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Does your file organisation allow for team collaboration? 📂

Rate yourself to find out what kind of file organiser you are. You could win Chief of the Files.


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Charlotte Fountaine

3 years ago | 4 min read

Rate yourself to find out what kind of file organiser you are. You could win Chief of the Files.

When people talk about good collaboration within digital teams, they often talk about:

  • good team structure
  • delivery management
  • working in sprints
  • design of the workspace

The boring cousin of good collaboration is proper file organisation. File organisation allows for internal memory within teams and better communication. When I start a new team, I want to be able to find what has happened before me. I want to be able to swiftly share my workings out with my colleagues.

The larger the organisation the messier the files, the harder it is to find stuff in the digital haystack. We end up with multiple sharing platforms (Miro, Dropbox, Confluence) none of which allow sharing of a simple word document.

Amy Santiago from Brooklyn 99 with a lovely folder.
Amy Santiago from Brooklyn 99 with a lovely folder.

Tidy file organisation is near impossible to achieve, don’t strive for perfection. If people are able to find things and learn from each other, that’s enough. I’ve listed some important principles when it comes to file organisation. You can self-evaluate your own file organisation practices. Add up the points you get and comment them below.

Decorative file pattern
Decorative file pattern

You show your workings out

When you carry out research, you make sure people can access it and read it. You document the insights. You also document the number of participants, what they were asked, what research methods were used.

When there are important meetings and big projects those get documented too. If a tree falls in a forest and no one documents it, how can we learn from it and prevent more trees from falling?

When you document what you’ve learned, others can act upon those learnings. Document things simple with a word style document. You also keep your files in a shared area, not on your local device. You don’t expect your colleagues to hunt for the answers.

If you show your workings out, give yourself 5 points.

You use a file naming convention

You use a common file naming convention within the rest of your team. For instance ‘FileName_Team_Date’. This file naming must be easily recognisable and common across the team. There’s no point having a super neat folder on your local device, if other team members can’t enjoy it.

Sainsbury’s Figma file organisation diagram
Sainsbury’s Figma file organisation diagram

At Sainsbury’s design team, we previously used Sketch for designing wireframes, then we used Zeplin for sharing the files with developers, and Abstract for syncing big design files.

Abstract is similar to Github, except it’s for design files instead of code. Now, we only use Figma for ALL OF THAT. We set up a file structure within Figma that goes: Sainsbury’s design > specific design team (eg. in store applications) > product area > design files.

This way, we don’t actually need a file naming convention, because the hierarchy of the files is so clear. We have a team of 60+ designers so creating a good file structure was very difficult, and very important. We’re still working on better documentation of research, project plans etc.

If you use a file naming convention, give yourself 5 points.

You use one sharing platform

It’s possible that you work in a place where similar types of files have to be saved in multiple places. This is bad for file organisation. If you’re in a position of power in your team you should be working towards having less file sharing platforms.

Try not to make the platforms your use too specialised. For instance, using a specific journey mapping tool, means that journey maps will have to be accessed on that one platform, instead of being available in a common place.

If you love using Notion or Gdrive, but the rest of the organisation use Onedrive, I’m afraid you need to use Onedrive too. Having duplicate platforms for file organisation makes it harder for people to find your work.

If you use the minimal amount of platforms, have 5 points.

You encourage colleagues to organise their files

It’s no good having great file organisation if you keep it all to yourself. You might have entered an organisation where the file organisation is so bad you don’t know where you start.

Well you start in your team, get your colleagues saving things in one place. You become the envy of other teams, good practice spreads across your organization. Start with a file naming structure, a single sharing platform and a clear information architecture.

If you encourage your colleagues to organise their files, give yourself 5 points.

How many points did you get?

Decorative file pattern
Decorative file pattern

0–5 🗃 You’re the problem

If you scored 0–5 points, you probably work in an organisation which already has bad file organisation. However, you are not helping the situation! Take a look at little things you could change. Could you start by moving some files that are on your local device to a shared area?

5–10 🗄 Be the change you want to see

I can see you’re trying here, but it’s not enough. If you left your organisation — would people be able to find the work you did? Pull your socks up and start using a file-naming convention, and encourage colleagues to do the same.

10–15 🏆 📁 You’re a pro file organiser

Big round of applause for you. You are organising your files, other people are enjoying working with you. You are a useful member of your team. Sticker for you. If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to encourage your colleagues to be as organised with their files as you.

15–20 🏆 🗂 🏆 Chief of the files

Hats off to you. It’s time for a promotion! Not only are you organising your own files and making sure people can find them, you’re also encouraging colleagues to do the same. People might think you’re a stickler for organisation, but they really love working with you. I bet you write weeknotes and have a presentation deck ready for when a new person joins.

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