Updated: Sep 6, 2020
Naming conventions are not just polite. These dos and don’ts are helpful for human beings using the file shares, but they also help establish criteria that indexing software and auto-classification leverages to build.
Spend the time to establish common spellings for common entities. In other words, spell out Department of Justice rather than using the acronym DOJ. Or at least, be consistent.
Establish a common method for abbreviations (i.e., removing vowels only). As long as you are consistent, your classification tools can act upon abbreviations accordingly.
Structure the use of dates to be consistent across the organization. The majority of date-specific content is quarterly-based, which can be identified by the month. If dates are used on files, begin with month. MM-DD-YYYY. If the year is the most important element, consider only using the YYYY format. Do not spell out months. Someone named Jan may get confused. Remember that the network system tracks dates but that last access dates and create dates are frequently inaccurate because they have been changed by a computer process. You may need to rely on file and folder date labels.
One of the biggest challenges with shared drives is being able to identify a document lifecycle status. For example, it can be hard to tell if a document has been declared as final. Formalize the use of Draft, Ver.#, SUPERSEDED, Final. A number of records categories use “superseded” as the trigger for retention on a document. Therefore, if a document falls under such a category and a new version is created, the old version should be renamed with the word superseded. A brief review of the retention schedule may be required when identifying these content types.
Avoid using employee or author names when creating files or folders. These files should be renamed to reflect the function being performed.
Avoid abbreviations, unless they are pre-defined and clear. Consider an abbreviation page on a wiki for employees.
Folders should not be based on organizational unit names (because they change).
Stay away from document formats such as Word, Excel, Spreadsheets, emails as names for folders and files. For example, don’t put all emails in a folder called “emails” as it adds no value. File analysis tools can easily tell you what the format is based on the file extension or the contents of the file.
Don’t use folder names where the words are concatenated or connected with alternative characters, such as underscores. Often these indicate that they are linked to by external web pages and the files should be managed in a dedicated repository (i.e. Sample_files).
Remove obsolescence indicators, unless you also indicate when the files can be deleted. For example, folders called “historical,” “archived,” “To be deleted,” “old files,” or “old versions” only serves to confuse people and machines.