A Document: In Only One Place

In my previous post for Colludo, I wrote about keeping office communications in one channel. Now, I want to turn to the idea of keeping a document in one place.

This has become a famous office rule:

Don’t send a document as an email attachment

Instead, save your document in a common repository (intranet, internal fileshare, cloud storage e.g. Dropbox). Then, send a link to your colleagues, but don’t send the document itself.

Send links. Right? Links.

Of course, there are some exceptions to this Golden Rule:

  • If the document is a confirmation, receipt, or some other form of timely or insignificant minutia, go ahead and send it as an attachment.
  • Partners outside of your collaborative space may receive documents as attachments, but you ought to have a shared document repository set up with them (if you don’t, look into Office 365).

Returning to the Golden Rule…

If the document in question is important, you need to store it in a common repository and direct your co-workers to the document via a link.

Let’s break that sentence down:

1. “document in question is important”

  • If your document will be subject to edits or approvals. That is, it is important to more than one person.
  • Historical significance may also be a factor. Will this document be referred to in the future, more than a handful of times? If so, it cannot live in an email silo.
  • Will the document be used as a template for future documents? This too raises its importance.

2. “store it in a common repository”

  • What is a repository? A place to store things.
  • What makes a repository common? I don’t mean “ordinary” or “routine”. Instead, I’m talking about a shared location, as in “common to everyone in the group”. Again, not in a silo.
  • Do you have such a repository? Want to talk about setting one up for your organisation? Email Sheena.

3. “direct your co-workers to the document via a link”

  • The link is an address. It’s the document’s address. This is where the document lives, in the repository.
  • Send the link in an email, text message, instant message, tweet etc. to your co-workers. Some applications refer to this action as “Share”.

Breaking out of the silo is an extremely critical piece of the office collaboration puzzle. The trick is in enabling it. That is, how do we follow this Golden Rule? Unfortunately, there is not a simple one-size-fits-all answer. The solution for your organisation may be completely unlike the solution chosen by another organisation.

Are you still sending attachments when you ought to be sending links? Let’s talk about ways to help you bust out of the silo and collaborate more effectively.

Next Thursday, I will drill in a bit deeper by covering the topic of managing edits and versions of documents.