• Jason Trueblood

The Key to Effective Data Libraries

There are few things more frustrating than to be looking for an important investment document only to realize you don’t have it.  It’s doubly frustrating when you know you’ve seen it, but the document is nowhere to be found. Effective file library management is a refined skill that can improve internal processes by cutting down on time spent hunting for documents, but it requires planning, standardization, and good structure.

Here are four tips you can use to start saving time and eliminate the headache (and risks) associated with managing complex document libraries.

1) Check In Your Documents

To ensure your document library is always complete and up-to-date, get in the habit of checking in your documents against a required list, and keep that list in the investment’s corresponding folder.  You might be surprised how disorganized most closing sets are. When you purchase securities, you’re entitled to a final and accurate closing set -- missing a single document from that set can cause issues down the road.  

2) Get In The Cloud

Since Box.com launched one of the first cloud-storage services in 2005 (and we threw our Iomega Zip Disks in the trash), hosting critical files online has become the new norm.  Keeping your files in the cloud comes with significant advantages: they’re affordable, very secure, and improve file collaboration. The next time you close a deal, consider having the closing set stored on a shared, online folder to improve workflow and access.  Your auditors or legal counsel (and other service providers) can access these virtual folders to avoid the lethargic process of emailing files back and forth.  

3) Structure Your Folders

So you’ve checked in your documents and uploaded them to Box -- now what?  Effective document management solves two problems: storage and retrieval, and there’s no point having a secure data library if you can never find what you’re looking for.  Even with the ability to search directly for files, browsing and locating documents efficiently requires a logical, intuitive folder structure.  In alternative investing, organizing your files by Fund, Portfolio Company, and Transaction is a common approach.

To get started, create a parent folder for each of your funds or investment vehicles.  Within each fund, there should be a folder for every portfolio company you’ve invested in.  Within the company folders, separate your document libraries by transaction. For example:

As you can see, embedding some metadata into folder titles can help locate documents easily and efficiently. For example, if you’re ever asked for all deal documents from Q1, it won’t be hard for you to identify all those qualifying transactions.

4) Use Standardized File Naming Conventions

Depending on who sends you a closing set, you may receive files with a number of different naming conventions.  Whether you use underscores or dashes, or use a “v” to denote version number, make sure you enforce standardized naming conventions within your team and take steps to rename files that don’t fit your model, otherwise you might end up with a cluttered mess like this:

Here are some naming conventions that will improve how you organize and identify files:

  • Use the “[Company Name] [Security] [Document Type] [Date]” method.  For example, did you just buy some Series B stock in Wiley Road Works?  You should have a file called “Wiley Road Works Series B SPA 17 Oct 17.pdf”.

  • Got multiple versions floating around?  In addition to using version numbers, try adding a bracketed status to the file name for a more intuitive experience.  For example, “Wiley Road Works Series A SPA 17 Oct 17 v3 (Fully Executed).pdf” helps you find an executed version.

While getting your file library hosted online, creating a well-designed folder tree and getting your team to adopt a file naming convention is no small lift, dedicating time to ensure your document libraries are complete, organized, and easily navigable is one of the best investments you can make.

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