Meaning of Filing
Filing, in the context of business and office management, refers to the systematic organization and storage of documents, records, and information for efficient retrieval, reference, and archival purposes. It is an essential administrative function that plays a pivotal role in maintaining order, facilitating decision-making, ensuring compliance, and enhancing overall productivity within an organization.
Scholars in the field of business and office management have provided various definitions of filing:
Peter Drucker: Filing is the process of classifying and arranging documents and data systematically to ensure quick and accurate access, reducing information clutter in an office environment.
Mary Parker Follett: Filing encompasses the creation of a structured and accessible information system that promotes effective communication and coordination among employees and departments.
Harold Koontz and Cyril O’Donnell: Filing involves the management of written, printed, or electronic materials to ensure that the right information is available to the right people at the right time, supporting decision-making and operational processes.
Theodore C. Hass and Jon M. Yarbrough: Filing is the practice of collecting, sorting, storing, and retrieving documents in a way that minimizes the time and effort required to locate specific information, thereby improving workflow efficiency.
Henry Fayol: Filing is one of the fundamental administrative functions that contribute to the organization’s stability by preserving historical records, facilitating legal compliance, and aiding future planning.
In essence, filing is a crucial aspect of office management that involves the systematic arrangement and management of information and documents, promoting efficiency, transparency, and the smooth functioning of business operations. It ensures that an organization can access and utilize its knowledge and resources effectively, ultimately contributing to its success and growth.
Objectives/ Purposes of Filing
The objectives or purposes of filing in a business or office management context are multifaceted and serve several critical functions. These objectives are essential for maintaining order, ensuring compliance, facilitating decision-making, and improving overall productivity within an organization. Here are the primary objectives or purposes of filing:
- Document Retrieval: The primary purpose of filing is to provide a systematic and organized method for retrieving documents, records, and information when needed. This ensures quick and efficient access to critical data, which is essential for day-to-day operations.
- Record Preservation: Filing helps preserve important records, documents, and historical data. This is vital for legal and regulatory compliance, audit purposes, and reference in case of disputes or inquiries.
- Information Security: Filing systems can include measures to protect sensitive or confidential information, limiting access to authorized personnel only. This helps maintain data security and confidentiality.
- Facilitating Decision-Making: Access to well-organized information enables management and employees to make informed decisions. Filing ensures that relevant data is readily available for strategic planning and problem-solving.
- Efficiency and Productivity: Filing reduces the time and effort required to locate specific information. This efficiency boosts overall productivity within the organization as employees spend less time searching for documents.
- Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Filing systems are crucial for compliance with various laws and regulations that require businesses to maintain specific records. Failure to comply can lead to legal consequences.
- Audit Trail: A well-maintained filing system provides an audit trail, allowing for the tracking of changes and the history of documents. This is valuable for internal and external audits.
- Knowledge Management: Filing systems support knowledge management by preserving institutional knowledge and making it accessible to current and future employees, facilitating organizational learning.
- Risk Management: Proper filing can help mitigate risks associated with document loss, misplacement, or unauthorized access. This is particularly important in industries with strict data protection requirements.
- Customer Service: Filing systems can improve customer service by ensuring that customer-related documents are easily accessible, leading to faster response times and improved customer satisfaction.
- Space Optimization: Effective filing can help optimize physical and digital storage space, reducing the need for excessive storage facilities and associated costs.
In summary, the objectives of filing in business and office management are centered around efficient information management, compliance with regulations, and supporting decision-making processes. A well-structured filing system is a fundamental component of organizational effectiveness and productivity.
Importance/Advantages of Filing System
Filing plays a crucial role in business and office management due to its numerous advantages and importance, including:
- Protection of Records: Filing safeguards important records from various risks, including damage, loss, or unauthorized access. This protection ensures that critical business information and historical data remain intact and secure.
- Future Reference: Maintaining well-organized filing systems allows for easy retrieval of past records and documents. This historical reference is invaluable for tracking the evolution of projects, transactions, and decisions, aiding in future planning and analysis.
- Increase in Efficiency: Efficient filing systems reduce the time and effort required to locate specific information. This streamlined access to data enhances overall operational efficiency, as employees can quickly access the information they need to perform their tasks.
- Helpful in Settling Disputes: Filing systems provide a documented trail of transactions and communications, which can be crucial in resolving disputes, clarifying agreements, and mitigating conflicts. This documentation serves as evidence in case of disagreements or legal issues.
- Meeting Legal Formalities: Filing is essential for legal compliance. It ensures that an organization can meet regulatory requirements by preserving records necessary for audits, tax purposes, and legal obligations.
- Planning and Policy Making: Historical records and data archived through filing systems offer valuable insights for planning and policy-making. Decision-makers can analyze past trends, successes, and failures to make informed strategic choices.
- Quick Decision-Making: Access to well-maintained filing systems allows for quick decision-making. Decision-makers can retrieve relevant data promptly, enabling them to respond to business challenges and opportunities in a timely manner.
- Follow-Up Action: Filing facilitates follow-up on tasks, projects, and commitments. It ensures that necessary documents, notes, and records are readily available for tracking progress, monitoring deadlines, and taking appropriate actions.
In essence, filing is a fundamental administrative function that contributes to an organization’s orderliness, compliance, efficiency, and decision-making capabilities. It supports not only day-to-day operations but also long-term planning and risk management while providing a structured framework for handling disputes and legal requirements. It ensures that information is accessible, protected, and can be leveraged to make informed decisions, ultimately contributing to an organization’s success and growth.
Characteristics of a Good Filing System
Indeed, the office manager should take into account the following essential features when designing a good filing system:
- Simplicity: The filing system should be straightforward and easy to understand for all users. Simplicity reduces the likelihood of errors and ensures that employees can quickly adapt to and use the system effectively.
- Economical: A good filing system should be cost-effective, both in terms of initial setup and ongoing maintenance. It should balance the need for organization with budget constraints.
- Safety: The system should prioritize the safety and security of documents. This includes protection from physical damage, theft, and unauthorized access.
- Flexibility: A flexible filing system can adapt to changing needs and growing document volumes. It should accommodate various document sizes and types while maintaining its efficiency.
- Minimum Space: Effective space utilization is important. The system should minimize the physical footprint required for storage, helping to optimize office space.
- Easy to Locate: The primary purpose of a filing system is to enable quick and easy document retrieval. It should be designed in a way that allows users to locate documents without unnecessary delays.
- Cross Reference: Cross-referencing allows for the association of related documents, making it easier to find relevant information. This feature is particularly valuable for documents that may fit into multiple categories.
- Classification: Documents should be categorized logically based on content, purpose, or relevance. Proper classification simplifies storage and retrieval.
- Out Guides: Out guides are placeholders or indicators used to show when a document has been removed from its original location. They help prevent misplacement or loss of documents and signal that someone is currently using the document.
By incorporating these essential features into a filing system, the office manager can create a system that promotes efficiency, organization, and ease of use. Additionally, it ensures that documents are both protected and readily accessible to authorized personnel, contributing to the overall productivity and effectiveness of the office.
Types of Filing
There are several types of filing systems used in offices and organizations, each designed to suit specific needs and preferences. The choice of a filing system often depends on factors such as the nature of the documents, the volume of paperwork, and the ease of retrieval. Here are some common types of filing systems:
- Alphabetical Filing: This system arranges documents in alphabetical order based on names, titles, or subjects. It is straightforward and commonly used for personnel files, customer records, and general reference files.
- Numerical Filing: Documents are assigned a unique numerical code, and they are organized in ascending or descending numerical order. This system is efficient for files that require strict control, such as invoice numbers or patient records in healthcare.
- Chronological Filing: Documents are arranged in order of their creation or receipt date. This system is helpful for maintaining a historical record of events, transactions, or correspondence.
- Subject Filing: Documents are grouped and filed based on specific subjects or topics, regardless of alphabetical or numerical order. This system is suitable for projects, research, and materials that relate to specific categories.
- Geographical Filing: Used primarily by organizations with multiple physical locations or branches, this system categorizes documents by geographical regions or locations.
The choice of a filing system depends on the specific requirements of an organization and the nature of the documents being managed. Some organizations may even use a combination of these filing methods to meet their needs effectively.
Alphabetical Classification, also known as the Alphabetical Filing Method, is a widely used system for organizing and retrieving documents, records, or information in a systematic manner. In this method, items are arranged in alphabetical order based on specific criteria such as names, titles, or keywords. It simplifies the process of locating and referencing materials, making it efficient for businesses, libraries, and individuals. Alphabetical Classification relies on the principles of alphabetical sorting, ensuring easy access and quick retrieval of data. It is a fundamental organizational tool, promoting order and accessibility in various settings, and facilitating streamlined information management and retrieval processes.
Elements of Alphabetical Filing
Organizing alphabetical filing properly involves several key elements to ensure efficiency and accuracy. These elements include:
- Primary Guides: Primary guides are dividers or separators that mark the beginning of a new section in an alphabetical filing system. They help organize the files alphabetically by creating distinct categories.
- Individual Files or Folders: These are the containers for storing documents, records, or information. Each file or folder holds specific items, such as documents related to a particular individual, topic, or project.
- Miscellaneous Files or Folders: Miscellaneous files or folders are used to accommodate items that don’t fit into a specific alphabetical category. They act as catch-all placeholders for materials that may not have a dedicated individual file.
- Special Guides: Special guides are dividers similar to primary guides, but they often serve a unique purpose. For example, they can be used to indicate a specific type of document or a critical reference point in the filing system.
- Out Guides: Out guides are temporary placeholders inserted when a file or folder is taken out of the filing system. They indicate that the file is currently in use or checked out by someone and provide space to note who has it and when it was removed. Out guides help maintain the integrity of the filing system and ensure the timely return of files.
These elements, when used effectively, help maintain order and accessibility in an alphabetical filing system, making it easier to locate and manage documents or records.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Alphabetical Filing
Alphabetical filing is a widely used method for organizing and retrieving documents, records, or information. It offers several advantages, but it also comes with some disadvantages:
- Simplicity: Alphabetical filing is straightforward and easy to understand. It doesn’t require extensive training or complex rules.
- Ease of Use: Retrieving documents is quick and intuitive since people are accustomed to alphabetical order.
- Universal Applicability: It can be applied to various types of information, from names of individuals to titles of documents.
- Space Efficiency: Alphabetical filing doesn’t rely on fixed slots, so it’s adaptable to various quantities of information.
- Low Maintenance: It typically involves less maintenance compared to numeric or subject-based systems.
- No Special Equipment: You don’t need specialized equipment, such as numeric labels, to maintain an alphabetical filing system.
- Inefficiency for Large Volumes: Alphabetical filing can become inefficient when handling large volumes of data because finding specific items may take longer.
- Lack of Categorization: It doesn’t provide a natural categorization system, which can make it challenging to group related items without cross-referencing.
- Limited Search Capabilities: It may not be as efficient as other methods for searching for items based on attributes other than their titles or names.
- Misfiling: Human error can lead to misfiling, especially if people have different interpretations of alphabetical order or spelling.
- Lack of Security: It may not offer the same level of security as other systems, as it’s relatively easy for unauthorized individuals to access and manipulate files.
- Difficulty in Handling Synonyms: When dealing with synonyms or alternative names for items, it can be challenging to ensure consistency.
In summary, while alphabetical filing is a simple and accessible method for organizing information, its efficiency and suitability depend on the specific needs and the volume of data to be managed. Organizations should carefully consider their requirements and potential drawbacks when choosing a filing system.
Numerical Classification, also known as the Numerical Filing Method, is an organized system used to categorize and retrieve documents, records, or information based on numerical sequences. In this method, items are assigned unique numerical codes or identifiers, and these codes are used to arrange and access the materials. The purpose of numerical classification is to streamline document management, enhance organization, and facilitate efficient retrieval processes.
Numerical filing is particularly useful for situations where a large volume of materials must be categorized and located quickly. It eliminates the need for users to memorize or interpret complex codes, as numerical sequences are generally straightforward and universally understood. This system is often employed in libraries, medical records, accounting firms, and other settings that require precise record-keeping and easy access to files. Numerical classification minimizes errors, improves confidentiality, and allows for the systematic expansion of the filing system as new materials are added.
The study of numerical filing can indeed be divided into three key parts, each serving a specific purpose within the filing system. Here are the key elements of numerical filing:
- The Main Numeric File: This is the core component of the numerical filing system. In the main numeric file, documents or records are arranged in strict numerical order. Each item is assigned a unique numeric code or identifier. These codes are typically sequential, meaning that each new item receives the next available number. For example, if the last document in the system is numbered “1005,” the next one will be “1006.” This ensures that items can be easily located and added to the file in an orderly fashion.
- Miscellaneous File: The miscellaneous file is a supplementary component of the numerical filing system. It is used to accommodate documents that do not fit into the main numeric file’s sequential order. These may be documents that need to be filed quickly but don’t have a specific numeric code yet. The miscellaneous file helps prevent disruption in the numerical sequence. Documents in the miscellaneous file are eventually assigned appropriate numeric codes and moved to the main numeric file.
- Card Index: The card index, also known as an index file or index cards, is a reference tool used to cross-reference numeric codes with document titles, descriptions, or keywords. Each card in the index corresponds to a numeric code and contains information about the document, such as its title, author, or subject. Users can consult the card index to quickly find the numeric code associated with the document they need and then locate the document in the main numeric file.
These three elements work together to create an efficient numerical filing system. The main numeric file ensures orderly storage and retrieval, the miscellaneous file handles temporary or unassigned documents, and the card index provides a user-friendly reference for locating specific items within the numeric file.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Numeric Filing System
Numerical filing systems, or numeric files, have their own set of advantages and disadvantages:
- Order and Organization: Numeric filing systems are highly organized, as documents are arranged in strict numerical order. This simplifies the filing process and allows for easy tracking of document sequences.
- Efficiency: Retrieval of documents is efficient, especially when users are familiar with the numerical codes. This can be particularly useful in settings where quick access to records is crucial.
- Scalability: Numeric filing systems are easily scalable. As new documents are added, they can be assigned the next available number without disrupting the existing sequence.
- Simplicity: Numeric systems are straightforward to implement and understand. Users do not need to memorize complex codes or categorization rules.
- Confidentiality: Numeric systems can offer a higher level of confidentiality as the numerical codes alone do not reveal the content of the documents. This can be important in certain fields, such as healthcare or legal.
- Limited Categorization: Numeric filing does not naturally categorize documents by content or subject. As a result, it may not be ideal for situations where categorization by content is important.
- Difficulty in Retrieval Without the Index: Accessing documents without a well-maintained card index or reference system can be challenging, especially for users who are not familiar with the numeric codes.
- Misfiling: Errors in numbering or placement can lead to misfiled documents, making them difficult to locate.
- Lack of Context: Numeric codes alone do not provide any context about the content of a document. Users must rely on external resources like card indexes or additional databases for information.
- Overreliance on Numerical Sequencing: Numeric filing is less suitable for documents that frequently change or are reorganized, as maintaining a strict numerical sequence can become cumbersome.
In summary, numeric filing is an efficient and straightforward method for organizing and accessing documents, but it may not be ideal for every situation, especially when a higher level of content categorization or ease of retrieval is required. The suitability of a numeric filing system depends on the specific needs and priorities of the organization or individual using it.
Geographical Classification, also known as the Geographical Filing Method, is an organizational system used to categorize and manage documents, records, or information based on geographic location or spatial criteria. The purpose of geographical classification is to facilitate the structured organization and efficient retrieval of materials that are related to specific geographical regions or areas.
This filing method is commonly employed by organizations and institutions dealing with information or records associated with different locations, such as businesses with multiple branches, government agencies overseeing regional data, or research institutions conducting studies in various geographic regions. It helps streamline data management, enhance accessibility, and support effective decision-making by grouping materials geographically.
Geographical classification often involves using place names, coordinates, maps, or other spatial references to categorize and index documents. This method aids in organizing and navigating materials within the context of their geographic relevance, making it a valuable tool for projects, research, and administrative tasks with geographic dimensions.
Factors Determined for Geographical Filing Method
- Type of Business: The nature of the business greatly influences the structure of a geographical filing system. Different industries may have specific requirements for organizing geographic data. For example, a global shipping company might categorize records by ports or shipping routes, while a retail chain may organize materials by store locations.
- Geographic Area: The geographic area in which a company operates is a fundamental consideration. The system’s scale and granularity depend on whether the business operates locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally. A local business may use a filing system focused on city neighborhoods, while a multinational corporation would need a system that spans continents.
- Purpose of Records: The intended use of the records also guides the filing system’s setup. If the records primarily support marketing efforts, they might be organized based on target market regions. If the records pertain to regulatory compliance, they could be structured around governmental jurisdictions.
- Data Complexity: Consider the complexity of the geographical data. For instance, businesses dealing with sophisticated spatial data, like environmental agencies or urban planners, may require a more advanced filing system incorporating geographic information systems (GIS).
- Compliance and Reporting: Some industries, like finance and healthcare, have strict compliance requirements that necessitate precise geographic filing to meet regulatory obligations.
- Accessibility and User Needs: Tailor the filing system to meet the needs of the users. If multiple departments or teams access the records, the system should be designed to accommodate various search and retrieval methods.
- Digital or Physical: Decide whether the filing system will be digital, physical, or a combination of both. Digital systems can offer more flexibility and advanced search capabilities, while physical systems may be necessary for certain documents or historical records.
- Security and Privacy: Consider security and privacy concerns, especially if the records contain sensitive geographic data. Access controls and encryption may be required to safeguard information.
- Scalability: Ensure that the filing system can grow and adapt as the business expands or as the geographic data evolves.
- Training and Documentation: Provide training to users on how to use the filing system effectively and maintain clear documentation on the filing procedures.
By taking these factors into account, organizations can design a geographical filing system that best suits their specific business needs and operational context.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Geographical Classification:
- Spatial Organization: Geographical filing allows for the spatial organization of records, making it easier to locate information based on its physical or geographic context.
- Contextual Relevance: It provides context to data, which can be invaluable in understanding relationships between data points, especially for businesses operating in multiple geographic areas.
- Efficient Retrieval: Records are often easier to retrieve because users can search for information based on familiar geographic criteria, such as location names or coordinates.
- Supports Decision-Making: It aids in decision-making processes, particularly for businesses with geographically dispersed operations, as it can help identify trends, opportunities, or challenges in specific areas.
- Compliance and Reporting: Geographical filing is crucial for industries with regulatory requirements tied to specific geographic jurisdictions, ensuring compliance and simplifying reporting.
Disadvantages of Geographical Filing:
- Complexity: Setting up and maintaining a geographical filing system can be complex, particularly for organizations with operations spanning multiple regions or countries.
- Data Duplication: It may lead to data duplication if similar information needs to be filed under multiple geographic categories, potentially increasing storage requirements.
- Limited Applicability: Not all businesses or organizations benefit from geographical filing. Companies with purely digital operations or minimal geographic relevance may find it less useful.
- Cost: Implementing and managing a geographical filing system, especially if it involves geographic information systems (GIS), can be costly due to software, hardware, and training expenses.
- Maintenance Challenges: Keeping the system up-to-date and accurate can be challenging as geographic data constantly changes. Without regular updates, the system may become outdated and less useful.
Subject-wise/ Subjective Classification
The records can be maintained on the basis of subjects like purchase, sales, raw materials, finished goods, etc. All letters or correspondence relating to a particular subject is recorded. This system is successfully used in libraries where books are arranged according to subjects.
The following are the main types of subject files:
- Combination subject files
- Alphabetic subject files
- Dictionary arrangement
- Encyclopedic arrangement
This classification method refers to the arrangement of papers and documents in chronological order or on the basis of the date of receipt or date of issue. Accounting vouchers, invoices, sales, and purchase records are filed under this classification.
Methods or System of Filing
- Baggage filing: Under this system, files or documents are kept in a bundle that is wrapped by a piece of cloth.
- Wire or spike filing: This is the oldest filing system and is still used in different offices in our country. It uses a wire which is bent and pointed.
- Cardboard filing: This method is one of the cheapest methods of filing. In this filing, documents are kept in the file and the folding sheets are placed one upon the other.
- Box filing: In this type, metal or cardboard boxes are used for filing of records. Spring clips are fitted inside the box to hold the papers and documents
- Pigeon-hole filing: In this type, a wooden or metal cupboard is used to keep the records. In this, holes are formed in wooden boxes which look like pigeon holes. Each hole is given an alphabet.
- Horizontal filing: In this type, the filing equipment provides for arranging letters and documents in a flat position. Therefore, it is also called flat filing. The papers can be arranged in chronological order. The file boxes or files containing papers and documents are kept in a flat position inside drawers or cabinets.
- Flat files: Flat files are made of thick or cardboard paper. These files are fitted with metal hinges to fasten the papers.
- Lever or arch files: These files are also made up of strong cardboard folders containing metal arches to hold the papers. Papers are required to be punched and inserted in the arches and then the lever is pressed down to close the arches.
- Vertical filing: In this type, files containing letters and documents are kept vertically. This requires many drawers, files, and folders that are kept in alphabetical or numerical order.
- Files and folders: There are different types of files available in the market. Files are used to protect or cover the papers and documents. Usually, files are made of cardboard or thick paper. They are fitted with metal hinges that fasten the papers together. The papers can be punched by a punching machine and are inserted into the file through the metal hinges. Folders are the basis of vertical filing and are used to hold paper and documents. Folders are made of Manila paper or some other strong paper. These days, plastic folders are also used by individual and business offices.
- b. Guide cards: Guide cards are also important materials for filing operations. Guide cards serve as signal to quick finding of files. Documents are filed behind the guides, which indicate their position. Guides also help records to stand upright properly in the drawer. Guides are usually made of thick cardboard paper.
- Cabinet: Vertical filing cabinets are made up of wood or steel. The cabinet is fitted with drawers. One drawer generally contains many folders. It may be alphabetically divided into parts, and guide cards are fixed to make the location of the file easier.
- Suspension filing: In this cabinet or drawers, suspension folders are fitted with metal bars, and suspended on a metal frame that is fitted inside the drawer. The top metal bar of each folder carries a movable index title tab, which serves the purpose of visible indexing as well.
- Lateral filing system: Lateral filing is the advanced form of suspension filing. It is one of the modern filing methods. In this method, the folders have hooks to hang on the railings of the shelves similar to suspension filing.
- Open shelf filing: Open shelf cabinets are mostly used in libraries and business offices. They are used for storing folders. They are made up of wood or steel furniture and go up to a height of 9 or 10 feet.
Organization of the Filing Department
Decentralized or Departmentalized Filing
Specification of Materials and Equipment for Filing
- Files and folders: There are different types of files available in the market. Files are used to protect or cover the papers and documents. Usually, files are made of cardboard or thick paper. They are fitted with metal hinges that fasten the papers together. Folders are the basis of vertical filing and are used to hold paper and documents. Folders are made of Manila paper or some other strong paper. These days, plastic folders are also used by individual and business offices.
- Guide cards: Guide cards are also important materials for filing operations. Guide cards serve as a signal to quick finding of files. Documents are filed behind the guides, which indicate their position.
- Filing cabinets: Filing cabinets are made of wood or steel which can be used for vertical filing. Cabinets may contain drawers depending on the requirements.
The Requirements or Qualities of Good Filing Materials and Equipment
Management of Electronic File
Merits and Demerits of Electronic File Management System .
- Saves space, time, and resources
- Easy to find information and documents
- Permanently preserve documents and information
- Documents can be scanned easily.
- Backup copies of documents can be made easily
- More than one person can view the same information at a time
- Optimize productivity
- Improve service quality
- Secures information
- Very expensive to purchase hardware and software
- Needs to be maintained and upgraded
- Additional training and knowledge required
- Chances of loss of data
- Security issues
- Manipulation of the information