The Rise of Digital Clutter and Why It’s Hurting Your Organization

Have you ever added something you already finished to your to-do list just so you could have the satisfaction of checking it off? Do you feel a little like a superhero when you balance your checkbook to the penny? Humans like order. But yet we sometimes develop habits and patterns that all but ensure the opposite.

There’s a balancing act going on in organizations everywhere, and it stems from the healthy and necessary practice of collaboration. But as you know, the more people involved in the process, the more likely a giant paper trail will ensue. Multiple document versions lead to digital clutter that can at best cause a little confusion, and at worst cost time and money. A recent survey we conducted with 50 community colleges revealed that an average of 10 hours a month are spent tracking down grant-related documentation alone.

There Can Be Only One

highlanderYou’ve earned 5 points if you caught the Highlander reference, but no, I don’t mean there can be only one heroic Scotsman.  I mean there can only be one type of document – the final version.  Of course there may be multiple drafts of something. But when that budget or spreadsheet or board book or custom report is officially finished and ready to be shared with its intended audience, that final version should be housed in a protected environment. Most organizations have some sort of document storage and distribution system, even if it’s as basic as a binder of spreadsheets, or a collection of emails and attachments passed back and forth. The challenge is going from a rudimentary system to one that’s more formal.

The Museum of Spreadsheets

A central online repository serves as the museum for your final documents. And like a museum, there are a number of securities in place to protect the housed works. First, and most obvious, the documents are no longer passed around or stored on one person’s laptop. They’re now stored in a secure, cloud-based environment and kept safe even if there are disruptions ranging from floods to staffing changes. Permissions are assigned to each individual user, so they only get to access the information they’re intended to view.

Who Manages the Repository?

The answer depends on the size and breakdown of your organization, but a common best practice is for one or more administrative users to serve as the curator of the repository. They determine which documents should be added to the collection, and in what area of the repository they should reside. They also have the administrative permission to set up automatic notifications to alert the appropriate users when final documents are available.

Here are two common examples of how administrative users can work within an organization.

Administrators for Nonprofit Board Management

An organizational admin would likely be the person tasked with creating board books and meeting packets. They schedule meetings, assign tasks, monitor board member and organizational engagement, performance and compliance. They are often the liaison between the organization and the leadership volunteers.

Administrators for Grant Management

Since grant funding can impact a wide number of departments within an organization as well as numerous sub-recipients connected to it, there may be a number of users granted administrative privileges. One common practice is charging an admin with the management of data associated with a specific stage of the grant lifecycle.

What Should Go In the Repository?

Anything that needs to be shared with one or more people is fair game for inclusion in the repository. Here are some examples of data that is typically found in the document repository of board management and grant management software products.

Examples of Board Management Documents

  • Board books/meeting packets
  • Meeting minutes
  • Organizational information (goals, objectives, and  mission statements)
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Strategic plans
  • Conflict of Interest forms
  • Board member biographical info
  • Tax forms

Examples Grant Management Documents

  • Templates for frequently-used letters and forms
  • Budget information
  • Workflow and task management data
  • Reports
  • Performance and reimbursement tracking forms
  • Tax ID information
  • Grantor information

Workplace teamwork will likely result in the creation of multiple drafts of documentation. That’s to be expected. Many organizations have tools and processes in place to facilitate this collaboration. But when it comes to the final drafts of these documents, few institutions take advantage of the management tools that can help them save time, money and frustration.

Find out how much time and money your organization is spending on the administrative tasks associated with grant management.