letter of the file name cap only. File names and document names are not case sensitive within Windows or Mac systems.

The First Line: Generally, a major department or division of the organization should organize the first line of files. Often teams or departments begin creating their file structure and taxonomy with the second line of files.

The Second Line: The second line of files should be organized by the sub-structure of the division or department which includes a listing of their sub-departments, branches, and/or major functional areas. Also, the second line could include general information for the division including administration, forms, organizational charts, strategic plans, etc.

The Third and Beyond Lines: The third and beyond line of files should be organized by one of the sub-topic methods:

1. Subject; (i.e. budgets, marketing, finance)

2. Alphabetically by name; (i.e. Smith, John)

3. Chronologically; (i.e. by year)

4. Number; and (i.e. project number, contract number, policy number)

5. Geographic region (i.e. city, state, region, country)

Choose a sub-filing option that will be the first reference point to access information. For example if there is a second line folder called “Budgets,” the users could create the third line sub-file by year, by area within the department, or by location of an office. Again, it is important to choose the sub-topic method by the first reference or access point. In this example, it is more common with budgets that the first reference point is by calendar or fiscal year, but that could be different for other organizations.

To learn how to organize electronic files and the shared drive, download the report How to Organize Electronic Documents on Shared Drive Networks. Or you are welcome to contact us and we can assist you.