New Users: Organize Your Repository with Advice from the City of Niagara Falls

Bill Matson, Records and Elections Coordinator for the City of Niagara Falls, ON, offers tips for implementing a logical file structure, setting up templates and fields and finding a Laserfiche “Champion” in each department. 

“I tell people that Laserfiche is a great system—you just have to make sure you’re using it correctly.”

We started scanning documents into the repository without taking the time to think about how we’d search for them later on. Ultimately, our own lack of foresight kept us from using Laserfiche to its full potential. If you are a new user, here are steps I recommend taking during the beginning phases of your implementation.

Implement a logical file structure

Setting up a logical file structure in your Laserfiche system is critical during the planning phases. After a few years of use, when you search for a document using a word or phrase, Laserfiche may retrieve 143 documents containing that phrase. Users get frustrated that they now have to sort through all those hits to find the one they are really looking for.

  • If it works for your organization, set up an electronic file structure that mirrors your paper filing system. This offers a certain familiarity to new users. If users know how to find a file in a filing cabinet, they can now look through a similar folder within Laserfiche to find a record.

Example: The staff of the Niagara Falls Planning Department had created around 20 document categories—such as “Zoning,” “Subdivisions” and “Tourism”—and they organized documents within each category alphabetically. Prior to scanning documents into the Laserfiche repository, they recreated this file structure in Laserfiche. Because of this foresight, our staff can locate documents simply by browsing the relevant folder.

Set up Templates and Fields

1. You may want to set up your templates and fields based on the following criteria:

  • The type of information you are scanning.
  • What bits of information would be useful for future searches.

Example: The Niagara Falls Finance Division uses the following fields in their template (see screenshot below):

  • Document Type (This contains a drop-down menu to select).
  • Year.
  • Month.
  • Company/Name.
  • Subdivision.

2. Make sure to use as many drop-down menus as you can. This will aid any future searches that someone might perform.

Example: If you are setting up a field called “Month,” set up a drop-down list that includes all 12 months. Otherwise, someone searching for a document who tries to fill in this field to help with this search won’t know if they are to put in “January”, “Jan”, “Jan.”, “01″, etc.

3. When creating your own naming conventions for templates and fields, think about how someone might search for this information in the future.

Have a Laserfiche “Champion”

A Laserfiche “Champion” is someone who can drive and oversee a department’s ECM operations. Make sure this person gets some extra training and is really willing to troubleshoot problems that arise. Having someone well versed in Laserfiche helps to:

    • Promote the use of Laserfiche within the department.
    • Assist others if they are having trouble performing such functions as searching or scanning.
    • Ensure someone is watching to make sure documents are properly scanned into their respective folders, not just dumped into the system for someone else to try to find later.

Parting Words of Wisdom

Remember to think through all of these things ahead of time. The key strength of the Laserfiche community, as Nien-Ling says, is how we work together to solve common problems. I hope that this article helps new users get their systems off to a strong start.

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